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Snorkeling in Florida is a popular year-round activity thanks to the subtropical climate. Whether you wish to visit coral reefs in the Keys, freshwater springs, or state park snorkel trails, having fun and spotting interesting marine life is guaranteed. This complete guide tells you what are the best places to snorkel in the Sunshine State!
Where to go snorkeling in Florida?
Florida’s 1000 miles of coastline offer numerous places to go for those who love underwater activities. The Florida Reef is one of the largest barrier reef system. It stretches from Miami to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Besides this coral reef system, many beaches and state parks feature smaller natural and artificial reefs.
One finds easy shore snorkeling in Key Largo, near Orlando, around Miami, but also in Southwest Florida while the Florida Keys’s exceptional coral reefs are reachable by boat.
Florida Top 10 snorkel spots:
- John Pennekamp Coral State Park
- Dry Tortugas
- Sombrero Reef Marathon
- Alligator Reef Islamorada
- Biscayne National Park
- Phil Foster snorkel trail
- Peanut Island
- Crystal River
- Ginnie Springs
- Delnor-Wiggins State Park
If you are looking for the best underwater experience, the Keys offers definitely the best snorkeling in Florida with colorful coral reefs, lots of tropical fish species, turtles, rays, and often nurse sharks around. Let’s see the best places to snorkel in Florida Keys!
John Pennekamp Coral State Park Key Largo
The most popular and best snorkeling in Key Largo is definitely the John Pennekamp Coral State Park. The park offers several opportunities to explore nature while walking around or kayaking.
Snorkeling tours are available to the nearby Key Largo coral reefs like Grecian Rocks, Banana Reef, or the famous Christ of The Abyss at Key Largo Dry Rocks. For more information, read our John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park snorkeling review with detailed descriptions and underwater photos.
Bahia Honda State Park
This big, 500 acres area in Big Pine Key is an ideal place for the entire family! Thanks to the shallow reefs and calm waters, the Bahia Handa State Park offers family-friendly snorkeling in Florida where different coral species like staghorn, brain and fire corals as well as many species of fish like parrotfish, angelfish, and barracudas can be observed.
Alligator Reef Lighthouse Islamorada
Should you look for boat snorkeling in the Florida Keys with plenty of fish and turtles to see, the Alligator Reef is a great place to go. Advanced snorkelers can choose to stop at the nearby deeper reef too which is a wall-like area with angelfish, parrotfish, barracudas, and even nurse sharks around.
Sombrero Reef Marathon
The Sombrero Reef is not only very rich in life but also features interesting underwater scenery with small caves and canyons. Expect to see massive, healthy coral formations and plenty of fish!
Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor has a rocky shore with clear waters that attract many reef fish and sea creatures. A picturesque beach with trees and picnic tables, however, it is recommended to wear water shoes due to the rocks in the water.
Tip: however you can find small shops around most beaches but not dive shops, therefore we recommend always taking your own snorkeling equipment with you, and don’t rely on rental options!
Dry Tortugas National Park
Visiting the Dry Tortugas National Park is a must-do if you are in the Keys! This snorkeling in Florida experience offers you a truly unique adventure while swimming in crystal clear water around the historic Jefferson Fort.
The 100-square mile park lies 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West and is accessible by ferry or seaplane. Due to its remoteness, the Dry Tortugas’ coral reefs are the healthiest of the Florida Reefs!
Tip: If you look for some extraordinary snorkeling experience, you can also do shipwreck snorkeling in Florida Keys!
If you don’t have time to drive down to the Keys, don’t worry because South Florida beaches also provide great snorkeling. Learn below where to snorkel in Miami and what are Palm Beach’s best snorkel spots!
South Pier Beach
When spending your holiday near the world-famous Miami South Beach, don’t miss out on swimming around South Pier Beach! Although this is not a colorful coral reef, offers surprisingly good snorkeling in Florida if the ocean is calm and the visibility is good.
