7 Wildlife Sanctuaries in Florida You Must Visit

Florida boasts diverse ecosystems, from pristine beaches to lush wetlands. Its wildlife includes manatees, alligators, vibrant bird species, and stunning marine life, however, not all live free and without harm.

Your visits to the marine, bird, and animal sanctuaries in Florida contribute to the vital rehabilitation efforts to release back into the wild. Every donation you make plays a crucial role in preserving and caring for the vulnerable inhabitants who call these sanctuaries home. For many, the animals’ refuges offer a lifeline to those who wouldn’t thrive in the wild due to injury or captivity.

For animal lovers visiting the Sunshine State, this list of wildlife sanctuaries in Florida will be the perfect addition to your itinerary making your travels both educational and impactful.

Bird & Wildlife Sanctuaries in Florida

Seaside Seabird Sanctuary – Indian Shores FL

Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Florida, offers a heartwarming experience as it releases rehabilitated birds back into the wild.

This non-profit has emergency facilities, a surgical centre, and rehab spaces enabling the rescue and rehabilitation of over 2,500 sick and injured birds yearly, and showcases over 100 avian residents who are permanently disabled.

It is fabulous to meet the birds from pelicans, eagles, owls, cranes, songbirds, and parrots safe in the knowledge that these once-injured birds may take flight again thanks to the work and dedication of the volunteers.

Not only is this a wonderful opportunity for bird photographers, but you can also visit the Environmental Education Center to learn more about Florida’s native marine and estuarine environment, watch bird releases and daily Pelican hand-feeding

The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is free to enter but remember to give back and pop a donation in the box on your way out or buy a birdie souvenir from the gift shop.

|| LOCATION: 18328 Gulf Blvd, Indian Shores FL || OPEN every day, 8am – 4pm || READ REVIEWS

White Pelican at Seaside Seabird Sanctuary Florida | © Vanessa of She Wanders Miles

Boyd Hill Nature Preserve – St. Petersburg FL

Nestled in the heart of St. Petersburg, Florida, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve stands as a bastion for wildlife conservation and environmental education. A tranquil retreat, it unveils diverse ecosystems through nature trails, campgrounds, and environmental exhibits.

At its core lies the Bird of Prey Program, a collaborative effort between Friends of Boyd Hill and the City of St. Petersburg. This initiative exemplifies a deep commitment to avian welfare and education, covering shared costs for the care of non-releasable birds.

These avian ambassadors, carefully vetted for adaptability, serve as lifelong residents, contributing to vital educational programs. Supported by partnerships with wildlife rescuers and veterinarians, Boyd Hill ensures their well-being.

Visiting the Bird of Prey Program is a unique opportunity to connect with wildlife conservation and the beauty of nature. You will be captivated by these majestic birds at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

|| LOCATION: 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg FL || OPEN are closed on Mondays, 9am – 7pm from March 1 – October 31, and close at 6pm the rest of the year || READ REVIEWS

Rescued Bald Eagle | © Vanessa of She Wanders Miles

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park – Homosassa FL

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park shelters animals incapable of surviving in the wild, either due to captivity or injuries preventing re-release. These creatures reside safely, allowing people to observe and study them, contributing to a deeper understanding of their wild counterparts.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife Refuge near Crystal River houses a diverse array of birds and reptiles. The manatee program collaborates with organisations like Tampa Zoo, Sea World, and Marineland. Together, they care for sick, injured, or orphaned manatees, aiming to rehabilitate and reintroduce these valuable marine mammals to their natural habitat.

Lu, the oldest hippopotamus in North America, was a member of Ivan Tors Animal Actors. Born Lucifer at the San Diego Zoo in 1960, he’s the sole non-native animal at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park since 1964. Governor Lawton Chiles granted him honorary citizenship in the 1990s, sparing him from relocation when the park transitioned to native Florida animals only.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a great place to visit to enjoy wildlife and fun adventures in nature.

|| LOCATION: 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. Homosassa FL || OPEN daily from 9 am to 5:30 pm || READ REVIEWS

Unreleasable Crested Caracara, Homosassa Springs FL | © Vanessa of She Wanders Miles

Marine Rehabilitation Centers in Florida

Loggerhead Marinelife Center – Juno Beach FL

Located just a block away from Juno Beach Pier is the incredible non-profit sea turtle conservation and rehabilitation facility known as the Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Not only can visitors learn about marine life in an educational environment, but they can also meet some of the sea turtle patients receiving treatment from the onsite veterinary hospital! Most of the sea turtles at the center are being rehabilitated from illness or injury and are set to be released back into the wild upon successful completion of their treatment. 

