Hello, Human! Come visit us at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center!
Manatees love warm water. And by a stroke of POWERful luck, Tampa Electric can provide it to them! Our Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach circulates water from Tampa Bay for cooling, then sends the water flowing clean and warm back into the bay. In the winter months the manatees leave colder waters to return to this warm and welcoming refuge.
Because of this uniquely unusual migration, we’ve built the Manatee Viewing Center so everyone could have a chance to see manatees gather. Our discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these unique, gentle animals.
Location: 6990 Dickman Rd., Apollo Beach, FL 33572
Hours: Open daily from November 1 - April 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Trails close at 4 p.m. We are closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Easter. Have questions? Call us at 813-228-4289.
Tampa Electric is proud to offer free parking and admission to all who visit!
Have a large group? Please let us know by sending a group reservation.
Snouts up - the manatees are the star of the show, but there’s much more to see and learn! The Manatee Viewing Center is just one part of the Florida Conservation & Technology Center. Guests can download this map into the free Avenza map application to see their exact location on the FCTC campus.
Florida’s Gentle Giants
At Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center, there is a lot to see and do! Visitors can wander along boardwalks overlooking the warm-water area where manatees gather; visit a newly remodeled education center to learn about the plant-eating, warm-blooded “gentle giants;” and even get a bite to eat at the Southshore Café.
Manatees often swim in water less than six-feet deep, where underwater vegetation is most abundant. Sadly, this makes them susceptible to boat strikes. Scientists estimate there are about 6,000 manatees in Florida's waters, and they need our help!
Check To See If Manatees Are At The Center Using Our Live Webcams!
The Manatee Viewing Center Webcam East and Webcam West, sit high above the center's gardens and boardwalks and are operational through the end of the center's open season on April 15. Take control of the camera to explore. When the water temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit you're likely to see many manatees!
Note: You have two minutes to use the camera before control goes to the next in line. If no one else is line, you will be able to control the camera until the next request. You can direct the camera's focus by clicking on the spot within the camera's viewscreen.
Please allow a moment for the camera controls to respond to your commands.
A featured part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the Manatee Viewing Center's tidal walk offers more than just vibrant birdlife – it’s also one of the best spots to view manatees! On this 900-foot, ADA-compliant walkway you’ll see a variety of native coastal plants and trees, as well as animal life. At the end of the walkway, you can view manatees in Big Bend Power Station's clean, warm water discharge canal.
Make Way for Rays!
Manatees aren't the only creatures you can see up close at Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center – there’s also a Rays Touch Tank.
The tank, part of a partnership with the Florida Aquarium, is the off-season home of the actual mascots of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays. It offers a fascinating look at cownose rays swimming just inches away, lightly grazing your fingertips as they glide past.
Trails and Tower
Connected to the Manatee Viewing Center is a coastal habitat trail that winds eight-tenths of a mile through saltern, coastal high marsh and coastal strand habitats. It showcases a variety of plant and animal life, immersing visitors in a peaceful, natural Florida setting. Additional trails and boardwalks connect you to all of the Florida Technology and Conservation Center.
Halfway along the habitat trail is a boardwalk that takes you to our wildlife observation tower. Marvel at the surrounding habitat, including the estuary below, from a 50-foot-high vantage point. On clear days, you can see all the way across Tampa Bay! Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the tables at the base of the tower. We have solar tables throughout the trails where you can relax under the shade of the solar panels while charging your phone or other electronics.
Inside the environmental education building, colorful displays immerse you in the world of the manatee and its habitat. Inspect actual manatee bones and piece together puzzles. Meander through a mangrove tunnel, drift along a seagrass bed and take a dive into a spring. You can also learn about a few of our local manatees. Come face to face, or we should say snout to snout, with the dangers manatees face and learn how we can help protect these marvelous mammals!
With so many excited visitors, our volunteer docents are a critical part of the Manatee Viewing Center’s operation. Many of our docents have been with us for more than 10 years, returning season after season. Being a docent at the Manatee Viewing Center is a rewarding experience, in a uniquely beautiful and fun location!
If you would like to volunteer, we ask that you commit at least one day a week for four hours for the duration of the center's season (November 1 - April 15). If interested, just send us an email from our contact us page (be sure to select Manatee Viewing Center in the pull-down box). Interested docents age 18 and older are welcome to apply.
Frequently Asked Questions
A. We are closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Easter. On Christmas Eve we close at 3 p.m.
A. Parking is free to the public and overflow parking is available as warranted just to the south of the MVC.
A. That's up to you! You are welcome to stay as long as you like. We are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The average group spends one to two hours. (The wildlife observation tower and habitat trails close at 4 p.m. daily).
A. Florida weather can be unpredictable, so please check the weather forecast before arriving. We are open rain or shine. Shoes and shirts are required during your visit. Closed toed shoes are recommended, and don't forget your sunscreen.
A. Yes, we wouldn't want you to miss the opportunity to capture your favorite moments! Please note, professional photography is strictly prohibited without prior consent.
Drones are also prohibited.
No footage of our MVC, either still image or video, may be used for any purpose other than personal use. Therefore, reproduction, modification or retransmission in any form, by any means, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited.
A. To support the safety and wellness of team members, we have temporarily paused meet and greets.
A. Smoking is permitted in designated areas only.
A. Pets are not allowed. Only service animals are permitted on the grounds.
A. The Manatee Viewing Center's docents (volunteer educators) help educate thousands of center visitors each season about the Florida manatee, coastal vegetation and bird and fish habitats. The docent's primary responsibility is to greet and interact with visitors and school groups on behalf of Tampa Electric to promote environmental stewardship.
At the Manatee Viewing Center, there are opportunities to share with visitors information about the protected manatee as well as the diverse plant life and amazing wildlife that inhabit Florida's coastal habitats and Tampa Bay waters. Many of our docents have volunteered for over 10 years, returning season after season. Volunteering for the Manatee Viewing Center is truly a rewarding experience for you and for the visitors!
If you are age 18 or older and would like to volunteer as a docent, the Manatee Viewing Center will provide you with training materials you need to answer an array of common questions.
We ask that docents commit at least one day a week for three hours for the duration of the center's open season, from November 1 through April 15. During that time, the Manatee Viewing Center is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the wildlife observation tower and habitat trails close at 4 p.m. daily). Note: the center is closed Thanksgiving, at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Easter.
If you are interested in volunteering and becoming a docent, send us an email from our contact us page (be sure to select Manatee Viewing Center in the pull-down box).
Download these PDF files for an assortment of virtual activities and fun, all while learning.
Activities & Coloring Sheets
Brochures & Fact Sheets