Many people make the “Sunshine State” home during the colder months because Florida in the winter has mild temperatures and less rain.
They call them Snowbirds, the retirees that leave their northern homes and make Florida home for the fall and winter months.
Average temperatures in Florida in the winter are lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s so who can blame them. From December to March it’s my favorite time to get out there and explore.
I may be a Florida resident but I despise the heat and I’m prone to getting heat sick alot which is no fun when you like being outdoors.
Winter in Florida is when I can go hard on my favorite outdoor activities.
Here are some of my favorite activities I like to plan in Florida in the winter months.
Things to Do and See in Florida in the Winter
Swim With Manatees
If swimming with manatees isn’t on your bucket list, it should be! Add it right now. This is hands down one of the single most satisfying wild animal encounters you could ever have and Crystal Springs and Homosassa Springs are the only place in Florida that allow you to swim with these gentle giants legally.
Fun2dive hosted my son and I on a private VIP swim with manatees. There were at least 50 of these gentle giants in the King’s Bay spring enjoying the warmer waters.
Please note that in these pics we were observing passive observation and did not chase, harass, or initiate any contact with the manatees to stay in compliance with the law that protects these animals.
The winter months are truly the peak season for wild manatee viewing in Florida. Manatees can’t handle cold water temperatures so when the Gulf of Mexico or the ocean temperatures fall below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, then you know it’s time to go see these gentle giants.
There are many places throughout the state of Florida where you can observe manatees from a boardwalk during colder temperatures.
Where can you view wild manatees in Florida?
- Three Sisters Springs at Crystal River Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River, FL- Book your ticket in advance on the Three Sisters Springs website and take the trolley to the refuge area and boardwalk.
- Blue Spring State Park in Orange City – The park frequently reaches capacity quickly during the winter months so plan to arrive very early.
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – There is a manatee viewing area at the refuge near Canaveral National Seashore.
- Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers – Near Florida Power and Light warm water discharge canal.
- TECO manatee viewing center in Tampa – Boardwalk and nature trail in Riverview, FL near the Big Bend power plant.
- Manatee Lagoon at Riviera Beach – FPL
- You can also see them be rehabilitated at multiple locations. Learn more about manatee rehabilitation centers from My Cornacopia.
The winter in Florida is mild enough to make kayaking still a fun activity. If you kayak the spring-fed rivers in the winter you definitely are more likely to see manatees. My favorite places to kayak in the winter are:
- Weeki Wachee River – Weeki Wachee, FL – Kayaking and manatee spotting
- Silver Springs State Park – Ocala, FL – Kayaking, glass bottom boat tours, and wild rhesus monkeys along the boardwalk
- Rock Springs Run – Apopka, FL
- Robinson Preserve – Bradenton, FL
- Gasparilla Sound – Boca Grande, FL with Glass Bottom Boat Rentals
Go Glamping in Florida
Glamping in Florida in the winter is the perfect time to get some fresh air and get outside. The temperatures are mild and the bugs are way less annoying!!
This is my favorite time of year to do glamping in Florida. Here are a few of my recommendations.
- Westin River Ranch – Luxury glamping tents and teepees
- Lake Louisa State Park – Glamping tents right on the lake
- Torreya State Park Yurt – Stay in a yurt in this beautiful state park
- Rent a cabin at one of the 19 Florida State Parks that offer cabin rentals in their campgrounds.
Florida Winter Road Trips
Taking a road trip in Florida in the winter is a great way to explore and have a new adventure without the suffocating humidity and extremely warm temperatures Florida can have during the summer. It’s also much less rainy so the Sunshine State really lives up to its name in the winter.
- Everglades National Park – Visiting the Everglades during the winter is ideal for better more comfortable weather. See crocodiles, manatees, and birds. Kayak the backwaters, hike a trail, or take one of the shuttles. You can also stay in the Flamingo campgrounds tents.
- Dry Tortugas National Park – Head to the Florida Keys and take the ferry to visit this national park only accessible by boat or seaplane.
- Venice Beach, FL – Hunt for shark teeth, visit the pier, ride along the Venice Canal on an e-bike, and have some delicious seafood.
- Stuart, FL – Head to Martin County and take a sailboat ride or just enjoy sunrises above the Anastasia rock cliffs on the Atlantic Ocean.
Go on a Hike
Take advantage of the cooler weather to enjoy the great outdoors in Florida in the winter. Look for a state park, regional park, nature preserve, national forest, or national park that you haven’t visited before and plan to take a nature walk. Here are some of my favorite parks with nature trails in Florida.
- Hillsborough River State Park
- Myakka River State Park
- Fort Matanzas National Monument
- Circle B Ranch
- Jonathan Dickinson State Park
- Paynes Praire Preserve State Park
- Ravine Gardens State Park
- Lover’s Key State Park