Although zoos and aquariums can be fun and educational, there’s nothing quite as exciting as seeing a sea creatures in the wild! And luckily, Daytona Beach provides plenty of opportunities to see a range of animals up close, including the two biggest wildlife draws in the area: dolphins and manatees. When the time is right for you to travel and you’re ready to start planning a vacation, we’ve got some great ideas!

The West Indian manatee is native to the Florida coast, and you have a good chance of seeing one firsthand during a visit to Daytona Beach. They instinctively flock to warm waters, making Florida’s sunny coast an ideal choice year-round, but especially in the winter months. These manatees are native to Florida 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.

Typically, manatees surface every three to four minutes while swimming, and they can remain submerged for about 15 minutes while resting. With such frequent surfacing, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see a “sea cow” for yourself!

Similar to the lovable manatees, dolphins are routinely spotted along the Daytona Beach shoreline and in the area’s inland waterways throughout the year. Although these creatures move a little more swiftly than the manatee, it’s still common to see them frolicking or fishing. On average, dolphins can stay under water between eight and ten minutes — but you’ll often see them pop up much more frequently than that!

There are several ways to see manatees in the Daytona Beach area — you may even spot them while simply walking along the shore! Manatees and dolphins can be seen right from the beach, standing on the Boardwalk, or at one of the many waterfront restaurants in the area. Beyond that, check out these top sites for manatee and dolphin viewing:

Two Kayakers sightsee along Spruce Creek

Dolphin and Manatee Adventure Tour

Get a close-up glimpse of the area’s wildlife with a Dolphin and Manatee Adventure Tour from Three Brothers Boards. The group’s popular paddle board tour is a truly unique experience that can only be found in a couple of places in the entire world. Created for all ages and experience levels, every tour starts with an on-ground demonstration and lesson on using a stand-up paddle board (and if you’re still not feeling confident, 1-, 2- and 3-person kayaks are available). Then, the tour takes off to several different pockets known for a high concentration of wildlife.

Eco Boat Tour

Climb aboard The Manatee Scenic Boat Tour or Ponce Inlet Watersports eco tour boat for a scenic excursion narrated by professional cruise directors. As you cruise along the protected wetlands and mangrove shores of Ponce Inlet and the surrounding waters , you’re likely to see dolphins, turtles, native birds and manatees. This river cruise is an ideal way to absorb the natural beauty and learn about the area — all while scoping out some dolphins and manatees.

Watch video: Head to Daytona Beach for endless eco-adventures! 

Dine and Cruise

Dine, cruise and soak in unforgettable views of manatees and dolphins aboard the Lady Dolphin of Daytona paddle wheel boat! Dine and Cruise is a two-hour river cruise which includes dinner, dessert, unlimited soft drinks, music and sightseeing information, on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Blue Spring State Park

This state park with a natural spring is like a magnet for manatees every year, especially between November and March. Blue Spring State Park is a quick 45-minute drive away from downtown Daytona Beach, and offers lots of room to explore.

Tips to Remember as You Encounter Nature

Manatees are a federally listed endangered species and are protected by federal and state laws. There are strict rules about human interaction with them, but you certainly can still have a memorable experience. Look, but don’t touch! Keeping your distance and passive observation are the best ways to view manatees and dolphins. Be sure to do your part to protect our mild-mannered friends and keep Daytona Beach wild!

All sorts of outdoor adventures await in Daytona Beach! Check out the area’s long list of eco-tours and wildlife exploration opportunities — and start planning your trip today!