Snorkeling In Key West
Snorkeling in Key West is a must-do activity when visiting the Florida Keys. The clear, warm waters offer excellent visibility and there are many interesting reefs and shipwrecks to explore. The best snorkeling spots can be found off the beaches of Key West, such as Smathers Beach, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, and Dry Tortugas National Park.
Boat tours depart from Key West to allow you to snorkel off the island. In comparison to the Middle Keys and Key Largo, which are in good health, the reef around Key West does not appear to be as healthy. If youre looking for help deciding which boat company to use, read TripAdvisor reviews. If you only want to snorkel in Key West, you should go on a tour of Dry Tortugas National Park. While the boat ride is long, the park itself is quite fascinating. The majority of the sea grass beds that can be found under the surface off the islands south coast are located offshore. The Florida Keys are home to some of the best snorkeling spots, including Higgs Beach, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach, and Higgs Beach. Further down Duval Street, the tourist shops become more touristy as you approach the cruise ship docks, and more bars appear.
Snorkeling In Florida: A Few Locations Along Gulf Coast Beaches
The Gulf Coast does not have the reef structure and hard bottom found along the Atlantic so it is less conducive to snorkeling. There are a few spots that are popular, however:
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park has a hard bottom reef that runs parallel to the beach near parking areas one and two. Its in about 8 or 10 feet of water.
Egmont Key, an island reachable by ferry from St. Pete Beach, has ruins of some parts of an 1898 fort that are now underwater.
Best Florida Beaches For Snorkeling
One of the great tragedies in life is to miss out on underwater activities while on a Florida beach vacation. It does not much matter whether you prefer to sun in the shallow surf, encounter stingrays and tropical fish in person, or pick up sharks teeth, you can do all of this and more at the best Florida snorkeling beaches. The more than 1,000 miles coastline offers thousands of excellent places, all along the so-called Emerald Coast, down in the mostly turquoise-hued waters in the Palm Beaches and especially farther south in the Keys. Given the wide variety of beaches, it is not easy to decide where to go, so to help you out, we look at the 10 best Florida beaches for snorkeling now!
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Snorkeling In Florida Springs
Our favorites listed so far on this page are all salt-water snorkeling excursions. We also highly recommend snorkeling in Floridas fresh-water springs, which have crystal-clear cold water and are full of fish and turtles and other things to see. They are located in Central Florida and North Florida.
Here are a few particularly good springs for snorkeling about which Florida Rambler has written:
Heres a comprehensive guide to snorkeling in springs.
Best Snorkeling In Florida: Coral Cove Park
Coral Cove Park is a waterfront park with a lifeguard-protected beach near the Indian River in Tequesta that offers excellent swimming, snorkeling, and saltwater fishing. Managed by Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation, the 15-acre park boasts more than 2,000 feet of beachfront, most of which are natural limestone, and 600 feet of Intracoastal waterways frontage. The protected beach and nearby Blowing Rocks Preserve in Jupiter offer excellent snorkeling with coral reefs teeming with marine life such as fish, nurse sharks, eels, sea turtles, and crabs. The beach also has many shells for beachcombers and shell collectors.
19450 County Hwy 707, Tequesta, FL 33469, Phone: 561-966-6600
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Snorkeling In Marathon Summary
Some of the finest coral reef snorkeling in Florida can be found around the Marathon area. An abundance of shore snorkeling areas makes it the perfect place for beginners, while more challenging reefs will also please more experienced snorkelers. Sombrero and Looe Key Reefs in particular are highly recommended.
Key Largo Snorkel Tours
If you want to snorkel at the Jesus statue in Key Largo or visit any other specific location, its best to book a private Key Largo snorkeling charter. You have more chances of going where you want to, and though they cost more you wont have to pay park entry fees.
There are lots of local operators to pick from. The snorkeling sites of Key Largo are pretty close together. Its worth trusting in your captain, who will want you to get the best from your visit and should take you to the top spot available on the day.
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Best Places For Snorkeling In Florida
Couple a remarkable coastline with a plethora of natural springs and throw in a hot, sunny climate and its no wonder Floridas so great for snorkeling. Its the perfect way to cool off as you make the most of the clear, warm water to take in the states underwater sights. But where should you go?
Heres a roundup of the seventeen best places for snorkeling in Florida: they should give you some inspiration before your next vacation in the Sunshine State.
Snorkeling Florida Keysget To The Best Reefs By Boat
We have really enjoyed our snorkeling Florida Keys experiences, and have snorkeled all over, including Key Largo, Key West, and all the keys between that we call the Middle Keys. The keys have the third longest barrier reef in the world, and the only tropical coral reefs in the contiguous states.
Explore this page to learn everything you need to know to find the best spots and have a great time.
