More Manatees and a Jumping Ray!

On our last day in Florida we had planned to go another water park, but I was a bit tired of theme parks, and we so enjoyed our beach adventures and manatee spotting that we decided to do more. So we headed to a power station near Tampa – not the most obvious of tourist attractions!

Manatee 1The power station is quite ugly, but it gives off heat, meaning the water in the adjacent river is warm – perfect for Manatees in winter! And to our delight, we were able to get really clear views of the manatees in the clear water, directly below the wooden boardwalk.ManateesIt is set up for manatee spotting, with a wooden boardwalk over the river, and a visitors centre with an interesting exhibition about manatees, and clean toilets. There is also a long wooden walkway further down the river – from which we saw a ray jump out of the water! It was over so quickly I couldn’t believe what I’d seen, but a lady said “Oh look, a Ray!” and confirmed it! I was quite shocked as I didn’t know Rays could jump!

I was really glad we managed to get to this place. Afterwards we headed around Tampa Bay and across the beautiful Sunshine Skyway bridge to find a beach. We stumbled upon Treasure Island beach. This is another of the lovely sandy beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Sunshine Skyway BridgeTreasure IslandWe had a dip in the ocean until it got dusky (when I had to get out as I’ve heard this is when Sharks are most active – even tho I know I’m crazy!) 🙂 We watched the sunset and then headed to have a rinse and find some dinner. Unfortunately we then realised there were no public showers to be seen. This is weird as every beach I’ve been to in Florida has an outdoor shower (and normally a foot shower too). I was fed up by this point – not relishing a long drive back to Orlando covered in sand and sea salt.

So a bit cheekily, we used the shower of the nearest hotel, which had a shower just outside their back gate. At that point, we saw a police car heading towards us. I expressed my concern to my BF but he said “Nah don’t worry”. Then the police car shone their spotlight on us and continued to head in our direction. I almost filled my pants! Luckily the car then turned and headed away – thank goodness!! 🙂 I know our only crime was to use a private shower but you never know!

So we went to dinner and found a lovely marina at Johns Pass with shops and restaurants. We ended up eating at a fresh fish restaurant, on a deck strung with fairy lights overlooking the marina. A lovely (sand-free) end to the day! 🙂

Travel Tips

If you are based in Orlando and keen to see a Manatee, I would recommend  either of the places we went to – either here (Tampa Bay Power Station), or Blue Springs State Park. I preferred Blue Springs as it was an absolutely beautiful natural environment, but while you could see manatees in the river, they weren’t that near so we didn’t get a really clear sighting. In contrast, Tampa Power Station was definitely not a pretty environment, but the manatee sightings were much closer and clearer. However, granted this depends on where the manatees are when you visit, as they are wild animals who could decide to swim anywhere! But both locations are good options for Manatee spotting if you are based in Orlando.

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