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YOU GUYS! I finally got to see manatees in Florida! That’s it. That’s all. I can leave Florida happy now. It’s been great seeing you here. I’m kidding.
But really, I finally got to see manatees in Florida with my very own eyes and I am still so excited. My parents came to visit in the beginning of February and one of the things I wanted to do with them was to go to Blue Spring Park outside of Orlando to see the manatees. Not to be confused with the Blue Spring State Park by Gainesville.
It ended up being one of our last stops but it was so cool to see so many of them! The only thing that would have been better was if I had gotten to swim with them.
And that’s coming from me, the person that hates most water activities. If you won’t be close to Blue Spring, consider a trip to Crystal River to see manatees and Rainbow Spring State Park for some wonderful spring swimming.
We got to the park and the line to get in was super long. I mean, we probably only waited like ten minutes so it’s not that bad. We were worried there wasn’t going to be anywhere to park once we got inside, but we easily found a spot. We walked along the boardwalk, down the trail to the spring, and through the old house.
Most of my time was spent on the observation decks just watching the manatees swim and rollover. I could have easily watched them all day but I didn’t want to hog all the deck space and we had other things to see.
Where is Blue Spring State Park
Orange City, Florida. Here is the official address:
2100 W French Avenue
Orange City FL 32763
How much is Blue Spring State Park
- $6 per vehicle
- $24 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee for camping
- $95 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee for the cabins
When to go to Blue Spring State Park
The park is open from 8 AM to sunset every day. You’ll want to get to the park early no matter the time of year because it does fill to capacity quite a bit during the week and on weekends.
Year round! In the summer you can cool off in the 72 degree water, while in the winter, you could warm up in the water. It’s always pretty busy, but it’s worth visiting.
When you go will just depend on what you want to do/see there. If you want to swim in the spring, summer will be best. If you want to see manatees, then winter.
When to see Manatees at Blue Spring State Park
The cooler winter months bring a few hundred manatees into Blue Spring. In the 1970s there were only about 36 manatees that went to Blue Spring and that has grown to over 400 today.
Some manatees will come back to Blue Spring in the summer, even, to birth calves in a safe protected area, but winter will be the time to see a lot at once. Mid-November to March is the best time to see the manatees in Blue Spring.
What to do at Blue Spring State Park
There are quite a few things to do in Blue Spring State Park whether you’re enjoyinng it by land or water. You’ll have the most options if you’re doing both, but even if you just pick one, there are plenty of options. The water is crystal clear and 72 degrees year round.
Kayak, canoe, or paddleboard
You can paddle the Blue Spring Run and St. Johns River with your own watercraft or you can rent canoes and kayaks from St. Johns River Cruises.
However, in the winter the spring and spring run (connecting the spring to the river) are closed to all water activities because Blue Spring is a designated manatee refuge. If you’re staying in Orlando and want to see the manatees, you can go as a day trip (if you have a car) or you can join a kayaking tour.
Take a boat tour
Boat tours on the St. Johns River are available daily and offered by the St. Johns River Cruises and Tours. The tours are two hours and leave at 10 AM and 1 PM. You’ll get to learn all about Floridas ecology on the tour.
Snorkel or SCUBA Dive
This can only be done in the spring in the summer because the manatees come to the park in the winter. You can snorkel in the spring run but not with the manatees.
Diving is allowed in the spring, but you must have a diving buddy with you at all times, cave/cavern diving is only available to certified cave divers, open water divers cannot carry lights and can only go to 50 feet, and all divers must show proof of certification before diving.
You can rent a tube in the park from the concessionaire and enjoy the eighth-mile run from the upper entry to the main swim dock. You can swim up to the spring boil as well.
Tour the old house
If you really, really love history, this might be cool, but you can only go through the first floor and there isn’t much to see in there, really. It doesn’t take long to walk through.
Walk along the boardwalk and to the spring
There is an accessible boardwalk that will take you to the actual spring through a lush hammock. The boardwalk along the water is the best place to see the manatees. There are a few observation decks along the boardwalk so you can see them in the water under you.
They can get crowded though, so try not to hog prime real estate for too long. The 3.6-mile (one way) Pine Island Trail is a great option for a longer hike taking you through various plant communities.
Blue Spring State Park is one of the best places to see manatees in Florida. It’s also a great place to do some swimming, paddling, and even bird watching.
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Have you been to Blue Spring State Park? Have you seen manatees? Where? Do you want to?