King's Bay Florida Self-Guided Manatee Tour

Find out where to look for and how to behave around Florida manatees in the Kings Bay Manatee Refuge

King's Bay Florida Self-Guided Manatee Tour

Crystal River, Florida 34428, United States

Created By: Aardvark's Florida Kayak and SUP

Tour Information


Kings Bay is a first magnitude Florida Springs Complex with over 70 springs pumping out 600 million gallons of freshwater per day from the Florida aquifer. Major springs include King Spring, Tarpon Spring, Three Sisters Springs, Idiots Delight, Hunter Spring, Jurassic Spring & House Spring.

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge consists of 20 islands in and around Kings Bay. The 80-acre refuge (only accessible by boat) was established in 1983, to protect the West Indian Manatee. In 2012, Kings Bay was designated a Manatee Protection Area called the Kings Bay Manatee Refuge. The Refuge is maintained by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The main attraction in this area is the Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris).This system is the largest natural winter refuge for manatees on the Florida Gulf Coast and includes seven Manatee Sanctuaries. With over 300,000 visitors per year, it is important that you understand and obey all rules and follow all recommendations.

The most important recomemendation from both the USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and the FWCC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Comnservation Commission) is to PRACTICE PASSIVE OBSERVATION (look from a distance, but don't touch).

You may hear that this is the only area where it is legal to swim with manatees. Not true. You can swim with manatees anywhere however what is considered harassment is more loosely defined in Citrus County. Behavior that might earn you a citation for harassment any place else is often overlooked here. By default that is often interpreted to mean it is legal.

Here is a rule of thumb: If you violate a prohibition, it is illegal and you are subject to penalties. If you violate a recommendation it is simply unethical.

We believe an ethical and informed visitor is essential to protecting manatees in the long run. Please practice good enviromental ethics. We hope to do so with this app. See more at the National Geograpic Blog

This app is designed to be used primarily on the water and focuses on areas where manatees and humans overlap. Click this link for more information on the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Start your tour at POI #1 by visiting the Citrus County Visitor Center and from there we suggest visiting the Three Sisters Spring Center before hitting the water.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Citrus County Visitors Bureau  915 N Suncoast Blvd Crystal River, Florida 34429   
Located Adjacent to Crystal River City Hall on US 19. Three Sisters Visitor Center
King's Bay Park is a departure point for a number of commercial manatee tours as well as a public kayak launch.  The park has a modern restroom,  There is a parking fee. ...
Hunters Springs Park is Crystal River's most popular waterfront park. It has modern restrooms, picnic areas, designated swimming area, boardwalk, and kayak launch. There is a parking fee. ...
PLAY VIDEO Jurassic Spring is one of the springs making up the Hunters Springs run. It is located in a small cove off a dredged access channel. It is a favorite spot with tour companies.  During the winter months, manatees can be found in ... Read more
PLAY VIDEO House Spring is one of the springs making up the Hunters Springs run. It is located in a small cove off at the end of a dredged access channel. It is a favorite spot with tour companies. During the winter months, manatees can be ... Read more
PLAY VIDEO Hunter Springs is the largest of the springs along the run.  The spring is located within a protected swim area,  Access to the spring is by swimming only.  Please keep any watercraft outside the bouys that designate the swim ... Read more
Pete's Pier is an access point to King's Bay and Crystal River. There is a public boat ramp shared by kayakers and powerboaters. Parking onsite is private. There are fees for both ramp use and parking. Pete's is one of the most visible buil... Read more
PLAY VIDEO The Kings Bay Drive Bridge is the gateway to Kings Bay's most popular destination, the Three Sisters Springs and the largest concentration of manatees on the bay during the colder months. The canals above the bridge form a manmad... Read more
PLAY VIDEO The Magnolia Spring Sanctuary is one of the most important and heavily used of all the Kings Bay Manatee Sanctuaries. It is a relatively large area of deeper waters away from the boat traffic patterns. Manatees moving out of Thre... Read more
PLAY VIDEO This area is without a doubt the most visited location in Crystal River. It is one of the few places that has maintained its water clarity over time making it the premier location for manatee viewing. There are a number of sanctu... Read more
The land portion of Three Sisters Spring is managed as part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge with the city of Crystal River and USFWS both providing management support. There is no access to or from the water. The city runs a t... Read more
The Warden Key Sanctuary is a feeding area.  Water clarity is average so keep a close lookout when boating in this area. The best place to look for manatees is on the southeast side of the island.
PLAY VIDEO The Banana Island Sanctuary is the largest of the manatee sanctuaries. King's Spring (Tarpon) and Mullet's Gullet are the two largest springheads within the sanctuary. The area collectively is sometimes called the main spring. Th... Read more


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