This was the first stop on our family Florida vacation, and to be honest this was the stop I was looking forward to the most. I drove all Thursday night while everyone else slept, and after a brief stop for breakfast, we were there right when it opened.
I paid the $6 admission fee (this fee is per vehicle not per person) and drove toward the back. The park map I was handed at the entrance was not very helpful so we took a guess at which way to go, and we got it right on the first try! I parked in an empty parking lot facing an old house and we jumped out of the van….and jumped right back in to wrap up in coats, sweaters and even blankets.
We got out again and walked toward an overlook that two other people were standing on wondering how we were supposed to find the manatees. Reaching the overlook we looked down, and oh my word there were a lot of manatees! The fog off the water gave the area an eerie look, but we could still see the manatees. Later we found out there were 301 manatees in the spring.
We walked along the 3 mile boardwalk stopping, taking pictures and just taking in the beautiful creatures. The morning did slowly warm up, and the view became even more beautiful as the fog burned off.
We meandered back the way we came this time stopping at the old house to look around. The Thursby house it’s called, and it is more like a mini museum than an house, but interesting to walk through anyway.
By now the park was getting really crowded and the parking lot that was empty when we arrived was almost completely full of cars. We decided to try hiking, but only made it halfway because the trail that started out hiking through a beautiful forest ended up mostly being out in the sun on the other side of the forest.
We walked back to the car and took one last look at the manatee’s trying to squeeze in between the people to catch a glimpse, and then decided we should move on as the park had become too crowded to really enjoy anymore.
My one tip for the park would be: go early. The crowd arrived around 10 am so definitely plan on being there when it opens at 8 am to get the best views of the manatees.