Naples’ Hidden Gem: Manatee Park
When travelers think of Florida, their minds often wander to glitzy Miami beaches, the magic of Disney, or perhaps the pristine keys. However, for those in the know, there’s a magical spot off the beaten path: Manatee Park in Naples.
Nestled in Lee County, Manatee Park is not just your ordinary park. It’s a sanctuary, a place where you can witness the gentle giants of the sea, the Florida manatees, in their natural environment. Unlike many other locations that offer a glimpse of these marine mammals, the manatees here are not held in captivity. Instead, they come and go as they please, offering visitors a unique chance to observe them in their natural habitat.
Why Do Manatees Visit Manatee Park?
The secret lies in the water. During the colder days of winter, when the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico dips below 68° F (20° C), these sensitive creatures seek out warmer waters to bask in. Manatee Park provides the perfect location. But how does a park manage to maintain warm water during winter? The answer is right across the street.
The Florida Power and Light Power Plant is located just opposite the park. As part of its operations, the power plant cools down its equipment, leading to the release of warm water. This warm water is channeled into the Manatee Park canal, creating a haven for manatees during the winter months.
When to Visit
For the best chances of spotting these serene creatures:
- Mid-December to March: This is the prime time. As the Gulf of Mexico cools, manatees flock to the park’s warm waters.
- April to November: During these months, manatees usually prefer the coastal habitats near the Gulf of Mexico. While sightings in the park may be rarer, the Gulf’s surrounding areas might reward the patient observer.
Planning Your Visit
10901 State Road 80
Fort Myers, FL 33905
Open every day from 8 am to sunset.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a family looking for a unique excursion, or simply someone who wants to see the softer side of Florida’s wildlife, Manatee Park in Naples promises an experience unlike any other. So, the next time you find yourself in the Sunshine State, take a detour and discover this hidden gem.