Florida RFI

Hi all,  we will be in Florida the first week of May for some business and some pleasure.  We will be in St. Augustine for a couple days to photography birds at the Alligator Farm rookery.  Then will be in the Beverly Hills area towards the West coast and want to hit the Crystal River area to look for Manatee.  Any advice on the best Manatee places around the Crystal River in May?  Also, any other mammal or herp hotspots that would be worth a stop in those areas?

Thanks in advance.




  • heavenlyjane

    We prefer seeing manatees at Blue Spring State Park, which is near the East Coast, between Daytona Beach and Orlando. You cannot swim with manatees there but the viewing is superb and the setting is primordially beautiful. The park has cabins and camp grounds. We prefer to stay on site because the park is closed the public until around 9-10 each morning and people who are lodging there have the place to themselves.

  • vdinets

    May might be too late for Crystal River (although with this year’s weather nothing is certain). There are a few sites on the E side, but all are a bit far south. Up north, your best bet would probably be Canaveral National Seashore, also on the E side.
    If I were you, I would contact one of the manatee viewing tour operators in Crystal River 2-3 days before going there and ask them if the tours are still running.
    Vladimir Dinets

  • focusedonnature

    Thanks for the information. We may try to stop at Blue Spring State Park if we have time. Apparently, a few dozen manatees are year round in the Crystal River so we will likely go there since we are in the area anyway. But, we are missing the peak manatee viewing times.

    We don’t plan to swim with them but might take a boat trip or kayak. Either way, contacting a tour operator to check in is a good idea.

    Any other can’t miss mammal or herp stops in Central FL?



    • vdinets

      Depends on how far you are willing to drive. There are places in Ocala Nat’l Forest and Archbold Biological Station where you can try looking for Florida mouse, and good sites for spotted skunks (mentioned in FL trip reports here). Highland Hammock State Park has particularly good habitat diversity, you can find almost anything there. Lake Woodruff NWR has round-tailed muskrat, but the chances of seeing one on a particular evening are less than 1/3.

      • focusedonnature

        Thanks for the additional tips Vladimir, I appreciate them. I will try to check some out and report back.

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