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Manatee Viewing Center sets huge new record for most manatees spotted

aerial view of manatees approaching a dock
Aerial view of Manatees approaching the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center

Gasparilla wasn’t the only thing to draw a crowd this weekend, and neither was the Royal Rumble. Tampa Electric’s award-winning Manatee Viewing Center just set an amazing new record: the center hosted 1,100 manatees at one time, which dwarfs the previous record of 850, set last winter.

“This season has been consistently chilly, which has allowed us to see more manatees at one time than ever before,” said Stan Kroh, manager of Land and Stewardship Programs for Tampa Electric. “This makes for an even better experience for our visitors. We’re proud to be such a coveted destination – and a showcase for Tampa Electric’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”


Location: 6990 Dickman Rd., Apollo Beach, FL 33572
Cost: FREE
Hours: Open daily through April 15, 10am to 5pm. Trails close at 4pm. The viewing center is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter.

manatee swim up to a boardwalk
Manatee require water water warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive, so they head over to Tampa Electric’s warm water discharge canal during the winter months

Manatees Viewing Center draws hundreds of thousands of visitors

The manatees have gathered in the canal since the early 1970s. When the water temperature of Tampa Bay is 68 degrees or colder, the mammals gather in the clean, warm water discharge canal of Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station, sometimes by the hundreds – and this year, repeatedly over a thousand.

Each season, the 50-acre Manatee Viewing Center draws hundreds of thousands of human visitors – nearly 500,000 in 2023. Since the center opened in 1986, 7.4 million people have visited.


Guests can see the mammals up close from multiple boardwalks and vantage points. They also can meet the rays, critical animals that rely on a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem – and even touch them gently as they glide past in the touch-tank. Visitors also can hike the nature trail and take in the vistas from the 50-foot observation tower.

an entrance way with manatee characters drawn on either side
Photo via Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center

Enjoy one of the best experiences in Florida for free

Admission and parking at the Apollo Beach facility are free. And the center’s boardwalks comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act for our guests’ convenience. TripAdvisor has repeatedly awarded the center a Certificate of Excellence, and it was selected as one of the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards for best free attractions.

Comfortable shoes and clothing are recommended. Please note that no pets are allowed at the center, only trained service animals.

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