If you are visiting Tampa Florida then you will want to make sure a stop at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center and Education Center is a stop on your list. This outdoor spot is not only fun but also educational for the kids.
Visiting Manatee Viewing Center at Tampa Electric with Kids
We love manatees, and if I can find a place to go see wild manatees I am all about it. While in Tampa I knew we had to take a trip to the Tampa electric manatee viewing center was a must for us. The kids have learned a ton about manatees in the past on our other trips and they love manatees just as much as I do. Any chance we can get we are off to find some and it is always a blast.
We started our day exploring a beach close by to our hotel to look for shells and then made the short drive to the Manatee Viewing Center before our plans to visit and escape room that evening. I do wish I had gone earlier in the day, as we did not have time to do all the trails and walking that I wanted to do with the kids, but the kids had and I had a blast any way.
We started by taking a walk to the viewing deck, then got to talk with one of the workers who shared with the kids the different bones of a manatee, and then took a stroll down to the education center. We visited the ray tank, where the kids got to touch the rays, did the hurricane machine and also made a wax manatee. On our way out we took a stroll down the walking area and then grabbed a treat from the shaved ice stand near the parking lot.
It was the perfect relaxing and fun time for all of us and it is definitely a place that the whole family will enjoy visiting when you are in Tampa Florida.
What is the Manatee Viewing Center?
Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing center, also known as the teco manatee viewing center is located in Apollo Beach, Florida, the Manatee Viewing Center is a facility operated by Tampa Electric, where visitors can observe manatees in their natural habitat. Manatees are large, gentle sea mammals that can be found in Florida’s warm waters, and they are an endangered species.
The Tampa electric’s Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach utilizes water from Tampa Bay for cooling purposes and subsequently returns the clean, warm water back into the bay. During the winter season, the manatees migrate from colder waters to seek refuge in these warm waters.
Given this exceptional migratory pattern, the Manatee Viewing Center was established by the teco power plant to enable visitors to observe the gathering of manatees. The warm water discharge canal is designated as a state and federally recognized manatee sanctuary, providing essential protection from the cold for these peaceful creatures.
What is there to do at the Manatee Viewing Center in Tampa Florida
At the Manatee Viewing Center, visitors can learn about manatees and their habitats through interactive exhibits, presentations, and guided tours. You will want to plan for 2-4 hours there depending on how old your children are and what you plan on doing.
See The Manatees
One of the best things about the Manatee viewing center is seeing the manatees in the warm water, this was really the main attraction that the kids and I went for. There are a few different viewing vantage points that you will want to stop at so you can see the manatees swimming in the clean water. We first walked to the platform and then we walked down the tidal walk to see if we could see more manatees
The boardwalk viewing area
The raised observation deck is specifically designed to offer a vantage point for visitors to spot the manatees surfacing for air. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers are available to share interesting facts about manatees and answer questions from visitors, including children and adults.
Visit the educational center
You will want to stop in the environmental education building to get an in-depth look and learn about the Florida manatee and where they live. You will also get to see a manatee skeleton and more. The Manatee Viewing Center was constructed with the purpose of not only offering a place to observe manatees but also to provide an immersive educational experience in science and nature. Along with the viewing area, the center houses an education center where visitors can learn about the habitat, biology, and physical characteristics of manatees. Additionally, guests have the opportunity to explore how electricity is generated and delivered to Tampa customers from the nearby power plants.
Have some fun in the hurricane simulator and gives the kids an understanding of what the winds of a hurricane feel like. This one does cost extra but it was something that my kids loved.
Stingray touch tank
At the Manatee Viewing Center, the stingray exhibit features a 10,000-gallon tank housing over a dozen stingrays that have been provided by The Florida Aquarium. During the winter season, the Manatee Viewing Center serves as the stingrays’ home, and come summer, they will move to the outfield touch exhibit at Tropicana Field, the home stadium of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.
Create a wax Manatee
For an extra cost of $5 you can make a wax manatee. This is a budget friendly and super cute souvenir for the kids to watching being made and take home.
Take a walk on the hiking trails
Adjacent to the Manatee Viewing Center is a coastal habitat trail, spanning eight-tenths of a mile, which meanders through various habitats such as saltern, coastal high marsh, and coastal strand. The nature trail provides an opportunity to observe a diverse range of plant and animal life, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in a serene and natural Florida environment. You can also go up the wildlife observation tower to get a great view of the area and see wildlife.
Wildlife Walkway and Wildlife Tower
Following a tour of the center, guests can take a leisurely walk down a 900-foot walkway surrounded by mangroves and other native plants and trees, to observe more wildlife such as fiddler crabs, birds, and fish. To enjoy a panoramic view of the ecosystem and the estuary, visitors can ascend the 50-foot wildlife observation tower. The base of the tower is a perfect spot to have a picnic lunch and bask in the Tampa Bay sunshine as there are tables available for use.
When is the best time to visit the Manatee Viewing center?
You will want to plan your visit for during the winter months and manatee season if you can. The best time to see manatees at the Manatee Viewing Center is between November and April. This is the coldest months of the year and when the water temperatures in Tampa Bay are colder and manatees seek the warmer waters near the power plant. However, keep in mind that the number of manatees you’ll see can vary depending on the weather and other factors.
Tips for visiting the Manatee Viewing Center
- Wear good walking shoes. You will want to walk down the boardwalk and there is a lot of walking to be done so having comfortable shoes is important. If you want to get to the best viewing area then you will want to do a bit of walking.
- Plan enough time. While you might think that it is a small place, we only planned to stay for about an hour and ended up being there for 3 hours because the kids were so involved in everything.
- Arrive early. The Manatee Viewing Center can get busy, especially on weekends and holidays. To avoid crowds, consider arriving early in the day, before the center opens, or later in the afternoon when crowds tend to thin out.
- Bring binoculars. While the observation tower provides great views of the manatees, it’s always helpful to have a pair of binoculars to get a closer look. Binoculars can also be useful for spotting other wildlife in the area.
- Bring water and sunscreen. Most of the time you will spend outside so be sure you have sunscreen and water.
How much does it cost to get into the Manatee Viewing Center?
There is free Admission to the tampa electric’s manatee viewing center and you will also get free parking.
Manatee Viewing Center Location and hours
Address : 6990 Dickman Rd., Apollo Beach, FL 33572
Hours: Open November 1 – April 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Nature trails close at 4 p.m.