From manatees cruising the shallow waters to birds flitting around in the treetops, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of the best spots on Florida’s Gulf Coast for experiencing native wildlife. After parking outside the main visitor center, board a pontoon boat and enjoy a casual cruise to Homosassa Springs, keeping an eye out for gators on the banks or turtles out sunning on logs. You could also spot otters splashing in the shallows or deer scampering through the bush, as well as dozens of birds dancing in the treetops. When the boat ride concludes near the park’s west entrance, head to the Fish Bowl underwater observatory for the chance to spot wild manatees cruising the crystal clear waters in the spring. You can also spot fish from the underwater observatory as they swim by in colorful schools, as well as see wolves, bobcats, and panthers that live in the dense green forest.
Insider Tip: Pack binoculars as well as a lunch for a picnic surrounded by birdlife.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located off Highway 19 near Homosassa Springs, about a 70-minute drive north of Tampa and a 90-minute drive west of Orlando. It is open everyday from 9am to 5:30pm. Adult admission is $13, and $5 for children between the ages of six and 12. Plan to spend about 4 hours, or a half day, to get the most out of your visit.
If you don’t want to visit the spring via boat you can also walk on a paved path that leads toward the west entrance from the visitor center. Manatees here are completely wild and in their natural habitat, and the winter months have the greatest numbers of manatees visiting the springs.