manatees at blue spring state park
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Meet the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park: Travel guide

Read everything you need to know about spotting Manatees at Blue Spring State Park, including the best time to see manatees, wildlife viewing, and kayaking/standup paddleboarding information. Blue Spring State Park is the best place to see Manatees in Florida even when it’s not manatee season! So, keep reading this post for more information.

Florida has over 1000 natural springs, and all are different in one or another way. Some are very famous like Crystal River and others are not well known like Ichetucknee Springs. There are less crowded private springs like Ginnie Spring.

I visited Ginnie Springs during my trip to Miami and Key West but the second time when I visited St Augustine, we quickly traveled one hour towards Orlando to see the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park. The weather and time were perfect for seeing the manatees. So, read this travel guide to see the manatees at Blue Spring State Park and complete the travel guide for visiting this beautiful Florida State Park for your unforgettable Florida trip.

blue spring state park florida

What is Blue Springs State Park, Florida?

Blue Springs State Park is one of the most beautiful springs in Florida. Located along the St John’s River, it’s a nature lovers paradise and a popular spot for those who enjoy water activities.

The crystal-clear blue-green waters attract manatees and tourists, particularly during winter months. And in the summer, swimming, scuba diving, and kayaking on the spring run is a refreshing day out. Read on to discover the best time to spot the manatees at Blue Spring State Park with lots of activities. 

Where is Blue Spring State Park Florida?

Located in Central Florida, Blue Springs State Park is in Orange City, Volusia County.

Opening hours: from 8 AM to 6 PM, 365 days a year.

Location: 2100 West French Avenue, Orange City, FL 32763 

How far is Blue Springs State Park from Orlando?

Orlando is the closest major city in Central Florida to Blue Springs State Park. If you are visiting Orlando this is a very easy day trip (45 minutes drive) and is a nice alternative to theme parks or crowded hotel pools.

After exploring theme parks like Disney World or Universal Orlando, it’s perfect to spend some time with nature at Blue Spring State Park Florida. Also, the manatees and alligators will give you real-life experiences, so they’re more exciting!

If you are traveling North Florida, Blue Spring State Park is 1 hour from St Augustine and 30 minutes from beautiful Daytona Beach. You can combine both of these destinations in a day. If you want to visit one more spring, visit nearby Gemini Spring Park for a complete Florida Springs day trip.

manatees at blue spring state park florida

How much does it cost to visit Blue Spring State Park Florida

Blue Springs is part of the Florida State Parks network, and there is an entrance fee.

  • It is only $6 per vehicle ( 2 to 8 people). But it’s worth the price you pay.
  • $4 single-occupant vehicle 
  • $2 pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass 

Orlando to Blue Spring State Park Day Trip

A lot of people visit Orlando for the theme parks, such as Disneyworld or EPCOT, and never consider visiting the natural side of Florida. It’s a very easy short-day trip from Orlando to Blue Spring State Park.

It takes only 40 minutes from Orlando to Orange City. In bad traffic, it can take you up to an hour, not more than that! But I would suggest visiting Blue Springs in the morning to ease the traffic.

If you are planning to visit Blue Spring State Park Florida from Orlando, plan to be here at least for 3 hours. If you’re indulging in any water activities like paddle boarding or kayaking, plan for more hours. There are lots of things to do from seeing manatees to swimming and so on! You can even take a guided tour, so plan accordingly.

Pro Tip: Blue Spring is the best place for seeing manatees in Florida, but that’s all dependent on the weather, so keep that in mind. If the weather is cooler, there will be more manatees. If it’s a hot day in winter, the manatees will head into the river from the sun. If it’s a warmer day when you visit, Kayaking or SUP are great options for the day trip.

When to visit Blue Spring State Park for Manatees

From mid-November through March is usually the best time to encounter manatees at Blue Springs State Park Florida. But your best time to see the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park is January and February when the most Florida manatees are there!

But at Blue Spring State Park, you can spot the Manatees very easily starting in mid-November and during March, but the winter months are for sure the best time to visit if you want to experience the maximum congregation of manatees in the river.

When I Visited Blue Spring State Park in January 2024, crazy 675 manatees were spotted in the river approaching the Blue Spring. This was one of my bucket list experiences for sure!

One of my friends visited Blue Spring State Park in September and she spotted a manatee in Blue Spring even though it’s considered lean season! So, there’s a high chance of spotting at least one manatee (summer time), and that’s why this is the best place in Florida to see manatees.

Be aware, that during the winter months, there is no swimming, diving, or boating. Water activities remain closed during manatee season.

Note:  The manatees congregate here at Blue Spring State Park because when the air temperature drops the water temperature stays nice and warm which attracts manatees! A good tip is to check the overnight temperature and plan to visit the following morning after a cold day. The lower the temperature, the more manatees will head into Blue Spring to keep warm.

