4 Places to Swim with Otters in the US (2024)

It’s time to add a new animal encounter to your adventure bucket list. Get in the water and swim with otters! Yes, otters!! These cute and super inquisitive animals are ADORABLE and the opportunity to swim with them is like no other experience you’ll ever have.

Swimming with dolphins or feeding a giraffe can be done almost anywhere. But there are only a handful of places across the United States where you can swim with otters. Those 12 years old and older and suit up and embark on this adventure.

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Where Can I Swim with Otters?

Here are 4 places you can swim with otters in the United States.

Barn Hill Preserve, Frankford, Delaware

One of the best things about Barn Hill Preserve is their Otter Swim Encounter Tour offered daily. Barn Hill Preserve has two locations, Ethel, Lousiana, and Frankford, Delaware. The Otter Swim is only available at the Frankford location which is just 30 minutes north of Ocean City, Maryland, and 2.5 hours from Washington, D.C.

During this 3-hour animal experience, you’ll start with a 45-minute guided tour of the preserve and its inhabitants. You may see red kangaroos, sloths, a variety of birds, reptiles, and other park ambassadors throughout the property.Afterward, you will have the opportunity to have a swim with little Asian Small-clawed Otters.

The Otter Swim portion takes about 1 hour with an average of 35 minutes in the pool which is heated during colder months. The extra time provides time to change and put on your swimwear. The number of participants in the pool is limited so this experience is unforgettable and not stressful for the small animals.

Otter swims are limited to twice a day for small groups. Reservations are required

The minimum age for this interaction is 10 years of age. ​Special kid-friendly swims for children 10 and up are available Mondays and Fridays at 12 pm. A paid adult must accompany them throughout the tour. The full otter experience is available to those 16 years and older.

The fee for either tour/swim is $300 per person plus taxes and fees. Learn more about this tour and the preserve.

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Nurtured by Nature, Valley Center, California

If you are wondering “Where can I Swim with otters in California?” then head to North County (San Diego area) to Nurtured by Nature. This nonprofit organization and wildlife reserve is a special place that allows you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with animals in many ways: you can feed them, cuddle, and play with them.

The reserve is located in Valley Center, California about 15 minutes north of Escondido and 45 minutes from downtown San Diego. It offers two otter experiences – the public swimming with otters program and the conservation encounter otter swim.

The Public Otter Swim and the Conservation Swim encounter are both part of a guided 3 to 4-hour program that gets you into the pool with these adorable otters for 45 minutes to an hour plus other animal interactions. This may include lemurs, pacas, sloths, kangaroos, owls, armadillos, and other animals.

While in the pool, if the otters like you, they try to stick stones into your swimsuit. In fact, this happens so often that it has become a game: whoever has the most stones in their swimsuit when they get out of the pool wins. You’ll take home a permanent grin and memories to last a whole lifetime.

The Conservation Encounter also includes an otter-created painting, towel, and logo t-shirt. Both of swimming with otter experiences are offered on select days. Reservations are required and advanced planning is needed here as this experience books up months in advance.

The minimum age for encounters here is 18 years and guests must be able to follow safety instructions calmly. The fee is $650-$800 a person with a tour maximum of 8 people. Learn more about the reserve here.

Hotels and Airbnbs near Valley Centre, California

If you plan to spend more time in the San Diego area, see:

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  • Save 43% off San Diego Attractions with CityPASS

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North Georgia Zoo & Wildlife Park, Cleveland, Georgia

One of the best places to meet a sea otter is at the North Georgia Zoo. They are the only hands-on encounter in Georgia that provides an opportunity to learn about, play, and/or swim with Asian Small-clawed Otters.

Here you can select from 6 different otter experiences to get you up close and personal with otters; Otter Meet and Greet, Otter Splash, Young Otter Splash, Otter Experience, VIP Otter Experience, and VIP Otter Splash Experience. The Meet & Greet and Otter Experience do not include any water activities, but they are great for families and children.