We were very pleasantly surprised by how fantastic the snorkeling is in the keys. The reefs in some areas are the healthiest we have ever seen, and are packed with life. Another surprise was that the best Florida Keys snorkeling spots are not where we expected them to be.
It is worth noting that nearly all the snorkeling in the keys is by boat. There is virtually no beach or shore access snorkeling, with a few exceptions in both Pennekamp and Bahia Honda parks . That is because the healthy reefs with lots of fish are located from one to eight miles offshore. That means that there is not really any free snorkeling in the Florida Keys.
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Rock Springs At Kelly Park Apopka
Chilly by Florida standards, the 26,000 gallons of water that bubble up at the head of Rock Springs per minute are at a constant 68 degrees!
This is a favorite spot for tubers, once you put in at the top of the trail head, it can take nearly 30 minutes to glide your way down the lazy river to the exit area. Waders and snorkelers can see tons of wildlife, including turtles, snakes, snails, and several species of fish. And yes, you just might spot an alligator, particularly during mating season.
Be sure to keep an eye out for shark teeth that have spilled out of the spring! There are several natural areas where folks with sieves may find some true prehistoric treasures. Kids will love the interactive playground, which features swings and slides for when your water fun is done.
Note: only 280 cars are allowed into the park each morning, and the line often forms long before the opening time of 8AM. Plan to be there early to gain entry to this must-see location!
Shell Key St Petersburg
If you are staying in St Petersburg and want to go snorkeling, head to Shell Key. This unspoilt barrier island is located between Pass-a-Grille and Fort de Soto state park.
Its a bit of a hidden gem which means it never gets too crowded. Also, you can access it by car which definitely reduces the number of people willing to go there.
That said, its an excellent snorkeling spot and if you can, you should definitely give it a go. To get there, you can take the Shell Key Shuttle from St Pete Beach. It costs $25 but is well worth it.
Alternatively, you can opt for a dolphin and snorkeling tour from St Pete as well.
The island is beautiful and discovering the wildlife there is an incredible thing to do. If you are into birding, you will also be in for a treat.
There are no facilities on the island so make sure to take everything you need for the day and your snorkeling equipment. You can snorkel and explore directly from the beach.
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Crystal River Hot Spring
Where to find unique spots for the best snorkeling in Florida? If snorkeling with manatees is on your bucket list, then a visit to Crystal River Hot Spring is for you. As the temperatures drop in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the many manatees in the area flock to the warm water of the Crystal River. The hot spring has year-round temperatures of 72 degrees and a depth of roughly 5 to 12 ft.
The waters are beautifully clear, so snorkellers can experience the true beauty of the local marine life.
Snorkeling In The Florida Keys
You can have fun snorkeling almost anywhere in the Keys any dock or pier here will attract some fish around its pilings. But Ive particularly enjoyed snorkeling in these spots:
Snorkeling in Florida: A school of snapper take shelter under a cannon at Cannon Beach at Pennekamp State Park. Photo by Phils 1stPix via Flickr.
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Where Are The Best Spots For Snorkeling Florida Keys
We break down snorkeling Florida Keys into three main areas:
- The top of the keys, namely Key Largo.
- The bottom of the keys, specifically Key West.
- All of the areas between, Islamorada, Marathon, and the Big Pine area, which all together we call the Middle Keys.
And here was the big surprise for us snorkeling Florida Keys. While we thought that the best snorkeling would be both in the Key Largo and Key West areas, , in fact the best snorkeling is by far and away accessed from the keys between those two.
We go into each area in detail below.
John Pennekamp State Park Tours
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is about 70 square nautical miles in size and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As well as being home to shore birds, mangroves and tropical hammocks, its one of the best places to snorkel in Key Largo.
The Key Largo snorkeling charters operated by John Pennekamp State Park tend to cater for a large number of people. Typically these trips will take visitors to snorkel the Christ statue near Key Largo at Dry Rocks, White Banks, Horseshoe Reef, Cannon Patch, Garrets Reef, Grecian Rocks and Banana Reef.
Again, destinations vary according to the weather, mooring ball availability and water clarity: our recent trip went to Grecian Rocks. Though Key Largo snorkeling at the Christ statue is what many imagine, there is no guarantee of going there. To get to a specific Key Largo snorkeling park its therefore best to take a private charter.
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Blue Grotto Dive Resort Williston
Blue Grotto is the largest clear water cavern in Florida which is great for newbie and expert snorkelers alike. The cave is lined with beautiful rock formations that are further shrouded by a silt layer. As with most of the spots listed here, the waters offer plenty of visibility, so even if you are a scuba driver, you can find your way back with minimal assistance. The Blue Grotto gives you the memorable experience of snorkeling in a cave rather than the open ocean, with is a unique experience.
