The Greatest Places for Snorkeling in Florida

With over a thousand miles of coastline and coral reef plus national and state parks, Florida is one of the world’s top snorkeling destinations. Whether you want to snorkel near the beach or venture out onto the water by boat, you’ll find fantastic snorkeling in Florida. 

Beginners and experienced snorkelers alike will enjoy exploring Florida’s calm warm waters. If you’re ready to set out on a snorkeling adventure in Florida, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we list the top 10 snorkeling spots in Florida. 

Top 10 Snorkeling Spots in Florida

Here are the top 10 snorkeling places worth exploring.

1. Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West

Featuring crystal clear blue water, Fort Zachary Taylor is Key West’s hidden snorkeling gems. The waters surrounding this state park lie at the intersection of the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean. The waters off Fort Zachary are teeming with marine life with a rocky bottom, making it an ideal place to see tropical fish and live coral reefs while snorkeling. 

Snorkeling at Fort Zachary Taylor is suitable for beginners and experienced snorkelers. If you take a break from snorkeling you can tour the historic fort, get a bite to eat, or explore the park’s nature trails. Fort Zachary is an excellent location to witness the famous Key West sunset without the crowds. 

2. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Crystal River 

Located in Western Florida, swimming with manatees in crystal clear water is what draws many snorkelers to the Crystal River. Hundreds of manatees move to the Crystal River’s warm waters when temperatures drop in the Gulf of Mexico. Three Sisters Springs in the center of Crystal River is the only place you can legally swim with manatees in Florida. 

Swimming with the manatees is a memorable experience. The water’s spectacular visibility allows you to get unimpaired views of these gentle giants that weigh in at up to 1200 pounds. Morning is the best time for snorkeling with the manatees at Crystal River.

(You might be interested in reading our article on Best Snorkeling Spots in Mexico)

3. Bathtub Reef Beach, Stuart 

Popular with snorkelers and scuba divers, tiny tube-building marine worms created the Bathtub Reef. The reef’s name comes from the oval-shaped reef that resembles a bathtub and collects a large body of shallow water at low tide. Bathtub Reef’s balmy waters make exploring this unique reef system an enjoyable year-round experience. 

While snorkeling in Bathtub Reef beach waters, you’ll see tropical fish, lobsters, groupers, and sea urchins. You may even see the colorful parrotfish moving around the reef. If you venture out a bit further, you can explore Georges Valentine shipwreck. The shipwreck has abundant marine life, including angelfish, kingfeel, eel, sharks, and more. 

4. Cannon Beach, Key Largo 

Located in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Cannon Beach in Key Largo combines history with stunning underwater views. Cannon Beach’s name comes from the Spanish shipwreck found 100 miles from its shores. It’s one of Key Largo’s most popular beaches and worth visiting if you’re in the area. 

The calm and shallow waters off Cannon Beach feature abundant marine life, making it an ideal snorkeling destination. You can explore centuries old artifacts while enjoying views of tropical fish, crabs, shrimp, and other wildlife. The beach is a great family destination, and children of all ages can enjoy its waters. 

5. Dry Tortugas National Park

Offering some of the best snorkeling in North America, Dry Tortugas National Park is suitable for expert and novice snorkelers. Located 70 miles from Key West and the Florida Keys, this snorkeling destination is only accessible by ferry or seaplane. The pristine waters surrounding Fort Jefferson feature scores of tropical fish and coral reef. 

The park features white sand beaches with water ranging from 5 to 15 feet deep. Nature lovers will enjoy exploring marine life in the waters off the beach, where you can swim with the marine animals that inhabit the reef. You may even come across stingrays or find shark teeth as you explore the waters at this national park.

6. Phil Foster Park, Riviera Beach

If you’re looking for an underwater adventure, Phil Foster Park in Florida’s Palm Beach County belongs on your list. The 14.65 acre park features a 200 feet snorkeling trail, making it a prime location for exploring Florida’s marine life. The park’s artificial reef that’s home to over 300 unique marine species. 

Among the sea animals you may encounter while snorkeling at the park are sea stars, octopus, and seahorses. You won’t only see marine animals while exploring the park’s snorkeling trail. The trail also includes small shipwrecks, shopping carts and three hammerhead shark statues. The water is shallow, ranging from between 6 and ten feet. 

