Cheap Date Day: Manatees!

17 Jan

Last week,  my husband and I used our joint day off together to go see some manatees.  It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do since I moved to Florida, see manatees in the wild!

looking for some manatees

Off we went on about an hour-long drive to Blue Springs State Park.  It was a nice easy trip up I4 for us and very easy to find with our Garmin (there are a few turns to take once you get off I4).  We waited in the small line to get in and paid our entrance fee ($6.00 per carload) and we were in! On our way in, there was a sign that stated there were 107 manatees in the park that day.  We were definitely excited!

The park has two parking lots, nice bathrooms, a gift shop, and concession stand.  You can also camp or rent a cabin in the park.  There are also St. Johns River cruises that take about two hours and explore the river.  Since we are on a strict budget, we didn’t have the money for a cruise, but we could enjoy the park itself!  In summer, swimming is allowed, but not in the winter with the manatees.  We parked and were off on our hunt for the manatees.

cute and informative!

There is about a mile long boardwalk that lines the springs with informative information on manatees or the area throughout history.  There is also a house in the park that is somewhat like a museum – the Thursby house.  It was great to walk around.  We passed many families and couples, young and old, enjoying the park the same day we did.  However, we were there to see the manatees.

mom and baby manatee

Yes, we did see manatees! We saw about 40-50 different ones from walking the boardwalk.  It was a great unique Florida experience to see them in the wild.  Some were close enough to get great pictures from, others we could see from farther away.  However, our mission was accomplished! We saw manatees in the wild!

boardwalk area

After spending about two hours slowly wandering the boardwalk looking at manatees, the gift shop, and concession (mostly hot dogs, sandwiches, drinks, etc), we decided to hike the Pine Island Trail that they said was a 4.5 mile trail.  We had packed some light snacks that we enjoyed before we went off on our adventure.

We drove to the second parking lot and parked in the back near the trail, looked at the sign, and we were off.  The first part was a nice wooded area with a lot of shade.  Even though it was January, we were getting hot as it was in the mid 70s that day.  The first mile of the trail was great, it led out to a field type area with a bench at the end of it.  We continued our hike, but after about two miles, the trail markers were less frequent and not easily marked, we turned around.  It was getting hot and there were too many forks in the road that we weren’t sure we were headed the right way anymore.  Even with getting lost, we still really enjoyed our day.

us taking a break from the hike

Yes, the deer was that close to us on our hike!

We left after spending over three hours there and decided it was worth every penny.  It was a great cheap date day!  As we drove home with a quick stop at Steak and Shake (we were starving from our hike), we talked about possibly making this a yearly event.  It was worth the money to go every winter when it is cooler and all the manatees come inland to the springs!

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One Response to “Cheap Date Day: Manatees!”

  1. Hope January 18, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    How cool!

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