Dry Tortugas National Park
If youre looking for the best snorkeling in Key West, then look no further than Dry Tortugas National Park. Arguably one of Floridas most beautiful hidden gems, you wont a prettier destination for the best snorkeling in Florida!
70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas is actually made up of seven islands and the historic Fort Jefferson. Here, nature, history, and relaxation meet to form something quite special.
Because the only way to get here is by ferry or chartered, you should plan your journey in advance. The Dry Tortugas Ferry is $190 per person. This includes park entrance as well as breakfast, lunch, and complimentary snorkeling equipment plus a tour of the Fort.
Because these are some of the most vibrant coral reefs in Florida, expect to see tropical fish, coral, starfish, and queen conchs. Also, keep your eyes open for sea turtles! Tortugas is Spanish for turtles, after all. This is truly home to some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys!
Dont forget to look out for the Historic Coaling Pier Pilings, the Moat wall, and the Coral heads. Charter your own boat and you can also snorkel Little Africa Reef and the Windjammer Wreck.
We recommend visiting from April to November when the winds are less strong. The tides will be less turbulent as a result so you can have a relaxing time viewing the waters treasures!
For more tips, check out our full guide on how to explore Dry Tortugas!
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Important Tips For Snorkeling In Florida
Considering a snorkeling outing? Keep in mind: Good snorkeling requires good conditions.
- Less wind is good.
- Recent heavy rain is bad.
- Visibility is best at high tide, particularly as the tide comes in.
- Do not step or stand on living coral or worm reefs do not touch any marine life.
- Dont snorkel alone.
- Be aware of your surroundings dont snorkel too close to rocks when there are waves.
Henderson Beach State Park
There are a number of great places to snorkel near Destin, and one of the best is Henderson Beach State Park. This part of Florida is nicknamed the Emerald Coast because of the vivid color of the water against the bright white sand of its beaches.
Henderson Beach State Park, backed by beautiful, thirty foot tall dunes, is a nesting ground for turtles. Snorkel in the transparent water and you might just find yourself beside one, though resist the temptation to touch as theyre a protected species.
Also in the area, you might want to head to East Pass and Destin Jetties, where the jetties themselves act like artificial reefs and draw in fish such as snapper and barracuda. Local tour operators will kit you out with mask and fins as well as direct you to the most likely marine life hotspots.
If youre not a strong swimmer, time your visit for slack high tide when the visibility is better and the current not as powerful.
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Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary Bahia Honda Key
Youll find one of the most spectacular reefs in the Florida Keys at Looe Key, named for the HMS Looe, which sunk in this spot in 1744 while towing a captured French ship! Hop on a modern boat and take a scenic cruise to an area teeming with elkhorn and giant star coral.
Snorkelers will see approximately 50 species of coral and more than 150 species, including angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda, and yellowtail at Bahia Honda. Forgot your equipment? No problem! Pick up anything you need from the gift shop.
Kayakers can navigate around the whole island and get away from it all. Land lovers will find plenty of activities on the shore, including fishing or biking a 3.5-mile surfaced road. This is also a prime spot for beachcombers!
Best Snorkeling In Florida Without A Boat
Where can you go snorkeling in Florida if you dont own a boat?
Over the years, Ive discovered a number of right-from-the-beach snorkeling spots I love. While you need a boat to access full reefs in Florida, some of my favorite snorkeling outings have been shore dives places where I can touch the bottom and stand to clear my mask. This sort of snorkeling is good for kids and beginners, too.
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Snorkeling In Florida Faq:
Which Florida Key has the best snorkeling?
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park located in Key Largo is probably the best place in Florida Keys for everyone looking for top snorkeling spots!
How much is snorkeling in Florida?
A snorkel trip will cost you around $60 per adult. The price does not include any daily equipment rental rates, which start from $5 for mask, snorkel and fins.
Is it safe to snorkel in the Florida Keys?
Snorkeling trips are usually considered as safe and definitely less dangerous than diving. Having said that, you should always be careful as you can easily injure yourself on sharp coral or rocks.
Pompano Beach Drop Off
Pompano Beach Drop Off | By Denis Moskvinov
The Pompano Beach Drop Off is a renowned diving and snorkel place in Miami for its proximity to world-class reef dives and wrecks. It is known as the Wreck Capital of Florida because most of its wreck dives are in Hillsboro Inlet.
The Drop Off is famous for having calm waters with little to zero currents. This factor makes it an ideal location for snorkeling in Miami.
It covers about 25 mooring buoys like Copenhagen and the Nursery. The Copenhagen Archaeological Preserve lies on the south end of the reef and is between the third and fifth buoy. Undercut holes and ledges are on the north end of the reef. The reef stretches over one mile in length.
The snorkel site is about four hundred yards from the shoreline. Its depth is between 15 26 feet.
It has abundant marine life and coral species.
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