8 Best Places to Swim with Otters in the USA

Otter swimming encounters….is that possible? Otters are cute little semi-aquatic creatures that can swim around really fast.  In fact, it may surprise you at how quickly they can zip around a pool or aquarium!  Up to 1 mile per hour on the surface of water and up to 5.5 miles per hour under water.  That is fast! And even more fun fact, depending on the specie of Otters, they can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes in water. If you love to watch these amazing animals, then you probably have been wondering for quite some time if it is possible to enter the water and swim with them and also where to swim with otters nearby you. For the longest time, the answer to whether you could swim with an Otter or where you can play with Otters, would have been “no, you can’t swim or play with Otters”, but now there are many places within the US where you can swim and interact with Otters!

8 Best Places to Swim with Otters in the USA

 

1. North Georgia Zoo and Petting Farm, Cleveland, Georgia

One of the best places to swim with otters is the North Georgia Zoo. However, you have to be at least 12 years old to enjoy this wonderful experience.  There are three Otter encounters available in this zoo  – The “Young Otter Experience”, the “Otter Experience”, and the “Otter Splash” – and you get to choose the one that fits your needs the best.

The Young Otter Encounter will have you spending between fifteen to twenty minutes with one or two of their younger otters.  During this time, you will interact and play with the Otters, as you learn more about them. The cost is typically about $75 and upwards, per person.

Otter encounters at North Georgia Zoo

The second level of encounter, the Otter Experience, will have you playing with adult Otters and even learning what to do to assist with their training. There are two variations of the Otter Experience

#1. The VIP Otter Experience which is a private admission that takes place on weekdays only. You have to reserve to participate. The VIP Otter Experience will give you thirty to forty-five minutes alone with one or two of the otters at the zoo. This private experience comes with a hefty price tag of $500 per person!

#2. The regular Otter Experience which doesn’t require reservations as long as you’re up to 12 years and above. You should however purchase your ticket in advance to make sure you get the times and dates you want. With the Otter Experience, you will spend about 45 mins with other participants learning and playing with Otters. This is priced at $94 per person.

The Otter Splash is the third type of Otter experience offered at the North Georgia Zoo, GA, and it’s truly memorable. The Otter Splash will have you spending an hour and a half with the Otters while also helping with their training.  At least one of the Otters will be swimming around you in the pool, and you get some personal one-on-one time with them at the end.  You have to be 12 and older to participate. This swim with Otters experience in Georgia opens for the season on Memorial day weekend and takes place in an 18ft by 4ft splash pool. So if you’re in GA and wondering where to swim with Sea Otters in Cleveland and near Atlanta, this is where you want to go!

Address: 2912 Paradise Valley Rd, Cleveland, GA 30528

2. Barn Hill Preserve, Ethel, Louisiana

Barn Hill Preserve is a seven-acre destination located in Louisiana and was established in 2012 as an animal preserve where families can interact with and learn about all sorts of unique animals including macaws, baby ant-eaters, lynx, camels, eagle owls, and of course, Sea Otters.  Barn Hill Preserve offer a three-hour Otter Swim Encounter Tours that include a two-hour tour of the facility during which you’ll get to see and interact with their exotic animals. This tour is open to all ages, and guests are required to stay calm during the tour and follow instructions for their safety. The last hour of the tour is the actual Otter encounter where you’ll have a great time swimming with small Otters.

