Manatees and Eco Tours: Celebrating the Natural Wonders of West Volusia Year Round

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Blue Spring is a designated manatee refuge and the winter home to a growing population of West Indian Manatees.

The St. Johns River runs through the heart of this central Florida region and is the winter home of a growing population of West Indian Manatees. The river plays host to a wealth of recreational opportunities, including manatee viewing throughout the winter and eco tours, which highlight an amazing variety of native plants and animals, all year long.

Each winter, the manatees take center stage at Blue Spring State Park, home of the largest spring on the river. The park is a designated manatee refuge and from mid-November through March, hundreds of them can be viewed from atop its spring overlook. The spring waters are closed to swimming and other water activities during this season, giving the beautiful marine mammals full access to relax and recharge for the winter.

This year’s season will be celebrated at the 2018 Manatee Festival, January 27-28 at Valentine Park in Orange City. The festival is highlighted by two days of entertainment, including music, children’s activities and more than 100 arts and crafts booths. Shuttles run to Blue Spring State Park for manatee viewing.

The park comprises more than 2,600 acres and swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving in the 73-degree spring waters is allowed throughout other times of the year. Canoeing, kayaking and boating are popular ways to enjoy the river, as are river boat tours. There are a number of boat rentals for those who want to explore on their own and guided trips are available, too. Time on the river offers views of turtles, gators, more than 200 species of birds and a lush, natural Florida landscape.

One of only 14 American Heritage Rivers in the country, the St. Johns River and the series of lakes it connects, make up the St. Johns River Blueway and the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor. Whether by canoe or kayak, river boat or house boat, exploring the river gives visitors access to the heartbeat of this central Florida region. And reasons to return again and again.

In addition to the Manatee festival, a full state of events is set each year, many centered around West Volusia’s waters, wildlife and culture, offering even more reasons to celebrate!

The waterways are just one reason to visit the West Volusia region, a destination with stories to tell, history to share and fun to have. Nestled between Orlando and Daytona, West Volusia encompasses fourteen communities with an eclectic collection of accommodations and attractions. The authenticity travelers are looking for is here. From top-rated downtown DeLand to the scenic St. Johns River, this is real Florida. And what variety it offers! Start your journey at