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.
When gulf waters cool, the manatees 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.
The elevated viewing area is designed as a perch to spot the manatees catch 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.
Built not only to provide a sea cowswatching encounter, but also to deliver a science and nature experience, the Viewing Center includes an Educational Center where visitors can learn about the manatees habitat, biology and physical traits. Additionally, guest 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 sting rays 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 summer baseball season.
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.
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.
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.)
1. Bring the 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. Arrive early if you can. If the parking lot is full, you will see many people park on the grassy curb area.
Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center
6990 Dickman Rd
Apollo Beach, FL 33572
Photo Courtesy:Tracy Colson