A Winter Wonderland for Manatees

One of my favorite things about a winter vacation at Tween Waters Inn, besides the beautiful weather, is the influx of manatees. When temperatures dip to the north, the manatees head south looking for warmer water. Here’s a quick guide of where to find them and what to look for.


How to spot manatees

Look for round swirl patterns in the water. The swirl is caused when their large paddle tail moves up and down.

Scan the water for dark masses. Manatees usually surface for air every 3-5 minutes, but can stay down as long as 20 minutes. You might also see their snout and whiskers poking above the water’s surface.


Where manatees hang out

The marina at Tween Waters Inn is a fantastic place to see manatees (and dolphins)! They tend to hang out by the docks and by the mangroves to the right of the kayak rentals. <Innsider TIP: If you have a bayside room at Tween Waters Inn, you can often see manatees from your balcony/lanai!>

Manatee Park in Fort Myers is another great location. The power plant next door pumps out warm water so the manatees gather in droves. It’s quite a sight, and it’s a nice drive from the resort.

J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is only a few minutes away and in addition to manatees, you can see all kinds of birds and an assortment of wildlife, including gators and otters.


Manatee laws

‘Look but don’t touch’ when it comes to manatees. If you’re kayaking or paddle boarding, try not to cruise over top of a submerged manatee; you never know when they’ll resurface. They might pop up right beside you though, and that’s ok! Just admire and enjoy your good fortune.

See you at the docks with fingers crossed!


I Spy Wildlife on Captiva and Sanibel

Do your kids love animals? You just won’t believe all the wildlife you can see on Captiva and Sanibel, even right onsite at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Here are some of my family’s favorites along with a few tips on where you’re likely to see them:

Snowy Egrets

These snowy, white birds have bright yellow feet and love to walk the shoreline. You’ll also see them on fishing piers, docks, or anywhere they can steal a quick meal.


Look for perfect swirls in the water from their wide, paddle tails, or spy their whiskered noses breathing above the waterline. Spy them at the onsite marina or while kayaking. In winter, hundreds gather at Manatee Park.


See that big bunch of sticks, high above the wooden pathway near the ‘Tween Waters front desk? It’s an osprey nest! Look for them along San-Cap Road, too. These birds of prey are skilled fisherman and carry off their catch in their talons. A pair lives at Sanibel Lighthouse, listen for their screechy chirps.

Gopher Tortoises

In Florida, gopher tortoises are a threatened species, so spotting one is exciting. They love walking near the road, so be alert. You can help one cross the street if you see that it’s in danger. Watch this video to learn more.

Marsh Rabbits

Believe it or not, these brown, cotton tail bunnies are good swimmers. Do the four-mile Wildlife Drive at J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge (by car or bike) in the morning or at sunset and you’ll see them roadside.


Head to Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling to see this Florida must-see. Look for a dark snout (and some of their back) sticking out of the water, and swimming slowly. Gators love sunning themselves on the water’s edge; rangers will rope off this area with yellow tape. Keep your distance.


Frolicking and jumping, these mammals are magical! Look for them at the onsite marina or swimming right off the beach. Or, take a dolphin tour and see them up close.

Sea Turtles

Loggerheads are most common, and late spring to October, they come here to nest. Females crawl up the beach at night, lay eggs, cover them, and return to sea. In 60-75 days, hatchlings emerge. If you see a big turtle at night, observe from a distance and don’t shine a light. You can also spy tracks in the morning (see photo)! So far this year, 163 nests on Captiva and 504 on Sanibel have been recorded. Nests are marked with sticks and yellow tape. Please do not approach (but you can take photos)!


I hope you get to see all of these island favorites, and more. Oh, and look for bright pink Roseate Spoonbills while you’re here, too. (They hang out on Wildlife Drive at low tide.)