Otter encounters at Barn Hill Preserve

The swim with Otters’ portion of this encounter, which is truly unique in Louisiana, will last approximately an hour, but only about thirty minutes of that will be out in the pool with the Otters. The rest will be changing clothes and receiving information that will orient with the pool and the Otters themselves. You must be sixteen years old to do this Otter encounter in LA and spaces are limited to ensure the safety and comfort of the Otters. Otter tour and swim is typically between the hours of 10am to 5 pm and unavailable between 1pm-5pm. The swim part of the tour takes part between 2-5pm. It costs about $174 per person for the tour and Otter encounter and a maximum of 8 people are allowed to swim with the Otters at one time. Appointments are required, and you should call in advance since they can book up fast in high seasons. So, if you’ve been wondering “where in Lousiana can you swim with otters” or  live in Lousiana and wanting to know a place to swim with Otters near you, this is it. If you need somewhere to swim with Otters in Louisiana, head over here, the kids will love it! An in case you’re wondering how far Ethel LA is from New Orleans, the two cities are just 85 miles apart, making a trip to swim with Otters here a possibility if you’re visiting New Orleans. Baton Rouge is just about 26 miles away from Ethel in case you happen to be in that area instead. 

Address: 11342 LA-955, Ethel, LA 70730

3. Nurtured by Nature, Valley Center, California

Nurtured by Nature is located in California and is one of the best places to swim with Otters California. It was set up to raise money to care for the animals as well as support other good causes, including helping children in need or granting wishes for participants of Make-A-Wish kids. So if you’re in California or heading to CA and wondering where to swim with Otters in California, this is the place you should go as your money will not only help the Otters, but will also help children in need. The Otter swim encounters program is restricted to small groups of less than 10 people and is not commercialized so you’ll need to call way in advance to see if they have any availability to swim with Otters.

Nurtured by Nature offers three different Otter encounters and they include the Public Otter Swim Encounter, the Conservation Otter Swim Encounter, and the Founder Otter Swim Encounter.  Each of these encounters require that you are at least 18 years old, are not afraid of animals, can keep calm, and can follow instructions. 

Otter encounters at Nurtured by Nature

#1. The Public Otter Swim will allow eight people to spend between three and four hours with their guide. An hour of that time will be in the pool where you will swim with Otters and interact with other animals that are in there as well.  Cost is $650 per person. 

#2. The Conservation Otter Swim is for those who want to make a substantial donation to the program, and while it includes everything mentioned in the encounter above, you also get lunch, a t-shirt, and a painting. Cost is $800 per person. 

#3. The Founder Otter Swim is designed for private groups of up to eight people and includes everything in the Conservation Otter Swim.  You’d have to call them for pricing. 

Nurtured by Nature, CA, requires that you make an appointment and payment in advance to reserve your dates. Be aware that payment made for Conservation and Founder Otter swim is considered a tax-deductible donation and is non-refundable even if you cancel your appointment. If you’re scheduled for the Public Otter Swim, you’re eligible for a refund as long as you inform them at least 7 days in advance, after which your payment is considered a donation. Also note that you can’t bring your pets or service animals here as Nurtured by Nature tries to protect the animals that are already on the preserve. Valley Center is just about 40 mins drive from San Diego so if you’re looking for where to swim with otters in San Diego, this will be your go-to spot. If you’re looking for where to swim with Otters in San Francisco and can take a quick hour-and-half flight or want to take an 8-hour road trip, you’ll be right in Valley Center! Enjoy your swim with Otters in CA.

Address: 15630 Rim of the Valley, Valley Center, CA 92082, United States

4. Discovery Cove, Orlando, Florida

Orlando might be home to some of the best amusement parks in the world and even some of the best waterparks in the world, but you can also do much more when you’re in this play city! Swim with Otters Florida can easily be accomplished over at the Freshwater Oasis in Discovery Cove in Orlando. Freshwater Oasis is designed as a rainforest with trees and clear water, which you can swim in or wade in. While in the water, you’ll have a chance to swim and play with small Otters who are mostly curious about you as well. So if you’re in FL and looking for a place to swim with Otters near you or if you’ve always wondered “are there Otters in Florida”, this is the place you should head to as it answers your question of where you can swim with Otters in Florida and if there are Otters around you. 