7. Red Reef Park, Boca Raton

You’ll find Red Reef Park between South Beach Park and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. The park features saltwater snorkeling on a man-made reef located close to the shores, making it an excellent snorkeling spot for snorkelers of all levels. Eels, snooks, barracudas, sea turtles, stingrays, and many other tropical species inhabit the reef at Red Reef Park. 

The reef also hosts colorful vegetation, including sponges, sea plants, and coral. One could easily spend a day exploring all the undersea water animals and plants Red Reef Park offers. The water is shallow, only reaching 10 feet at its deepest. There’s also 40 acres to explore, so you’re sure to have an enjoyable time. 

8. St. Andrews State Park, Panama City

Located in Northwest Florida, St. Andrews State Park is a 1200-acre park with some of the best snorkeling in the area. The park’s extensive shoreline and rock jetty offers snorkelers an opportunity to explore and study the area’s marine life. The jetty acts as an artificial reef, attracting various sea life, including crabs, stingrays, and tropical fish. 

If you get lucky, as you snorkel towards the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you may catch a glimpse of a sea turtle or bottlenose dolphin. When you need a break, you can relax on the white sandy beaches that surround the park.

9. Bahia Honda State Park

One of Florida’s most scenic state parks, the 500-acre Bahia Honda State Park is one of the best places for offshore snorkeling in Florida. If you’re ready for an underwater adventure, this park has a lot to offer. There are no corals near the beach, but there is a lot of marine life swimming in the park’s shallow waters. 

If you swim further out towards the soft and hard corals, you’ll encounter various species of marine life, including barracudas, turtles, sponges, octopuses, bonefish, and more. The park features picturesque white sandy beaches and Elkhorn corals. It’s an excellent destination for snorkelers of all levels. 

10. Biscayne National Park

Located close to Miami, this Biscayne National Park is only accessible by ferry or seaplane. A great getaway from Miami’s hustle and Bustle, this park is an excellent day trip while visiting the big city. There’s a lot to explore at this national park, including shipwrecks, mangrove habitats, and coral reefs. 

The Biscayne National Park Institute offers guided snorkeling tours, or you can set out on your own. Your snorkeling adventure will include clear beautiful water and various marine wildlife, including rays, dolphins, and sea turtles. 

A Few Other Snorkeling Spots in Florida Worthy of Mention

Not all of the great snorkeling spots in Florida made our top ten list. There are several more snorkeling destinations where you can explore caves, exotic marine life, vibrant reefs, and prehistoric fossils. 

  • Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring: If you’d like a snorkeling adventure that takes you back in time, privately-owned Devil’s Den is worth checking out.
  • John D. MacArthur Beach State Park: Snorkelers can access the park’s small reef directly from the beach. 
  • Sombrero Beach: Located within the Florida Keys, Sombrero beach is a great place to launch your next snorkeling adventure. 
  • Destin: Located on Florida’s Emerald Coast, Destin is famous for its beautiful sparkling emerald waters and white sand beaches. 
  • Siesta Key Beach – Point of Rocks: If you’re in the Gulf Coast region, Point of Rocks is one of the few places with outstanding snorkeling. 

(Check our article on some other Best Snorkeling Destinations in Florida)

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a beginner or expert snorkeler, Florida’s diverse aquatic life is worth exploring. There are many ways to enjoy Florida’s waters. You can take a ferry or seaplane to an offshore location to snorkel along some of the world’s more awe-inspiring coral reefs. Or you can stay close to the shore, exploring the sea-life close to Florida’s beautiful beaches. 

If you want to travel back in history, you can explore the prehistoric remains of extinct animals. There are parks boasting almost miles of shoreline along the Atlantic ocean with unusual rocky outcroppings protecting a large variety of sea life. If you’re looking for tranquility, exploring crystal clear turquoise waters may be more your speed. 

Whatever you decide, you’re sure to have a fantastic underwater adventure snorkeling in Florida. Florida’s temperate climate means you can enjoy snorkeling in the Sunshine State almost year-round. There are many snorkeling adventures awaiting you in Florida. 

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