Best Things to Do at Blue Spring State Park

Although this may not be the biggest Florida state park, it is full of so much to do! My Best Tip for this park is to ARRIVE EARLY because the park hits capacity often. We arrived after 10 AM on the weekend and encountered a line at the park entrance(30 minutes to enter), you know what I mean!!

Depending on the time of year you visit, the park will offer different activities. From November to March, there is a lot of manatee viewing. During the other months of the year, they open the spring to swimmers and tubers.

I visited the Blue Spring State Park as a half-day trip while returning home, which is doable and fine to do so! It’s up to you which water-related activities you want to do or just want to enjoy the beautiful views, and since it’s the best place in Florida to see manatees, you’ll be occupied with that from November through March.

What Time of the day is the best to see manatees at Blue Spring?

The best time to visit Blue Spring State Park is in the mid-morning before the sun is fully up and warming the waters. As the day goes on, the manatees will head back into the St Johns River. In the morning crowd will be thinner and the atmosphere will be more pleasant.

Blue spring state park manatees

Spot the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park

One of the top things to do in Blue Spring State Park is to spot the Manatees in the winter months. Every year hundreds of Manatees head over to Blue Spring State Park to stay warm. It’s truly a magical experience to witness it.

We spotted hundreds of manatees when visited! So, you can say Blue Spring State Park is a designated manatee refuge during the winter months, and it’s during this time the park welcomes the most visitors. 

Visit in the early morning, before 10 am for the best views of the manatees here. During this time the manatees are more playful and active, plus you’ll have fewer crowds too!

Florida state park manatees
Manatees at Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park Manatee Conservation & Count

The Save the Manatee Club has a live webcam stream of Blue Spring and also the daily wintering manatee numbers. They are a manatee conservation organization that works to rescue, monitor, and release injured or orphaned manatees.

There were volunteers at Blue Springs conducting their research, and they were happy to answer any questions from visitors. You can also spot manatees with tags attached to the base of their body. 

Swimming at Blue Spring State Park

While you cannot swim in Blue Spring year round due to the manatees being present in the winter months after the manatee season the spring opens for adventure activities! Its free with your entrance fee. The water temperature is a cool 72 degrees year-round! It is refreshing on a hot day and a great way to beat the heat.

From Spring to Autumn (November) you can swim from the main spring area to the western side of the spring. There are two entrances into the Spring for swimmers, one across from the gift shop and the other just down the boardwalk a bit farther.

There is a line crossing the run to show you how far you can swim because allegators come to swim with you many times!

Tubing At Blue Spring State Park

This is another activity you can try at Blue Spring Park. Bring your tube and floaties to play with in the spring. They allow you to bring your own, and it adds to the experience!

If you don’t bring your tube, don’t worry, they have tube rentals upon arrival. Tube Rentals are located behind the gift shop next to the spring.

Tubing at Blue Spring State Park is a lot of fun. The run is short and the water current isn’t too strong making it perfect activity during a hot summer day!

Note 1: Even if the river is open you still need to be cautious of alligators because they can make an appearance at any time without the rangers’ knowledge! You’ll see lots of big fish in the spring, so pay respect to them too!

Note 2: The springs are closed to swimmers and boaters of all sorts in winter months when the manatee population increases to hundreds each day.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at Blue Spring State Park

This state park is full of wildlife, which makes snorkeling a blast! Bring your snorkeling masks, or purchase some in the gift shop, and you will see all the fish beneath you. This state park has crystal-clear water, so with the goggles, you truly can see everything!

Snorkeling at Blue Spring State Park you’ll find larger fish here, like Florida gar, redrear, tarpon, and more. Even in off off-season, we were completely impressed with the enormous fish in the river. The Florida gar and other large varieties were easily visible from the viewing platforms.

Scuba Diving at Blue Spring State Park is also an amazing activity. This is a perfect opportunity to earn your Scuba Diving license. You can find more information about scuba diving here. Scuba diving is permitted though, per Florida State Parks rules. If there are manatees present, you can’t dive, keep this in mind.

Canoe, kayak, and paddleboard at Blue Spring State Park

Canoeing, Paddleboarding, and kayaking at Blue Spring State Park are some of the best ways to see it all! You can bring your own, or rent upon arrival. When entering the park, follow signs towards the boat launch. There is a huge parking lot, and you will find the rentals here. 

Blue Springs State Park offers kayak, canoe, SUP rentals, and a river cruise through Blue Spring Adventures, their tour and rental company within the park.

kayaking with manatees in florida

Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards will be able to take you around most of the area but are prohibited from entering the swimming area. There is a range of routes for exploring depending on the time of year you visit. These include touring the St. John’s River, Blue Spring, and Hontoon Island State Park. 