You can observe fish species hiding between the rocks, and look for eels! Sometimes also small sharks are around!
Biscayne National Park
With shoreline mangrove forests, pretty coral reefs, and shipwrecks Biscayne National Park offers the best snorkeling around Miami! It is accessible only by boat but surely it is worth the effort if you would like to enjoy a great day in nature!
The shoreline of Fort Lauderdale offers kid and beginner-friendly snorkeling with shallow coral ledges, natural and artificial reefs as well as some shipwrecks. Most Fort Lauderdale snorkeling sites are easily accessible from the beach or are available with a short kayak/boat ride. The area’s close proximity to Miami allows these Florida snorkel spots to be explored even within day trips.
Palm Beach snorkeling beaches
Phil Foster Park
The most popular snorkel spot in Palm Beach County is Phil Foster Park at the Blue Heron Bridge. The snorkel trail with an artificial reef system attracts a wide variety of sea creatures including seahorses besides various fish species.
To learn more about the conditions, read our Phil Foster Park snorkeling post!
This tropical park lies near Lake Worth Inlet, West Palm Beach. Easy snorkeling in the shallow lagoon with plenty of tropical fish. During colder months even manatees can be spotted here!
In our Peanut Island snorkel guide we tell you how to get there, what to see, and much more.
Coral Cove Park
Coral Cove is a lifeguard-protected beach park. With the close-by Blowing Rocks Preserve, they are good snorkel spots in Jupiter, Florida. Expect to see barracuda, nurse sharks, loggerhead turtles, and eels!
On the northern side of Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Bathtub Reef Beach is a popular place for spending the day out with the family. The reef runs close to the shore protecting the coast from high waves. The calm waters give home to more than 500 marine species including sea turtles.
The Gulf Coast is known for its relaxed lifestyle and lush tropical landscape but unfortunately doesn’t offer superb conditions for underwater activities. The ocean is usually murky for snorkeling, although if the weather is good and the sea is calm seas, the visibility is fair. Here are our suggestions on where to snorkel in Southwest Florida!
Point of Rocks: Point of Rocks is considered one of the most decent snorkeling beaches in Southwest Florida. It is located at the southern tip of the popular Siesta Key Beach, Crescent Beach.
While snorkeling at Point of Rocks, expect to see different reef fish, and some small sea creatures like crabs and sponges. Arrive early morning for calm water and good visibility!
Regina Shipwreck: The SS Regina was a tanker that sank at Bradenton Beach near Anna Maria Island in 1940. The wreck is a good snorkel spot in Southwest Florida now. It rests about 20 feet deep about 150 from the shore.
Visiting the Regina wreck provides enjoyable snorkeling in Florida during the calm weather season when the ocean is clear enough.
Tip: did you know that you can find shark teeth on Venice Beach Florida? Search for them in the sand while walking on the beach!
Delnor-Wiggins State Park: A gorgeous beach with kayaking, paddling, fishing, and snorkeling! A shallow coral reef runs parallel to the shore around parking 1 and 2 which is nice to explore.
Naples Municipal Beach: This pretty white sandy beach is accessible from 12 Avenue South and is a nice place to hang out as well as for water activities.
Tigertail Beach at Marco Island: An unspoiled, not widely known yet clean and well-kept park. The Tigertail Beach is famous for spotting dolphins close to the shore!
Northwest Florida – Florida Panhandle Snorkeling Spots
Most people don’t think that the Florida Panhandle is a good place to snorkel in the US, but actually, the area has a lot to offer for underwater adventurers. While you won’t find extensive natural reefs as in the Keys here, you can experience a variety of marine species snorkeling around the area’s artificial reefs, including concrete structures and sunken ships! Here are some of the most notable snorkeling spots in the Florida Panhandle:
Nestled on the Emerald Coast, Destin’s coastline is famed for its white sand and amazingly clear waters with a blueish-green hue offering ideal conditions to explore and observe aquatic life.
