Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

1502 SE Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, Florida, 34429

The basics

Visitors to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge must approach the area by boat. Trained wildlife experts lead excursions onto the river for visitors to view the sea cows and snorkel among them. Whether on a private or group tour, visitors should receive safety instructions to give the wild animals plenty of space and admire their beauty from a distance. In addition to manatees, you may see dolphins, birds, fish, and turtles. Though manatee encounters are never guaranteed, the refuge is one of the few natural habitats where people are permitted to swim with them.

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Morning Swim and Snorkel with Manatees-Guided Crystal River Tour
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out
Morning Swim and Snorkel with Manatees-Guided Crystal River Tour
star-4.5
$77.11 per adult
Traveler Favorite
WOW! Amazing!
Amazing experience! Captain and guide were great! Spent time in the water with several manatees. One of the best experiences on a vacation ever!
MaryMargaret_A, Apr 2024

Things to know before you go

  • The waters at Crystal River are comfortably warm, about 72°F (22°C) and clear year-round.

  • Most guided tours are led by US Coast Guard–licensed captains and include a wetsuit and snorkel gear.

  • Travelers should not intentionally approach the manatees; touching, chasing, and feeding are prohibited.

  • Tours often include underwater photography and meals or snacks for the day.

  • Manatee season is mid-November to late March and most tours start early in the morning.

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How to get there

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge sits alongside the town of Crystal River in Kings Bay, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Tampa and 85 miles (137 kilometers) northwest of Orlando. The refuge doesn’t offer water access facilities for visitors.

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When to get there

The manatee season at Crystal River refuge begins in mid-November and ends in late March. The visitor center is open daily from morning to late afternoon in the winter, and on weekdays from May through October. The refuge staff may close parts of the sanctuary during the winter season.

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Three Sisters Springs

There are three major sites within Crystal River from which the Florida manatee can be observed. King Spring, where the refuge started, is the largest. Meanwhile, Three Sisters is considered the most beautiful and important to the manatees. Shuttles from the Three Sisters Springs Center to a boardwalk along the water run daily.

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