Blue Spring is the best place to see manatees in Florida, and from a kayak or SUP, it’s an amazing experience. It’s very easy to sit on your board or kayaking and see them up close! But be respectful and don’t touch them! Don’t miss Kayaking in Florida Springs!

Hiking at Blue Spring State Park, Florida

While there may not be any mountains or hills nearby, the park has few hiking trails to see the wildlife. A majority of the hiking trails are along the boardwalk of the spring, that take you out into the forest.

The most popular is the half-mile-long boardwalk, named Spring Run Trail, that follows the water up to the spring vent. It has various viewing points and areas to look out for wildlife such as manatees, fish, birds, and alligators.

best time to see manatees at blue spring

The second is Pine Island Trail at Blue Spring State Park, a 3.6-mile trail that is flat and takes you through the forest habitat towards the river. It’s not a loop trail, so you must retrace your steps to get back to the kiosk, but the varying habitats and wildlife are impressive.

Biking at Blue Springs Florida 

Blue Spring State Park is situated perfectly along the Spring-to-Spring biking trail. This trail will link DeLeon Spring State Park to Gemini Springs Park. This total 26-mile path is designed for bikers, joggers, and bicyclists. At the time of writing, there is a 15-mile-long biking trail running through Blue Spring State Park open for use. check out the map for more details.

Visit the Thursby House

This historic home is located near the kayak and boat launch point. Inside the Thursby House, you will find a museum, built in 1872 that sits atop an ancient shell midden. It tells you a bit more about the Blue Springs and the surrounding area. This activity is a great way to bite the heat and step back in time during a hot sunny day. It’s free to visit for all.

Facilities at Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park is well-equipped with many facilities to make your trip comfortable. This includes a gift shop, a mini convenience store, restrooms, and picnic tables.

Inside the Gift Shop, you will find a variety of merchandise, lots of manatee items, and swimming supplies. You can buy dry bags for your phone, goggles, floats, tubes, and more! The gift shop is a great place to stop if you forgot items at home.

Lockers are available here for purchase to store your valuables.

best place to see manatees in Florida - blue spring state park

Camping & Cabins at Blue Spring State Park

The park offers 51 campsites and 6 cabins for visitors to enjoy. To reserve a spot, visit the Florida State Park reservation booking system online and check for availability. They book up quickly, so plan well in advance if you are camping. The fees are current pricing at the time of writing on the Florida State Parks website.

Camping – $24 per night plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee and a $7 nightly utility fee for RVs. (Utility fee does not apply to tent camping.) The utility fee includes water and electricity.

Cabins – $95 per night plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee and a $7 nightly utility fee. 

Blue Springs State Park Florida FAQ’s

What is Blue Spring State Park known for?

Blue Spring State Park is widely known for the great number of manatees that congregate here year-round, particularly from November to March. The daily manatee count can be in the hundreds during winter months. You can see the number of manatees spotted on display boards when you enter the park.

Can you swim in Blue Springs?

Yes! Swimming and Scuba diving are permitted at the Blue Spring State Park, Florida. However, it is allowed ONLY when it’s NOT manatee season. They open the run for swimming typically in April and close it at the end of October. The spring run closes during the winter months to protect the migratory manatees. Any water activities such as scuba, swimming, or kayaking are not allowed during manatee season from November to March.    

Can You Swim with the Manatees at Blue Springs?

No, you can not swim with the manatees at Blue Spring State Park, like you can at Crystal River! During the winter months from November to March, the spring is closed to swimming as spring acts as a manatee refuge.

Is Blue Spring State Park worth visiting?

Blue Spring State Park is one of the most beautiful state parks in Florida with a boardwalk along the river to view the manatees, fishes, and wildlife. They have the highest number of manatees during the winter months. So, it’s worth visiting.

Which Months are Best to spot the Manatees at Blue Spring?

Winter months from mid-November to March is the best time to spot the Manatees at Blue Spring when they flock to the 72-degree water of the spring.

What time of the day are manatees most active?

When you plan your trip, consider visiting the springs early in the morning when manatees are most active. They are most playful in the morning.

What is the Temperature of Blue Spring State Park?

Blue Spring State Park’s water temperature is a cool 72 degrees year-round. This is why the manatees come here in the winter to stay warm!

Are there alligators in Blue Springs?

Yes, this is Florida and alligators can be found in any body of water. Large or nuisance alligators are often relocated to less popular areas of Blue Spring.

Can you Bring Alcohol to Blue Spring State Park?

Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all areas of the park.

In conclusion, this state park is the perfect oasis near Orlando with so many things to do. I hope this has been a useful guide to visiting Blue Springs State Park in Florida to spot the manatees. Add this state park to your Orlando bucket list.

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