Best snorkel spots in Destin:
Norriego Point: my go-to snorkeling place in Destin is Norriego Point, a secluded beach at the end of Holiday Isle. The shallow, clear water offers safe snorkeling for kids too. A hidden gem in Destin!
Destin Jetties: both Destin jetties (East Pass and West Jetty) work as artificial reefs and attract plenty of fish and invertebrates such as crabs and octopuses.
Henderson Beach State Park: a well-maintained family-friendly state park with more than 6,000 feet of scenic white sandy shoreline. There is lots of sea life to see in the transparent, emerald green waters including sea turtles as the area is a nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles!
Fort Walton Beach: the Fort Walton Beach snorkel reefs are located at beach access 2, 4, and 6.
Pensacola Beach Snorkeling
The beautiful coastline of Pensacola is home to some of the best snorkel spots in Florida. With reefs on the ocean and gulf side, everyone will find a spot to explore no matter the experience level.
Pensacola Beach snorkel spots:
Pensacola Beach Park East: reef installation with ~40 reef trees about 500 ft off the beach in a depth of 6-14 ft. The reefs can be found on the east side of Park East.
Park West Reef: about 500-600 feet east of the Pensacola Beach fishing pier, the remnants of the old fishing pier from this reef. Moreover, there is also a shipwreck here, a bit further east. This location is also known as Casino Beach as it is located at Casino Beach Blvd.
Gulf Side Artificial Reef at Pensacola Beach Pier: the Escambia County Bay Park West Snorkeling Reef is the best place for novice snorkelers and kids as it is on the bay side, meaning the water is calmer than on the ocean side. You need to be lucky to enjoy good visibility, but it is a safe place for those who are trying snorkeling for the first time.
Navarre Beach Marine Park: a reef system built up using environmentally friendly pilings starts a few hundred ft off Navarre Beach. The nearshore reefs are perfect to explore for snorkelers where an array of marine species live. While at Navarre Beach, you can also go snorkeling around the fishing pier.
USS Massachusetts: those who enjoy snorkeling shipwreck want to visit the USS Massachusetts, a 350-ft ship that sunk in 1921. The wreck rests in about 26 ft deep water, but parts of it are exposed at low tide. This Underwater Archaeological Preserve is near Pensacola Pass.
Perdido Key Beach: 24-module reef system starting about 300 ft from the shore in front of Perdido Key Public Beach Access #1.
Panama City Beach Snorkeling
Known for its miles long white-sandy shoreline meeting the clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Panama City has something to offer both for beginners and experienced snorkelers.
Best snorkeling spots in Panama City:
St. Andrews State Park: considered one of the best snorkeling spots in Northwest Florida, the park’s rock jetty (St. Andrews Jetties) became an artificial reef where a variety of aquatic species can be observed using only a mask and snorkel!
Shell Island: a 700-acre undeveloped barrier island that offers ideal conditions to discover marine life such as tropical fish, rays, turtles, and crabs in calm, clear waters.
South Walton Snorkel Reefs
Installed by the South Walton Artificial Reef Association https://swarareefs.org/, South Walton beaches are home to fantastic easily accessible Florida snorkel reefs that can be reached directly from the shore.
Dolphin Reef: dolphin-shaped reef system located in Miramar Beach, about 700ft from the shore.
Seahorse Reef: sitting 700 ft off the beach at Topsail Hill Reserve, Seahorse Reef attracts thousands of fish and other interesting sea creatures such as turtles, octopuses, and crabs.
Turtle Reef: 750ft from the shore in Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, this man-made reef forms the shape of a turtle.
Grouper Reef: forming the shape of the area’s most popular fish, Grouper Reef can be found off Inlet Beach. This installation is a bit further out in the ocean, about 1000ft from the shore off the main beach access. Often nurse sharks and sea turtles are spotted here!
