Cocoa Beach, FL | Wildside Tours

Take a nature tour to spot marine wildlife with this family-friendly boat tour.

While lounging on the beach, splashing in the waves and making sandcastles is a wonderful way to spend the days at Cocoa Beach, there’s another side to this coastal gem that families love. Inland from the Atlantic, the waters of the intracoastal waterway and the area’s rivers, inlets and lagoons are home to a wide variety of marine life such as fish, turtles, dolphins, manatees and many fascinating waterfowl.

Many visitors seek wildlife viewing in the Thousand Islands Conservation Area, a series of islands in the Indian River that covers 338 acres and is primarily only accessible by boat. The preserve can be explored by canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board. For an in-depth guided adventure into the waterway, WildSide Tours offers nature tours in catamaran boats for up to 18 people at a time.

The two-and-a-half hour excursion is narrated by the captain and first mate, who have an extended knowledge and appreciation for the diverse habitats and species in the area. Along with facts about the animals, they’ll share everything from stories of personal encounters with sharks and alligators to recommendations for area restaurants.

The tour covers anywhere from 6 to 13 miles and has no set course, as the crew takes into consideration the weather, tides, animals’ locations and the desires of the passengers. Their keen eyes might spot an anhinga or “snake bird” diving for a fish and turn the boat toward it while passing binoculars to a guest, or they may stop altogether when they see the telltale swirl of water that signals a manatee nearby.

If the sea animals are being elusive, the first mate will bring out a tackle box full of fascinating treasures like shark teeth, an alligator skull, sea pea pods and more to educate and fascinate the children. Guests can be assured that WildSide tours practices ethical and sustainable ecotourism, as they’ll never chase, feed or touch the animals but instead promote passive viewing to protect the environment.

The wrap-around bench seating on the boat means everyone has a good view, and it’s easy to move around to get photos. The boat’s shade cover and onboard restroom add to the comfort of the trip for the whole family, and a cooler is supplied with complimentary bottled water and soft drinks.

In addition to their popular nature tour, WildSide Tours also offers private boat tours, sunset cruises, birding excursions and fishing trips.

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