Although there may be no such thing as a free lunch, thanks to the good folks at the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), visitors won’t have to whip out their wallets when they check out one up-and-coming attraction in West Palm Beach – Manatee Lagoon (www.visitmanateelagoon.com). Christened in 2016, this 16,000 square foot facility features interactive exhibits about the protection and conservation of these gentle giants. Even better, the center is located on five waterfront acres which offers some absolutely beautiful views of the Itracoastal Waterway. And as an added bonus, the manatees are attracted to the warm water outfows of the adjacent FPL Riviera Beach Plant, so they’re usually in residence between November and March.
Manatee Lagoon is easy to find too. From I 95 north take the 45th Street exit and turn right. Continue along for about two miles until you hit Flagler Drive, then turn left and follow the road to 59th Street. Manatee Lagoon is on the right — just look for the big yellow building — and if you pass it up, the road dead-ends at the FPL facility, so you can always double back.
There’s plenty of accessible parking in the large lot, with curb-cut access to a sidewalk that leads over to the Discovery Center. There’s level access to the front door, and ample room to wheel around the two manatee skeletons in the spacious lobby. The Discovery Center features a variety of interpretive exhibits about the manatees, their migration, and the conservation of their ecosystem.
There’s also elevator access to the second-floor observation deck, and barrier-free access out to the lagoon on the main level. And although there’s no guarantee that you’ll see the manatees, the best viewing opportunities occur when cooler temperatures prevail for several days and there’s minimal cloud cover.
Additionally, there’s a nice picnic area that features a covered picnic table; and although it’s a standard model, there’s room enough for a wheelchair on one end. And it offers an absolutely gorgeous view of the water. So pack a picnic lunch and make it an afternoon outing.
Manatee Lagoon is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and closed on Mondays and major holidays. And if you can’t make it out there, check out the manatee camera on the Manatee Lagoon website. It’s the next best thing to being there in person.