There is an extensive system of freshwater springs in Florida that treat visitors with superb conditions for water activities. These crystal clear springs can be found in Central, North, and Northwest Florida, therefore they are perfect for those who seek snorkeling near Orlando or in Florida Panhandle. Let’s see the best springs to snorkel in Florida!
Kings Bay, where the water temperature is around 72 F (22 C) all year round gives home to a big population of West Indian Manatees that are around all year-round. Moreover, the Crystal River is an important manatee winter refuge too where hundreds of them gather in the warm water.
Spotting manatees is possible all around the Florida coastline but to protect these endangered creatures swimming with them is restricted at most places. If you wish to go snorkeling in Florida with manatees, the Crystal River is where you need to go since tours are allowed here.
On the Santa Fee River, 7 springs attract snorkelers and divers with their crystal clear blue water. With lush vegetation, playground for kids, and volleyball court, the Ginnie Springs Recreation area is the best place for a family getaway! The lazy flowing river makes the place a heaven for paddlers!
Ichetucknee Spring Park
Partly declared as a national natural landmark, the Ichetucknee Spring Park is considered as one of the most pristine springs in Florida. Because of the natural beauty and perfect conditions, this is one of the most popular spots for diving, canoeing, and tubing.
Snorkeling is allowed in designated areas only. It is prohibited to use motorized vehicles here.
The Alexander Springs Recreational Area lies not so far from Orlando. This first-magnitude spring with a wide sandy beach and a large spring pool bounded by trees is a nice spot to visit for the entire family.
While snorkeling in this freshwater spring, you can spot many different fish species besides an alligator that occasionally visits the area!
Blue Spring State Park
A picturesque circular pool on St. Johns River near Orange City surrounded by big oak and palm trees where you can swim, snorkel, dive, or canoe. Campground, picnic area, and playground are also available.
The Blue Spring is a winter refuge for manatees that escape here from the cold. (water activities are restricted during manatee season)
Tip: should you look for snorkeling on the Pacific Coast in America, check out where to snorkel in California!
Guided Snorkeling Tours in Florida
Are you ready to explore the stunning underwater world of Florida’s crystal-clear waters but you don’t know where to start? Here are 3 guided tours that you can join and you don’t need to spend time organizing your own trip.
Best time to go snorkeling in Florida
Florida offers perfect weather all year round and is a top winter holiday destination offering the mildest winter in the continental United States. Therefore, snorkeling in Florida is possible at any time of the year.
The summer months are hot, the maximum temperatures can reach 91 F (33 C) and the ocean warms up to 82 F (28 C) making water activities very comfortable. Make sure always follow the weather forecast since the period between June and November is the Atlantic hurricane season when tropical storms might form.
The mild winter months feature pleasant weather for outdoor activities with temperatures between 70-77 F (21-25 C). Occasional cold fronts bring lower temperatures along with strong wind and rainfall, but these last only for a few days. The ocean temperature is 69-75 F (21-24 C) in winter (warmer in the south), therefore wearing a snorkeling suit is recommended.
What can you see when snorkeling in Florida?
With beautiful coral reefs and colorful fish to see, it ranks among the world’s best snorkeling destinations, with good reason.
Florida’s waters feature abundant marine life. More than 30 coral species and 500 saltwater fish species live in and around the Florida Reef, the state’s artificial reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests.
From tiny creatures like sea stars, sea urchins, sea slugs, nudibranchs, and shrimps to large marine mammals like manatees and dolphins, rich aquatic life is waiting to be explored under the waves.
Common stony and soft coral species in Florida:
- Sea Fan
- Sea Rod
- Sea Plumes
Common Florida fish species to see:
- Doctor fish
Encounters with various shark species (mostly harmless nurse sharks), stingrays, lobsters, seahorses, moray eels, and sea turtles are also quite frequent while snorkeling in Florida. Moreover, it is also possible to see gators in natural springs.
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