The best ways to experience the wildlife of Florida

A trip to the Sunshine State can offer new experiences for everyone with everything from exciting rollercoasters to food challenges right on your doorstep. Florida is also famously known for its vast and varied wildlife. Home to over 500 native species as well as many well established exotic creatures, it is one of the best places in the world to spot a ‘gator, manatee or an armadillo. To ensure that holidaymakers don't miss a thing, Florida4Less has put together a guide of the best places to spot wildlife in the southern state.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

At the Merritt Island refuge visitors get the chance to see and experience hundreds of species, ranging from bald eagles to the endangered Florida scrub jay. This site holds extra significance, as it is situated alongside the famous Kennedy Space Station. When the space station was built, NASA realised that they didn't need all of the land, so decided it could be used as a wildlife refuge instead.

Take a trip along the Black Point Wildlife Drive to see some of the world's most wonderful animals up close and personal. Look out for manatees in the shallow waters or the sea turtles that make their way ashore to lay their eggs, a stone's throw from the space shuttle’s vehicle assembly building.

Everglades National Park

Visiting the Everglades gives you a chance to experience the United States’ largest subtropical wilderness. The park protects a landscape that provides important habitat for a wide range of rare and endangered species and plants such as the American crocodile, the tree cactus and the elusive Florida panther.

The park is so large that it has three separate entrances and prior planning is advised so that visitors know which route they are going to take. The advantage of the park spanning such a vast area is that there is plenty to see and do by foot, car, bike or boat. Explorers can take a wander down the Anhinga Trail to spot alligators, turtles and herons lurking in the shallows or glide along the water to discover a world of sea creatures such as dolphins, manatees and crocodiles.

Crystal River

As the only place in the US where you can legally swim with manatees, a trip to Crystal River really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Over one-sixth of the Florida’s entire population of manatees can be found there, in the springs of Florida’s Citrus County.

If you don’t fancy getting in the water there are plenty of other ways to spend time with the ‘sea cows’, by kayak, paddle board or a walk down one of the magnificent boardwalks. A short drive from the popular destination of Orlando, this is an easy day trip to work into any itinerary.


If you’d like to see ‘gators in a more controlled environment, a visit to this classic Orlando attraction is a must. The park has hundreds of alligators across its 110 acres, and offers visitors the chance to watch feeding time, wander along the boardwalks or take part in their trainer-for-a-day programme.

See the whole park with a Gatorland and Boggy Creek Airboat package, which will start as a leisurely trip to see exotic birds, turtles and alligators in their natural habitat. Then visitors will have to hold on tight as the speed ramps up to 45mph to give you the true airboat experience!

Watch the Dolphins play

The best way to see Florida’s dolphins is to take a boat trip from Florida’s Southwest coast. The playful mammals love to put on a show and jump boat wakes and surf the bow waves. Make sure you take your camera to capture the magical moments, but hold on tight and don’t let it fall in!

You’ll find the dolphins here year round, as the protected Gulf of Mexico provides lots of sheltered bays and lagoons that provide the perfect home for the well loved sea creature. To find out more about the best tourist attractions in Florida, visit:

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