The center also hosts educational programming focused on conservation and marine research with daily events and experiences for visitors of all ages. Every Saturday morning the center also hosts a free beach cleanup to protect and preserve the coastal habitats along Juno Beach!

You can learn more about the center’s current sea turtle patients and get more information to help plan your visit here.

|| LOCATION: 14200 US Hwy 1, Juno Beach FL || OPEN: Daily 10am – 5pm || READ REVIEWS

Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Florida | © Sydney Brown Travels

The Turtle Hospital – Marathon FL

One of the most ethical wildlife experiences in Florida can be found in Marathon, in the enchanting Florida Keys. The Turtle Hospital is an extraordinary haven dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation of sea turtles. 

By visiting, you can directly support this non-profit marine wildlife rehabilitation center, its mission is to heal injured turtles and contribute to their preservation. Many of the turtles here are treated back to health and released back into the wild.

For those turtles who aren’t able to make a full recovery, they continue to receive care and live at the Turtle Hospital.

You can see first-hand the hospital’s impactful work through educational tours of the hospital facilities and the sea turtle rehabilitation area while responsibly being able to be up and close to these majestic creatures.

This is definitely worth visiting on a Florida Keys road trip or an easy day trip from Key West as it’s an hour’s drive from this popular vacation spot.

|| LOCATION: 2396 Overseas Hwy, Marathon FL || OPEN: Daily 9am – 6pm || READ REVIEWS

The Turtle Hospital l | © Megan of Boho and Chichi

Clearwater Marine Aquarium – Clearwater FL

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a non-profit rescue and rehabilitation center that aims to release sea life back into its natural environment if possible. While some remain at the aquarium, those fit for the wild are set free.

At the center, you can usually see dolphins, seals, sharks, sting rays, pelicans, and turtles, along with reptiles and other marine life.

There is a hospital at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and visitors can sometimes watch as the animals are being x-rayed and treated.

Animal experiences are available at Clearwater Marine Aquarium as are informative boat rides and educational programs. In addition to day camps and field trips, families can participate in workshops at the aquarium.

|| LOCATION: Windward Passage, Clearwater FL || OPEN: Daily 10am – 5pm || BOOK TICKETS ONLINE

Stingray at Clearwater Marine Aquarium | © Laine of Make More Adventures

Coral Sanctuaries – Florida Keys

When travelling around Florida, one has to drive south to explore the Florida Keys. If you’re a diver, welcome to paradise. If you’re passionate about the environment and want to take part in ethical projects, congratulations – you’ve come to the right place.

While there are different experiences to understand and help preserve the local coral reefs, there are two that are linked that are truly worth your time. The NGO MOTE is dedicated to researching corals and preserving them. Their marine lab is located in Islamorada at Bud N’Mary’s Marina.

Take part in a guided tour, help researchers frack corals, and learn about the importance of the reefs for the global ecosystem. Another activity is reserved for divers only. It’s a trip to their field lab where you can observe the growing corals as well as donate your time to help clean the corals from algae and bacteria.

Coral Sanctuaries, Florida Keys | © Viktoria of Chronic Wanderlust

Handy Links To Visit Florida

Here are some useful links for your trip to Florida to help you find tours, and places to stay. These are companies I have used and can recommend with confidence. Remember to visit at least one of these these incredible wildlife sanctuaries in Florida!

Accommodation In Florida

Best hotel deals in Florida USA

Read hotel reviews

Florida Tourist Information

Book day tours and cool excursions in St Pete FL

Find places to eat in St Pete FL

Trip Planning: Need to know for visiting the United States