Every winter, manatees congregate in the Big Bend Power Station’s discharge canal for its warm water temperatures. To burgeon people’s interest, Tampa Electric built the Manatee Viewing Center, a series of boardwalks and piers overlooking the gathering manatees, and it is all FREE.
The main attraction is the manatees, of course. But since I went early in the season, I only saw a couple. I’m told that as the temperatures drop, the manatees move in. I’d recommend going in the dead of winter and also phoning ahead to ensure a good amount of manatees are swimming around.
I still managed to have a wonderful time despite the low numbers of manatees. There were many sorts of different fish swimming around the piers, and I also had the opportunity to stroll through their award-winning Butterfly Garden, filled with butterflies and interesting plant life.
The Tidal Walk is a 900 ft. pier that showcases Florida plant-life along the way, including some beautiful mangroves. There is also a 0.8 mile trail at the southwest corner of the parking lot that displays three different habitats.
They are located in Apollo Beach. The center is open November 1 through April 15, from 10am to 5pm daily. They close at 3pm on Thanksgiving. They are closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Easter. Admission and parking is free. For more information call (813) 228-4289 or visit their website.
There are many places to view manatees in Florida. I only recommend this trip to those who are or will be in the Tampa Bay area.