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See Manatees at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach

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The Manatee Viewing Center is Now Open for 2023-2024 Season

Want to see manatees? You’re in for a treat at the beloved Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. It’s a favorite Tampa Bay Area Day Trip option for families.

A place where industry and ecology intersect, the Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center is a top location to spot Manatees on cold—cold meaning Gulf waters are 68 degrees or cooler (this is Tampa Bay, after all) days. The Viewing Center sits in the shadow of the TECO power plant where visitors can capture a view of manatees and baby manatees in the warm water. This unique manatee haven provides visitors the chance to get a look at non-captive wildlife.


Manatee Viewing Center Apollo Beach
Photo Credit: TECO Manatee Viewing Center


When gulf waters cool, the manatee’s lounge in the warm, clean water from the discharge canal of the power plant. Open November 1 through April 15, this official state of Florida manatee sanctuary helps visitors enjoy the many manatees converging on the Big Bend Power Station. Best of all, it is free to visit and there is free parking available. It is also wheelchair accessible on the boardwalk.


Hours: Open Nov. 1 through April 15
Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

(Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas day.)



Family-Friendly Tips For Your Visit

1. Bring the whole family! The Manatee Viewing Center is great for all ages.

2. This is mostly an outdoor experience. Bring water bottles, sunscreen, and bug spray if you plan on visiting the tower.

3. Parking gets filled up pretty quickly during the weekend. Arrive early if you can. If the parking lot is full, you will see many people park on the grassy curb area.

4. Wear some good walking shoes if you plan on heading to the Wildlife Tower

5. Be prepared for approximately a mile-long walk if you visit the Wildlife Tower

6. Restrooms are located at the Manatee Viewing Center and the Clean Energy Center.

7. Feeding the manatees or any wildlife is prohibited



Things to Do at The Manatee Viewing Center:

Boardwalk Viewing Area:

The elevated viewing area is designed as a perch to spot the manatees catching a breath of air. Employees and volunteers help explain manatee facts and answer questions for kids and adults as they mill around the viewing area. You also find fun photo spots for the kids to remember your visit.


Educational Center:

Built not only to provide a manatee watching center, but also to deliver a science and nature experience, the Viewing Center includes an education center where visitors can learn about the manatees’ habitat, biology, and physical traits. Additionally, guests can check out how electricity is delivered to Tampa customers from power plants.


Rays Touch Tank:

The new stingray exhibit at the center, includes a 10,000-gallon tank with more than a dozen stingrays provided by The Florida Aquarium. The Manatee Viewing Center will be their winter home and then they will reside in the outfield touch exhibit at the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field during the summer baseball season.

Stingray Tank at TECO Manatee Viewing Center




Wildlife Walkway:

After perusing the center, visitors can take a stroll to see more wildlife down the 900-foot walkway enveloped with mangroves and other Florida indigenous plants and trees. Additionally, fiddler crabs, birds, and fish can also be observed.


Wildlife Tower:

Visitors can also climb the 50-foot wildlife observation viewing tower to discover a panoramic view of the ecosystem and the estuary. Guests can take a picnic lunch at the foot of the observation tower where there are tables to enjoy the Tampa Bay sunshine.

Stop by the gift shop and check out manatee specialty gifts and uniquely Florida-made items.

Photo Credit: Wildlife Tower at TECO Manatee Viewing Center


Cost: FREE

Parking is Free.

Hours: Open Nov. 1 through April 15
Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

(Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas day.)




Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center
6990 Dickman Rd
Apollo Beach, FL 33572
(813) 228-4289




Photo Courtesy:Tracy Colson