Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center
Manatees, jumping stingrays, spinning sharks…OH MY! This is a must-see destination if you are in the Tampa area! The manatees come to the power plant in the winter time to stay warm so plan on visiting any time on a cool winter day between November and April and you will stand a VERY good chance of seeing hundreds!
This picture is off of one of the many observation decks. Do you see all of the little bumps in the water? Those are all manatees! Those are just the ones that are breaching the water. Be prepared to see singles, babies, mommas, and families! Easily one of the coolest FREE destinations we have ever been to, check out Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center here!
Jumping Stingrays and Spinning Sharks
There’s something for every member of your family, although you are going to have to practice a bit of patience for the jumping stingrays and spinning sharks. Head out on the walking trail and pier to the west side of the visitor’s center and be prepared to…well, wait. Yes… wait BUT if you wait just a few minutes (approximately 5 – 15 minutes) you will see them, jumping stingrays AND spinning Sharks! It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before!
Did you even know jumping stingrays and spinning sharks existed? I didn’t until I came to this viewing center! We just happened to walk out on the walking trail and pier to explore further and discovered them. The viewing center doesn’t talk about them as it’s a “Manatee” viewing center and it’s kind of a secret. Don’t miss them!
FREE! FREE! FREE!
Why do I like this destination so much? Well, because it’s FREE and you get to see SO much of nature here! You could spend hours exploring and watching manatees, jumping stingrays, spinning sharks, fish, and turtles! How much better can it get?
There are several observation decks to observe the many manatees that swim about BUT come early. We have been there in the early afternoon and let me tell you, it gets busy! The main observation deck which goes well out into the water for observing is packed with visitors and unfortunately, you are stuck waiting for your turn to observe. I highly recommend you get there by opening time, 10:00 a.m. to have the best visit possible!
Wildlife Observation Tower
Enjoy an approximately half-mile hike on a shell path to the 50-foot high observation tower. Throw on some bug spray, bring comfortable walking shoes, and be prepared to walk up several flights of stairs! On a clear day, expect to see all the way across Tampa Bay!
Parking can be a bit challenging here. The main lot which is a just a short hop, skip, and a jump to the viewing center is typically full shortly after opening.
Don’t worry, though! There’s plenty of parking in the overflow lot which also offers a free shuttle service. You should only have to wait 5 minutes or so as they run several shuttles continuously throughout the day. You can also walk a shell path walking trail to the viewing center. It is approximately a half mile walk so wear comfortable shoes!
What To Bring
I highly recommend that you come with comfortable walking shoes, a light jacket or sweatshirt, a backpack with water and snacks, and a camera!
Comfortable shoes are a must-have! There is approximately a half-mile walking trail from the overflow parking lot if you choose to walk to the viewing center (don’t worry, there’s also a shuttle service). There’s also a lot of walking and standing on the observation decks and around the educational facility. If you choose to walk to the observation tower, you’re also looking at an approximately half mile walk. Comfortable shoes are a must!
Don’t forget a light jacket or sweatshirt! The best time to see as many Manatees as possible is when it is cool. If there is a slight breeze too, you will be thanking me!
You will see many people with expensive cameras with tripods and extra zoomable lenses trying to catch the jumping stingrays and spinning sharks. If you have one of those, bring it; you will want in on the action too!
If you’re looking to picnic, check out the many picnic tables scattered throughout the grounds. Food and drinks are welcome into the facility or they have a snack bar if you’d rather buy.
Highlights and Details
- Admission is FREE! Parking is FREE! The shuttle is FREE!
- Only open from November 1st – April 15th each year, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily.
- Located At: 6990 Dickman Road, Apollo Beach, FL 33572
- Phone: (813) 228-4289
- Several Observation Decks
- Interactive Touch Sting Ray Tank
- Educational Facility
- Wildlife Observation Tower
- Bathroom Facilities
- Gift Shop
- Snack Bar
- Walking Trails
- Picnic Tables
- Shuttled Parking
- Wheelchair and Stroller Access
- No Pets Allowed
Don’t miss this must-see Manatee destination near Tampa, Florida!
Have you been to the Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center? Where is your favorite place to visit manatees?