Manatee Statue at Blue Spring State Park Near Orlando - image by Dani Meyering
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5 Essential Tips for Seeing Manatees at Blue Spring State Park

Head 45 minutes from Orlando and you’ll come to a natural paradise that attracts visitors and locals alike. During manatee season, November 15 – March each year you can see incredible manatees at Blue Spring State Park. This charming state park is full of beauty, but it can become a disappointing visit if you don’t plan. Before you pack the kids in the car to go see manatees in the wild near Orlando, read over our quick tips for seeing manatees at Blue Spring State Park.

This article will go over the essential tips for visiting Blue Spring during manatee season in the winter months. However, Blue Spring State Park is one of our favorite springs near Orlando, any time of year. In fact, it’s a top pick for state parks near Orlando to visit with kids.

Tips for Seeing Manatees at Blue Spring State Park

  1. Get there no later than 9:00 am
  2. Walk to the very end, the Blue Spring Trail
  3. Be patient
  4. Dress comfortably
  5. Enjoy extra activities

By the way, you can camp or enjoy staying in a rustic cabin at Blue Spring State Park too!

Manatee with research bouy at Blue Spring State Park Near Orlando - image by Dani Meyering
Manatee with research tag at Blue Spring State Park image by Dani Meyering

Keep reading for details on some essential tips. I have visited Blue Spring State Park to see manatees multiple times over the past 20 years, and I am sharing some quick tips for you!

Get there no later than 9:00 am

If you arrive at Blue Spring State Park, especially to see manatees or go tubing, be prepared to get there early! By 9:30 am or so there will be a LONG line of cars waiting to get in. On weekends the park reaches capacity by 10:00 am.

The park opens its gates at 8:00 am, so if you can manage to be there then, you’ll be a superstar!

Line of Cars waiting to get into Blue Spring State Park
Line of Cars at Blue Spring State Park image by Dani Meyering

If you’re not there first thing in the morning, you’re next best bet is to get around 3:00 pm before the park closes at sundown.

Walk to the very end, the Blue Spring Trail

I’ve been to Blue Spring State Park more times than I can count. Being an Orlando native has its many merits, and now I get to bring my son to discover this beautiful place.

Each time I visit I notice many folks who stop at the end of the walkway along the water but do not keep going past the gift shop and snack shack.

Blue Springs State Park Gift Shop image by Dani Meyering

If you end your visit at the gift shop you’re going to miss the best place in the park to see the manatees. Keep going, and walk along the boardwalk with the sign marked “Blue Spring Trail.” It’s right next to the gift shop.

Blue Spring Trail is my favorite part of Blue Spring State Park. It’s where the actual spring of Blue Spring is located, and it is here that most manatees will mozy over to during their time at Blue Spring.

I have also seen a few deer along this trail, early in the morning.

Blue Spring Trail Entrance image by Dani Meyering

The walkway is gorgeous and serene. There are two lookout points at the very end of this trail, and they do get crowded. So be prepared to navigate this viewing spot with lots of other enthusiastic visitors.

Be patient

Seeing animals at a zoo or aquarium is generally pretty easy. But it’s a different story out in the wild.

Not only will it be busy at Blue Spring State Park, but seeing manatees in the wild takes patience. If you quickly move from one place to another then you’re likely going to miss seeing many manatees. When you enter the park you’ll see a boardwalk along the water’s edge. This is only the beginning.

Manatee Tag Sign at Blue Spring State Park near orlando
Manatee Tag Sign image by Dani Meyering

Take your time. And be sure to look for manatees throughout your visit, not just when you’re on one of the many platforms along the water. I have spotted quite a few manatees while peering through the trees in between the platforms.

Dress comfortably

All of the beautiful Florida State Parks are rustic and natural. It is best to dress for exploring. Closed-toed shoes are a good idea as you’ll be parking on the grass or dirt. And the walkways can sometimes be slippery.

Dress in layers. Manatee season is during the chilly months and on rare cold mornings, you’ll see the most manatees at Blue Spring State Park. But you’ll see be peeling those layers off when the afternoon comes around.

Young Boy See Two Manatees at Blue Spring State Park Near Orlando
Two Manatees at Blue Spring State Park image by Dani Meyering

Enjoy extra activities

  • Playground
  • Kayak Rentals (and tour)
  • Boat Tour
  • Manatee Chats

Besides walking the boardwalks to see manatees there are quite a few other activities at Blue Spring State Park.

Try to save the playground for last. It is near the front of the park, and although it is pretty small and basic, kids will love the chance to play. My son especially needed to get some energy out after being told by me to be patient and quiet down while on our long walk along the boardwalk to view the manatees.

Playground at Blue Spring State Park near Orlando
Playground at Blue Spring State Park image by Dani Meyering

Snacks and picnics are welcome inside Blue Spring State Park and there are plenty of picnic tables near the playground. Just be sure to clean everything up to keep this beautiful park in tip-top shape.

You can rent kayaks or book a kayak tour. Kayak rentals are about $30 – $40 for two hours. While you won’t be able to kayak along the spring run where the manatees migrate, you’ll be able to paddle along the St. Johns River and see incredible beauty.

The St. Johns River Nature Cruise is a marvelous way to enjoy the scenery of the St. Johns River without having to do any work. Let the boat captain take you around and explain all the wonders. The boat tour runs about every hour and is about $35 per person.

Finally, another reason to visit on a weekday is the daily Manatee Chats. Monday – Friday at 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm a park ranger conducts a Manatee Chat at the roadside pavilion near the parking lot. This is a great way to wrap up your visit to Blue Spring State Park, or if you’re a late arrival then kick it off this way.

Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to have a great time seeing manatees at Blue Spring State Park.

Blue Spring State Park
2100 W. French Ave. Orange City FL 32763
8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year
Fees – $6 per vehicle

author avatar
Dani Meyering
Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani is a proud Orlando native. She loves sharing her hometown with others from the theme parks to Florida's natural beauty. With over 15 years of experience, Dani is thrilled to serve as our Managing Editor at Orlando Date Night Guide, Orlando Parenting, as well as Tampa Bay Date Night Guide.