Otter encounters at Discovery Cove

Once you’re here on a vacation in paradise, make sure you take full advantage of the Otter encounters. The best time to see these Sea Otters swimming and playing in the water will be during their most active times which include: 11:15am, 12:45am, 1:45pm, and 2:45pm. While you’re already here enjoying swimming with Otters in Florida, be sure to look out for Marmosets, another exotic animal with puffy white cheeks that love to spend time in the trees. While wondering in the waters of Discovery Cove swimming with Otters, you’ll see many other animals including dolphins, sharks, rays, but nothing will beat your precious time with the spunky otters.  Packages start at $199 per person and include swimming with dolphins, swimming with Otters, as well as encounters with other animals. Certain packages include other things like unlimited food and drinks. If you’re a Florida resident wondering where to swim with Otters near me in Orlando, Florida, you’re in luck as Discover Cove offers a 20% discount and a free complimentary premium drink upgrade to residents of Florida. 

Address: 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821

5. Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia

To swim with otters at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, you must be at least seven years old.  Your encounter will allow you to learn what you need to know about Otters from a trainer, while taking a tour of the Sea Otter facility. The Sea Otters resident in the Georgia Aquarium are rescued baby Sea Otters and so the aquarium goes to great lengths to make sure they are comfortable and well-taken care of. 

Otter encounters at Georgia Aquarium

If you chose to participate in a Sea Otter encounter here, you’ll get a chance to interact with the animals for about thirty minutes and then get a tour of their home at the zoo. You will also prepare a sea otter meal before you meet them and give them their food while training them at the same time. You’ll get to work with top Sea Otter trainers and learn one of two tricks about Sea Otters! The best part about this Sea Otter encounter, besides getting up close and personal with them, is the fact that you get a photo of you and the sea otters to take home with you! If you want to visit Georgia Aquarium to meet a Sea Otter, you should book your ticket in advance. Tickets for the Sea Otter visit cost $62.95 for members and $69.95 for non-members. This doesn’t include the general admission into the zoo. The zoo requires that children under 7 years old be supervised by an adult and there is a limit of three children under 15 years to one adult. So if you have more than three kids under 15 years old, you’ll need to have another participating adult with you. And as you can imagine, even though a Sea Otter encounter is safe, every encounter with an animal carries some liability so you’d have to sign a liability waiver form for kids under 18 years old. 

Address: 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313

6. Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo, Dade City, Florida

If you often wonder, where can you swim with otters in Florida, you don’t need to look any further than Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo.  Yes, a swim with Sea Otters is amazing at Discovery Cove in Orlando, but you also have Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo as another place to swim in Florida with Otters. The Otter encounter here includes a lesson on Otters and their role in the ecosystem. The Otters that reside here are the Asian small-clawed Otters who are particularly known for being playful and fast. They will keep you on your toes!

Otter encounters at Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo

When you begin your encounter, you will be on land, so you can see how these wonderful creatures play on solid ground.  After that, you will slide into the pool for some fun and splashing in the water.  During your encounter, you’ll work with a trainer to learn a few things about Sea Otters and other animals in the Zoo, including gators. And yes, you can also swim with a gator here if you wish. A swim with an Otter costs $200 while simply watching someone else swim with an Otter (being an Otter-watcher) costs $10. So if you don’t want to swim with an Otter while you’re visiting Florida but are still curious about how to swim with Otters, you can purchase the ticket to watch an Otter and get to see the action without getting wet. If you do decide to swim with an Otter, aside from being an assistant to the trainer, and thirty mins of swim time with Otters, you’ll also get photo package at the end of your encounter. 

Address: 36909 Blanton Road, Dade City, FL 33523

7. Virginia Living Museum, Newport News, Virgina 

While you cannot swim with otters at the Virginia Living Museum, you can take the Otter Tour to learn more about them as well as help out with an Otter training session.  This tour lasts for approximately forty-five minutes, and anyone ages four and above can be a part of the maximum twelve-person group. During the tour, you can observe the two resident Northern River Otters – Moe and Molly-  being themselves. If you visit the museum during the hours of 9am to 5pm, you can watch the Otters as they play around in the habitat – in the water and on land. After 5pm, you won’t be able to see the Otters as they are away from camera, resting, relaxing, and being taken care of. 

