Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach - So Many Manatees

By Published On: November 3rd, 2023

Free in Apollo Beach – Manatee Viewing Center

Published on 11/03/23: The Manatee Viewing Center has been voted the #2 free attraction in the country by USA Today for 2023! I’m posting this Loving St Pete “Chilly Day Adventure” recommendation in November this year, so you’ll have more opportunities to visit. Who’s familiar? LSP Insider tips below.

Address: 6990 Dickman Rd, Apollo Beach
Google Reviews: 4.7/5 with 7500 reviews
Hours: Daily from Nov 1 – Apr 15, 10am – to 5pm. Trails close at 4pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter.
Cost: Free Parking and Free Admission!
ADA Compliant
Big Bend Power Station has been around since 1970. Since that time, the surrounding area has become a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary. Here’s why. To help cool certain elements, the plant pulls water in from Tampa Bay. That same water then exits as clean warm water, which the manatee love!

LovingStPete Insider Manatee Viewing Center Tips:

✔️Best time to visit is on a cold day (“Florida Cold” is < 65 degrees) or soon after a cold spell while the water is chilly. The manatees head to the Viewing Center to warm up!
✔️The regular parking lot is often full, but don’t let that deter you. Simply use the “overflow lot”, as it provides for a nice nature walk along a winding trail to the main building and viewing area. Colt always enjoys. Plus, you’ll pass a large building with activities for the kids to learn, test their knowledge, and even create energy. There’s also a shuttle from the overflow lot.
✔️There are more manatee viewing boardwalks than just those by the gift shop and main building! Find them all and you’ll eventually find the manatees. Ie the 900ft tidal walk that’s part of the Florida Birding Trail (you’ll see more wildlife than just manatees)
✔️Bring polarized glasses if possible. Wish my phone had a polarized lens to give you a better idea of what we saw through our glasses.
✔️Find the 50 foot high observation tower within the trails.
✔️Visit the education center and gift shop.
✔️Check out the Rays Touch Tank. Same Rays from Tropicana Field, their offseason hangout spot.
✔️Food options include hot dogs, corn dogs, nachos, quesadillas and much more.
✔️ Whether you bring snacks or buy them, enjoy the 10+ picnic shaded tables under the gift shop!
✔️ The education center teaches about the manatee’s habitat, and provides opportunity to walk through a mangrove tunnel, “dive into a spring”, view manatee bones, put together puzzles and much more. There’s also a hurricane simulator…which you know Colt and I always do when we find one. Take my money!
We’ve seen many manatees on each cold visit. While we love our “secret manatee spot” in Coffee Pot Bayou, that’s usually < 5 vs the 50-200 of our gentle friends at the Viewing Center. Our “secret manatee spot” is still good though, so I’ll write it up in a separate post. As always, the LSP Family is in the circle of trust.
Credit 📸 #2 from Manatee Viewing Center, the rest are my own.

I’m a Tampa Bay Real Estate Agent, with over 43K people following my LovingStPete Guide on Social Media. My past includes developing a vacation rental advertising business that I ran for more than a decade, then sold to HomeAway/VRBO. I’d love to help you buy or sell a property, simply contact me.

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Written by : St Petersburg Realtor, Mike Braswell

Mike Braswell is a Tampa Bay Realtor, serving St Petersburg, Clearwater, all nearby beaches and more. Mike started LovingStPete in October of 2020 after a difficult year took its toll on local businesses. After being cooped up for portions of 2020 (lockdown) Mike and his son decided to get out and explore, helping spread the good word about the local area he loves so much. Often even doing gift card giveaways to support local. LovingStPete is now followed by over 48 thousand people on social media! The majority of posts are informative on fun parks, activities, day trips, great restaurants, and in general provide a comprehensive tour of the area!

Soon after receiving his bachelors in Management Information Systems, Mike developed and then operated a vacation rental advertising business for 10+ years as CEO/Owner. The business was eventually acquired by VRBO. Mike has earned the trust of many large clients over the years. Such as NFL, Wynn Resorts, Blue Cross Blue Shield, VISA, Genuine Parts Company (NAPA Auto Parts), AT&T, and other Fortune 500 companies.

When not spending time with his beautiful wife and energetic son, Mike enjoys boating and is also an avid tennis player. An interesting fact about Mike is that he grew up on an avocado farm with over 15 varieties, some of which you can find in our local Publix/Winn Dixie as his dad still farms the same farm at 87 years old!

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