A few months ago, we decided to head to Apollo Beach to see the manatees that come looking for warmer water when the temperature goes below 68 degrees.
The power company at Apollo Beach has been providing electricity to the area for many years. They pull saltwater in from the bay to cool the units, then discharge it back into the bay.
During the cooler winter months, manatees find their way into this area looking for a way to escape the cold water.
The water coming off the electric plant is the perfect sanctuary for these gentle mammals.
The discharge canal at Big Bend is now a state and federally designated sanctuary for the manatees.
This free sanctuary is open from November 1 – April 15th daily. Visitors can watch the manatees from a large viewing bridge.
We headed out there on one of the days our kids had off school hoping to see some of the manatees in the canal.
It was quite a bit busier than we were expecting. Apparently quite a few other people had the same idea because it was a gorgeous day for sightseeing and hiking.
We walked out on the viewing bridge and were amazed at all the creatures in the water.
It was so cool to watch the manatees come up for air and then go back under.
The center also offers an educational building where visitors can learn more about the Florida manatees and their habitats.
They also have a stingray exhibit with a large tank filled with more than a dozen stingrays.
We also took a stroll down the boardwalk that goes through the mangroves and out to the bay where we saw many different fish swimming along the walkway.
After we finished seeing the manatees and the fish in the bay, we headed to the habitat loop trail and the observation tower.
The blue skies and sunshine made it a beautiful day to hike through the different paths.
Things to remember if you are visiting the Manatee Viewing Center:
Come early. Parking fills up quickly.
This is mostly an outdoor exhibit, so bring water, sunscreen, and bug spray.
Be prepared to walk. The manatee viewing deck and exhibits are about a half mile walk from the parking lot.
The walk to the observation tower is about 1 mile long, so make sure you wear proper footwear.
Once you arrive at the tower, you will need to climb several flights of steps.
We walked slowly along the path enjoying the different plants and trees.
I was fascinated with all the palm trees, so I took quite a few up close pictures of the branches.
From the top of the 50 foot observation tower, you can see a panoramic view of the sanctuary.
We climbed to the top and were amazed at the gorgeous views of the bay and the ecosystem.
There are also picnic tables at the base of the tower if you would like to bring a picnic lunch with you on your hike.
We had a great day exploring this fun wildlife habitat with our family and seeing one of the natural treasures here in Florida.
I can’t wait for our next outdoor adventure here in the sunshine state!!
Other fun places to visit in Florida:
- Sarasota Jungle Gardens
- Fun Things to do While Driving the Florida Keys
- Exploring Key West in a Day
- Tips for Enjoying the Wizarding World of Harry Potter