Thinking about migrating to Daytona Beach during the winter for a little cold-weather reprieve? You aren’t the only one! More than 300 manatees make their way to the warm waters of central Florida annually — and specifically to the Daytona Beach area. 

As temperatures begin to drop farther north, manatees migrate toward warmer water. The “sea cows,” as they are affectionately called, cannot tolerate water below 68 degrees and, at that point, must start on a trek in search of warmer waters.

A West Indian manatee can weigh more than 1,200 pounds, but that doesn’t mean they are full of blubber. Surprisingly, manatees have relatively little body fat, despite their robust appearance. Further, manatees are more closely related to elephants than to dolphins or whales.

Lucky for the manatees, the natural springs at Blue Spring State Park hover at 72 degrees all year long. The manatees are attracted to the springs, and people are attracted to manatee viewing. The best time to get an up-close glimpse at these lovable creatures is between mid-November and mid-March. Then, once the weather warms up, the manatees will once again spend more time in open water.

West Indian manatees are native to the Florida coast and are generally considered a migratory species; they tend to gravitate between slow-moving bays, rivers and estuaries of all varieties — freshwater, saltwater and brackish. In warm summer months, these manatees take free range of the many bodies of water in the Daytona Beach area. A handful will even make their way west to Texas or as far north as Virginia! But, during those winter months, the manatees all high-tail it — well, as fast as they can go as slow-swimming creatures — back to Florida’s warm refuge.

Interestingly, manatees move through “travel corridors” — back-and-forth passageways often including the same spots and preferred habitats that are returned to year after year. Another fun fact: An adult manatee can eat a tenth of its own massive weight in water grasses, weeds and algae in just 24 hours.

Get a peek at these gentle giants on your winter getaway to Daytona Beach at Blue Spring State Park, or perhaps with a boat cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway. Don’t forget to pack your camera!

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