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Manatee Santuary Park -- Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral
A Hidden Treasure -- View manatees, dolphins and birds up close in great park for free!
This great park has been listed before, but no one yet has really explained what a real find this is, and it's free! If you're staying in Cocoa Beach area, this is off of Atlantic Ave/Astronaut Blvd (same road, name changes -- the main drag), on the Intercoastal Waterway in a beautiful, clean park with a covered picnic area, wooden raised walkway over the water, walking trail, exercise stations, and clean, nice bathrooms. This is a great place to spend some time and watch the manatees. Especially great place to kill an hour or 2 if it's too cool or too windy on the beach.
To get there: Formal address is 701 Thurm Blvd, Cape Canaveral. 321-868-1226 will get you the Florida Parks Dept, but they will have info to help on park details if needed. You might think this was actually in Cocoa Beach, as it's right on the border. Thurm Blvd. did not show up on a GPS, so better directions are:
Take Atlantic to West Central St. -- between Zachary's Resaurant and Traxx mini golf, right by the Radisson Hotel. This is a little street with a light, and you turn to go towards the water on the Radisson side. It will look like you're going into a huge condo complex area. Turn down W. Central til it dead ends. There is a green "park" sign on the corner of Atlantic and W. Central, but it's very small and easily missed. At the dead end, there is no sign pointing you on, so turn LEFT and you will reach the park on your right in about a block or 2. Look for a sign saying "Manatee Santuary Park" and look for the cinderblock building housing their nice bathrooms and shaded picnic area. Nice big parking lot for all.
To see the manatees, exit your car and walk past the building, toward the water. Follow the beach away from the parking lot (there are no signs here, but other manatee viewers will tell you where the cove is...). Reach the sandy part of the beach on the left side of the wooden platform walkway if you're looking toward the water. Keep following the beach left and cross over the large drain pipe that goes into the water. You'll soon come to a lovely little cove surrounded by mangroves and plants. Look out toward the water and you'll see a large family of mantees about 12 - 20 feet away, sunning themselves and having a little siesta. They'll surface to get air (so you get to see their cute faces) and some of them made a few manatee sounds, just to say "hi". If you're lucky you'll also see a few dolphins in the water, playing with the seagulls. You can wade in the water to get a little closer for great pictures. You can have kayaks or stand-up paddleboards delivered here also.
Great place to view Florida wildlife, take a little hike around the park, look at the hibiscus flowers, have a picnic, and it's all free. Grab a picnic lunch at the Publix store and bring it down to this park for a nice afternoon. Plenty of open grassy area for the little ones to run or throw a ball or frisbee, but no playground equipment. You can make you own fun splashing on the beach! Watching the manatees here is almost magical - like you stumbled upon their secret hideout. Come visit this nice park!