Otter encounters at Virginia Living Museum

As you learn more about how Otters act, you will also discover what they eat and how they eat it.  The training session is fun to take part in, because it allows you to see how vets get the Otters to cooperate during checkups. You will enter a restricted area for this tour, so be prepared to see things that many others have not seen at this museum.  And if you hang around after your Otter tour, you might be able to see other animals as this museum houses more than 250 species of animals, including birds, and fishes as well. The Museum was built to protect animals who are injured, orphaned, or cannot be released into the wild. When you are searching for a place to swim with Otters in Virigina, consider the Virigina Living Museum because even though you can’t swim with Otters there, your support will help protect the Otters and other animals in need. 

Address: 524 J Clyde Morris Blvd, Newport News, VA 23601

8. Audubon Nature Institute, New Orleans, Louisiana 

While visiting Louisiana, you can easily spend time with Sea Otters at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, which is part of the Audubon Nature Institute. This is one of the best seven aquariums in the USA!  So if you’re wondering where to swim with Otters in New Orleans, this is the place you should head to! When you book an Otter Encounter ticket which starts at $105 for non-member, you are indirectly supporting the institutes’ goal to preserve and protect Sea Otters, specifically, the endangered Southern Sea Otters that live here. The ticket also includes a movie before, or after the Otter encounter. Member tickets are available with a discount, but you must be a member with an account to buy the tickets, or you can call to inquire about member pricing. 

Otter encounters at Audubon Nature Institute

The swim with Otters LA encounters are held four days a week on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30Am and they last for approximately thirty minutes. During this time, you will meet a Sea Otter, check out the Sea Otter area with your tour guide, learn everything you need to know about the Sea Otters, and take pictures but when your guide tells you it is okay to do so.  You must be ten years old or older to participate in this encounter, and only two people can attend at a time for the safety of the Sea Otters. Any child under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult participant who is at least 21 years old. This means that you do want to arrange this encounter in advance as space can be limited and walk-up tickets are not available. When you do finally arrive for your Otter swim encounter, be sure to wear non-slip shoes as you’ll have to wade through water to get to where the Sea Otters are. Also, be sure to arrive on time as your appointment will be automatically cancelled once you’re 15 mins late. And if you can’t keep your appointment and want a refund, be sure to contact Audubon Nature Institute at least 48 hours prior to your schedule encounter in order to get your full refund.

There are many places where you can swim with otters all over the USA, and any of these eight will get you started on realizing your dream of being in the water with them.  While you can be picky about where you swim with Otters, I can tell you that any of these destinations will have you enjoying yourself and the Otters at the same time!

Address: 6500 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70118

Frequently Asked Questions About Otters

How many species of Otters exist?

About 13 different species exist around the world, but only two types – the River Otters and the Sea Otters live in the USA.  The River Otters are smaller and weigh between 10-30 pound. The Sea Otters are larger and weigh between 40-95 pounds. Sea otters have the amazing capacity of being able to eat up to 25% of their body weight in food every day.

Where are most Otters found?

Most Otters are found in coastal Alaska, but some are also found in California and Washington states.

What is a group of resting Otters called?

When a bunch of Otters are clustered together to rest, they are called a raft. And they do love to rest next to each other.

Are Sea Otters protected?

Sea Otters are considered endangered and in the USA, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Are Sea Otters safe to play with?

They look cute and fun, but Otters have strong teeth and can pack a punch in their bite! Don’t try to get too close to a Sea Otter and never feed wild Sea Otters.

Are Sea Otter smart?

Well, they are one of the few mammals that use a tool, and in this case, they use a rock to crack open the shells of thier prey. They store the rock and food in a loose skin that’s underneath thier armpit and save it for when they need it. We consider that being really smart.

*Otters images are copyrighted to the individual zoos and other places to swim with Sea Otters in the USA as seen on this list. 

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