The Otter Splash and Young Otter Splash are fun ways to splash around with playful otters. The Otter Splash is 1.5 hours long and includes spending time in the otter exhibit for training time and ending up in their 4ft deep Splash Pool. There are a max of 10 people on this tour.

The Young Otter Splash is a shorter 30-minute experience in the Splash Pool. You’ll take part in water training with at least one young otter.

For a more exclusive program, opt for the VIP Otter Experience (2 person minimum) and VIP Otter Splash Experience (up to 8 participants) provide private interaction with one or two animals. This is only available on weekdays and reservations are required.

The minimum age for these animal interactions is 12 years of age. Fees range from $150-$800 per person plus zoo admission. Learn more about these experiences

Hotels and Airbnbs near North Georgia Zoo, Cleveland, Georgia

Discovery Cove, Orlando, Florida

Discovery Cove is a smaller wildlife park that belongs to the SeaWorld Resort in Orlando. This park is a little gem and stands out from other animal theme parks because it is possible to meet marine animals up close here, dive into a tropical aquarium, and even swim with otters. It is a calm park and perfect for a peaceful day during which we learn more about our animal friends. Best of all, it is included in park admission.

You’ll find the sea otters in Freshwater Oasis, a tropical lagoon, where you can relax and dive into the sea otters’ habitat as well as see marmosets (primates). You can see the otters dive, play, and you can even interact with them. Plus you get to enjoy the other areas of Discovery Cove.

You can reserve tickets directly on the Sea World website or find discounted admission tickets through Undercover Tourist.

Hotels and Airbnbs near Discovery Cove, Orlando, Florida

If you plan to spend more time in the Orlando area, see:

  • Things to Do in Central Florida with Teens
  • Best Florida Beaches for Families
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  • 35 Incredible Places to Go for Spring Break with Your Family
  • Which is Better Universal Studios or Disney World for Teens?

Don’t forget your waterproof camera or Go Pro video camera for this experience. If you want to buy a new GoPro, check out the prices on both Amazon, the GoPro website, or Walmart.

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GoPro HERO 9 Bundle: $399.98 Includes 1-Year Subscription to GoPro or $499.99 Without Subscription! Shop Now!4 Places to Swim with Otters in the US (7)

Want More? Find more animal experiences on Viator. You’ll find everything from visiting animal sanctuaries to swimming with sharks both in far-off places and close to home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Otters

What Should I Bring When Swimming with Otters?

Bring a bath suit, towel, and change of clothes. Swim trunks or shorts with pockets should be avoided as otters are highly inquisitive. If you have pockets, you may find an otter in one. Also avoid any loose fitting jewelry. A camera inside a waterproof cover or GoPro video camera is highly encouraged to capture your experience.

How Big is an Otter?

An otter is about the same size as a beaver, although the beaver has a much wider back. Otters have a narrower, longer, rounded tail. The head also looks different: the otter has a wide snout that sticks out next to the nose’s tip.

Where Do Otters Live in the Wild?

Otters live in all kinds of aquatic environments: rivers, lakes, wetlands, and even the maritime littoral zone. Sea otters can be found in Canada, California, Oregon, Washington State, Japan, and Russia. River otters can be found throughout most of the United States, expect the Arctic and deserts.

What Do Otters Eat?

Otters are aquatic predators and devour aquatic prey such as fish, aquatic crustaceans, Amphibians, and reptiles that it captures in or near the water.

Note: Like all of the animal programs we share here on Little Family Adventure, the animal experiences we share are voluntary for the animals. With these four experiences, you can swim with otters in the US that focus on the animal’s health and safety. These programs promote education and conservation, rather than entertainment. However, it IS fun for both humans and otters, but that isn’t the focus.

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Originally published September 17, 2020. Updated June 17, 2023.

4 Places to Swim with Otters in the US (2024)
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