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Are you up for some of the Best Snorkeling in Florida? Here are 15 outstanding destinations, providing you with a variety of snorkeling experiences from Florida’s Emerald Coast to the tropics of Key West.
All you need for your snorkeling adventure is a mask, snorkel and fins! The following destinations provide clear water, a variety of interesting underwater vistas, sea life (colorful coral reefs, loads of tropical fish, turtles, rays, and more!) and amazing experiences for all:
Best Snorkeling In Florida
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park located near the southern tip of Key West, where the Atlantic Ocean greets the Gulf of Mexico. The snorkeling here provides clear water with a rocky bottom, which is home to a large variety of tropical fish, sea creatures and live coral.
Also located here is the historic Civil War-era fort that is worth exploring, along with picturesque beaches ideal of watching amazing sunsets.
This snorkeling adventure is located on Key Largo. It is the country's first undersea park, offering snorkeling off the beach, along with tours that can take you to a live coral reef. The park is approximately 25 miles in length and extends 3 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.
The coral reef and associated marine life in the park are among the most beautiful and diverse you will find. The park also provides a vast array of additional activities, like scuba diving, glass bottom boat tours, hiking trails, kayaking, campsites, aquarium and more!
The Dry Rocks is a coral reef, which lies to the east of Key Largo within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The inner bank reef is characterized by shallow water depths ranging from 1 to 25 feet, calm seas and great visibility.
The highlight of your snorkeling adventure will be a nine-foot, 4000 pound bronze statue “Christ of the Abyss” standing in 25 feet of water.
If shipwrecks are on your list of snorkeling adventures then this is the place you’ll want to be sure and visit. With beautiful coral reefs, mangrove forest along the shoreline and multiple shipwrecks, Key Biscayne offers some of the finest snorkeling in the Miami area.
The park can only be accessed by boat but is definitely worth the extra effort to experience this unique and exciting environment.
Located in Marathon, a city approximately in the middle of the Florida Keys, is one of the more popular snorkeling and diving destinations in the Keys. This snorkeling stop offers a spur-and-groove coral reef, sitting on the outer banks, characterized by large fingers of coral, separated by narrow sand beds. Along with the massive coral formations expect to see a very rich marine life featuring underwater scenery with small canyons and caves
Another coral reef experience, located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, south of the Big Pine Key, five miles off the coast. This is a great snorkeling sight for individuals of all skill levels with excellent water clarity and generally mild sea conditions. With over 100 species of fish and 50 different varieties of coral reef this is an ideal stop for snorkelers.
Twelve miles to the west of Marathon is a remote island that is virtually uninhabited. Shallow water offers a relaxed snorkeling experience with a variety of coral species (staghorn, brain and fire corals), and fish (angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda, etc.). This quiet get away also provides the chance to stop at the historic Bahia Honda Bridge.
Located in the Florida Keys at the south end of the Upper Keys this adventure starts with the crystal clear aqua water. The tall lighthouse structure presents a beautiful coral reef below with a considerable marine life to experience.
The shallow coral reef around the lighthouse makes for a laid-back snorkeling opportunity with an abundance of fish and turtles to observe. For those desiring a more challenging undertaking, a nearby deeper reef awaits, which is a wall-like structure with a large population of various fish (parrotfish, angelfish, barracudas, etc.)
Approximately 70 miles west of Key West sits this chain of seven coral islands. This National Park offers more snorkeling to view shipwrecks: the Avanti in approximately 20 feet of water and the Bird Key in about five feet of water. Because of its remoteness, the Dry Tortugas’ coral reefs are the healthiest of the Florida Reefs.
For those looking for a distinctive snorkeling trip this might be a visit to add to your list. This recreation area is located in the lush, semi-tropical setting of central Florida in the Ocala National Forest. This is a stunning and pristine example of a Florida spring. Crystal-clear turquoise water provides amazing views, which attracts professional and amateur photographers.
A Florida State Park, which is located three miles east of Panama City Beach on the Panhandle of Florida. Sand dunes and miles of beaches, you can snorkel in protected pools behind the rock jetty. The sand is sugar white and water is a clear emerald green.
Moving further up the Panhandle of Florida you will find jetties that are located at the west end of Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola. The bay side is a rocky bottom where you may encounter stingrays, sea turtles and dolphins.
This area is best suited for individuals who are experienced snorkelers and the best time to venture out is a couple hours before high tide.
The island park is located in the middle of the Port of Palm Beach near the Lake Worth Inlet. The island has a lagoon providing calm conditions. The area is rich in sea life and you may even come across manatees during the cool weather.
More advanced snorkelers can venture out of the lagoon to explore the rocky shores of the island.
Another nearby opportunity while visiting Peanut Island awaits you. The crystal clear water at hide tide makes this man-made reef on an island near the Blue Heron Bridge a must on your snorkeling list. The artificial reef can be explored in approximately 10 feet of water and attracts a wide variety of sea life including seahorses.
15. Red Reef Park
The park is in the city of Boca Raton and has vast natural coral rocks right off the beach in about 10 feet of water. Snorkeling provides the opportunity to observe a wide variety of fish, like sergeant majors, snappers, parrotfish, barracuda and more! Pristine waters and many park amenities provide for a day well spent while visiting the Boca Raton area.
The best time to snorkel is during the warmer months. Snorkeling is possible year round in Florida, but the winter months are cool and windy, which might necessitate a wet-suit. In the winter months your best options along the Gulf of Mexico would be south of Tampa Bay and on the Atlantic Ocean south of Melbourne. The Florida Keys are situated within a subtropical region making it an ideal spot that affords comfortable, year-round conditions for viewing marine life underwater.
For your safety, use dive flags when you snorkel in undesignated areas to alert boaters that you're in the area. When snorkeling near inlets your best time to venture out is an hour or two prior to high tide, to avoid getting stranded and to maximize your opportunities for viewing marine life.
Having your own snorkeling gear gives you the greatest flexibility, or you may rent from any of the many beach shops or park concessions near your snorkeling destination.
Have you experienced other great places for snorkeling? Share it with us in the comments section below!
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Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.