Manatee Viewing at Virginia Key Outdoor Center

Manatee Season begins in November and ends in March

Come November, the VKOC lagoon becomes a Manatee hotspot until March.  We understand these mammals are cute, but we must remind  you all that they are 100% wild. VKOC seeks to increase public awareness and education of Manatee conservation. If you use a kayak, canoe, paddle board or raft or swim near beaches or other waterways, you are responsible for looking out for Florida’s wildlife.


Florida manatees were first protected through Florida State Law in 1893. Manatees are protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act (§379.2431(2), Florida Statutes) and are federally protected by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to touch, ride, hug, and feed a Manatee. Look, but don't touch manatees. Also, don't feed manatees or give them water. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, they can alter their behavior in the wild, perhaps causing them to lose their natural fear of boats and humans, which may make them more susceptible to harm.


While you're on the water, please take in consideration the following tips to view Manatees. You'll thank us later for this.


Call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

You can also send a text message or email to or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio. 

Please inform a VKOC Staff Member. We will follow up on your report.

Responsible Paddling

  1. Enjoy watching manatees but remember to keep your distance and limit your viewing time so that the manatees do not notice you or your vessel.
  2. Manatees should not come in contact with your vessel. While manatees may initiate the contact, paddlers should be aware that manatees are capable of flipping a vessel. Its tail is powerful and could easily upend you if the animal makes a sudden, forceful movement to get out of harm’s way. Back away from the animal until it loses interest in your vessel and resumes its normal behavior.
  3. Speak quietly and avoid making loud noises when you are near wildlife areas. Your goal is to view manatees without disturbing them.
  4. Calves (very young manatees) and juvenile manatees are cute and curious but they are not pets. Avoid the temptation to rub, scratch or otherwise touch any manatees that surface near your vessel. Remember to “look, but don’t touch” manatees. Be careful not to separate a calf from its mother.
  5. Research equipment attached to a manatee helps researchers locate and monitor the manatee for further study or for health reasons. This equipment does not hurt the manatee and should not be touched or removed.
  6. Offering food or water to manatees is prohibited because it alters their foraging behavior and is considered a form of harassment. Give manatees space to search for food and water on their own.

Where can I see Manatees on Virginia Key?

These are wild animals. They are free to come and go as they please.  April - October, we may have 2-5 come inside our lagoon. Please ask a staff member if there has been any sightings on the day of your outing. They will be more than happy to tell you where.


Manatees can be spotted inside the VKOC Lagoon, out on the Virginia Key Cove, or at the North Point of the Island.


Look for bubbles floating to the surface. The bubbles are the oxygen from manatees breathing and lurking beneath the water! They surface for air every five minutes, so be patient.

Virginia Key Outdoor Center is a proud member of Save the Manatee Club. 


Checked out Flash, our adopted Manatee!

Is there a Guided Tour to View Manatees?

From November - March, VKOC offers guided Manatee Photo Safaris. We are the only facility in Miami that offers this experience on both regular Kayaks/Paddleboards and Clear Kayaks and Canoes. Beginning in April until October, we offer daytime Coastal Safaris. You may see manatees in either tour you choose to participate.