Airboat Rides/Boat Tours

All About Dolphins and Where to See Them on the Space Coast

Pod of Dolphins

 It’s all fun and games for dolphins on the Space Coast 

There are a few things visitors expect to see when they come to Florida. Dolphins are certainly one of them. Thankfully for visitors to the Space Coast, there’s plenty of places to spot one of our favorite marine mammals!

What kind of dolphins will I see on the Space Coast?

The Space Coast is home to the bottlenose dolphin. The bottlenose dolphin is in the Delphinidae family, which has three different species – the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose, the Burrunan, and the Common Bottlenose, also known as the Atlantic Bottlenose. Here on the Space Coast, you will see the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin. They like to inhabit warm and temperate waters, which makes Florida’s Space Coast a prime spot for these creatures to live and play around in.

dolphins swimming in wake

The common bottlenose is typically what you will see at marine parks like Sea World or featured in television and movies. Did you know that the movie “A Dolphin’s Tale” was based on a bottlenose dolphin named Winter that was injured in Mosquito Lagoon on the Space Coast after getting her tail caught in a crab trap? Winter was later rescued and then cared for by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and eventually given a prosthetic tail. She even starred in the feature film.

The common bottlenose dolphin can range from six to twelve feet and weigh anywhere between 300 and 1,400 pounds. Usually they travel in groups called pods of ten to twenty-five dolphins, and can swim up to 20 miles per hour.

Common bottlenose dolphin use whistles, clicks, squeals, and other sounds to communicate with one another. Scientists have determined that each dolphin creates its own distinctive high-pitched whistle. Dolphins also use clicks and sounds to echolocate their food sources. Fascinating, aren’t they?

Where do Dolphins Hang out on the Space Coast?

The best place to see bottlenose dolphins is on the waters of the Indian River Lagoon. The Indian River Lagoon has a variety of flora and fauna, which includes sea grasses, fish, and other marine mammals. And because it is relatively a small and closed geographic area, the consistency of the environment makes it an excellent location for dolphins to thrive in.

Where is the Best Place to see a Dolphin on the Space Coast?

Dolphin tour

Although you can find dolphins pretty much anywhere in the Indian River Lagoon and close offshore in the Atlantic, if you want to make sure you get a glimpse of at least one, you’ll want to stop at one or all of these dolphin sighting hot spots.

  • Space Coast Eco Tours:  There are several Eco Tour businesses in Cocoa Beach, Titusville, and Indian Harbor Beach that bring you to where the dolphins are! Loading into a tour boat, catamaran or kayak you’ll be led through the diverse estuaries in search of dolphins and other fascinating marine life. Knowledgeable tour guides will tell you everything you need to know about the dolphins and their unique habitat here on the Space Coast. You may even get close enough to snap a picture with one of these amazing creatures!
  • Port Canaveral: The port offers dolphins plenty of fish to eat and loads of boats to play around with from cruise ships setting sail to charter boats heading out for a day of fishing. Head to The Cove for a meal with a waterfront view and you should be easily able to spot a pod frolicking here.  
  • Sebastian Inlet: This natural inlet offers a wide array of fish coming in from the ocean to the lagoon and is a prime feeding spot for bottlenose dolphins. Whether you walk the fishing pier, snorkel in designated diving areas, hop on a charter boat headed for the Atlantic, or paddle around in your kayak or on your paddleboard in the lagoon, you’re bound to see one when your out on the water.

Dolphins on a kayak tour

  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to thousands of species of native Floridian and migratory animals. And it’s a great place to spot a bottlenose dolphin. They love to play in the protected waters of the Mosquito Lagoon catching fish and This is where Mosquito Lagoon is located and as you now know was where Winter, the injured dolphin from the film “A Dolphin’s Tale,” was rescued. The calmness of the area provides a break from all the boat traffic for these animals while also giving them plenty of fish to choose from, over 45 species actually, for their prey.

The common bottlenose dolphin is truly a magnificent animal and one of the many reasons why visitors love visiting the Space Coast. The best part is, no matter if you’re on the beach, at Port Canaveral or just dining along the Indian River Lagoon, you’re likely to catch a glimpse of a few of these marine mammals playing in the water!

Dolphins playing in the water

  1. Bottlenose Dolphin. Accessed May 20, 2020.
  2. Common Bottlenose Dolphin. Accessed May 20, 2020.
  3. The Bottlenose Dolphins of the Indian River Lagoon. Accessed May 20, 2020.
  4. Bottlenose Dolphin Feeding Ecology in the Indian River Lagoon. Accessed May 20, 2020.


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