- Top 10 Snorkeling Spots in Florida
- 1. Sombrero Reef, Marathon
- 2. Biscayne National Park, Miami Area
- 3. Peanut Island, West Palm Beach
- 4. Regina Underwater Preserve, Bradenton Beach
- 5. Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo
- 6. Dry Tortugas National Park, Off Key West
- 7. Red Reef Park, Boca Raton
- 8. Shell Island, Panama City Beach
- 9. Sanibel Island, Cape Coral
- 10. Ginnie Springs, High Springs
- A Few Other Snorkeling Spots Worthy of Mention
- Wrap Up
Have you ever wanted to swim with gentle sharks? Have you dreamed of exploring the wreckage of a sunken trade ship? Would you like to come face to face with an underwater, historical statue? Look no further than Florida!
Whether you want a guided adventure or a leisurely swim with the manatees, snorkeling in Florida is a nature lover’s dream come true. We’ve put together a list of the top 10 snorkeling spots in Florida. Book your flight; your adventure awaits!
Top 10 Snorkeling Spots in Florida
There are plenty of water activities in Florida, but check out our top recommendations for the best snorkeling spots.
You’ll need to hitch a ride to Sombrero Reef from Marathon, as it’s located eight miles offshore from Sombrero Beach. Don’t worry, though; there are plenty of charters available in Marathon, Florida, where the beach is located.
Why is Sombrero Reef one of the best snorkeling spots in Florida? First, it’s the third biggest barrier reef in the world. The coral reef spans 30 acres of gorgeous natural topography. Sea fans, plumes, and sponges are home to barracuda, damselfish, and more.
Secondly, Sombrero Reef is just a great place to take the family. The snorkeling is second to none, with plenty of wildlife to observe and enjoy, but you’ll have to come up for air at some point! When you do, Sombrero Beach boasts white sands, clear water, and picnic pavilions.
Biscayne National Park is an incredible place in Florida for snorkeling. The park is 95 percent underwater, and when you snorkel here, you’ll uncover some important maritime history. Namely, there are six shipwrecks along the Maritime Heritage Trail; these ships date back to 1878, and you can visit each of them on a three-hour guided tour.
If you’re really just in it for the wildlife, Biscayne National Park can deliver. Loggerhead turtles, lobster, moray eel, angelfish, and parrotfish are just a few of the species you’ll find offshore. Note that there is no access to the reefs from the land; you’ll have to launch or charter a boat.
When you’re ready for dry land, check out the walking trails and be sure to visit the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. This center features a museum and gallery, and your kids can earn a junior ranger badge.
We’ve included Peanut Island on our list of the best snorkeling spots in Florida in part because it’s so accessible. Take a short shuttle or water taxi ride from West Palm Beach to Peanut Island, then enjoy a full day – or weekend – in the 80-acre park. Camping is permitted on this human-made island.
Peanut Island is excellent for beginner snorkelers. Kids will feel comfortable trying their hand at snorkeling in the shallow lagoon to the southeast. More experienced snorkelers will love the breakwaters, home to lobsters, crabs, tarpon, and, of course, coral.
Peanut Island is the year-round home to manatees, and these gentle giants frequently visit the snorkeling-accessible areas. Alternatively, you can spot these animals from the island’s mangrove boardwalk.
We would be seriously remiss if we didn’t mention that the Gulf Coast of Florida hosts some exciting snorkeling spots. In 1940, a large sugar barge, the Regina, sank during an unexpected storm off Bradenton Beach’s coast. Today, visitors can explore what remains of the massive vessel.
Guests to Bradenton Beach will love that the “Sugar Wreck” is just 200 feet from the shore. That means that even inexperienced snorkelers can access the shipwreck easily, right from the beach. In fact, visitors can pick up a laminated tour guide; no professional guide is necessary.
While you’re exploring the Regina, keep an eye out for dolphins, manatees, sponges, and small baitfish. The water is clear, and visibility is high, so bring your waterproof camera. Over the years, the ship has largely corroded, but there’s still plenty to explore and photograph, especially at low tide.
The Christ of the Abyss statue off Key Largo is a Florida snorkeling must-see. This nine-foot statue was lowered into the seaward side waters off Key Largo in 1965; today, it’s one of the most visited attractions in the Key Largo area.
The head of the statue is submersed around eight feet of water. To get up close and personal with Christ of the Abyss, you’ll need SCUBA gear. However, even snorkelers will be able to see and photograph the iconic structure.
While you’re snorkeling, be on the lookout for barracuda, rays, and other sea creatures. To maximize your adventurer, consider booking one of the local guided tours. You’ll visit many spots and will have the opportunity to spot other species.
About 70 miles west of Key West is the Dry Tortugas National Park. The park is one of the best snorkeling spots in Florida, but adventure awaits for landlubbers, too. Dry Tortugas National Park covers 100 square miles; most of that is water. But the seven tiny islands are as much a treat to explore as the sea.
We promised you the opportunity to snorkel with gentle sharks. Dry Tortugas National Pork is home to the docile nurse shark. While it’s best to keep your distance, you can easily observe the creatures in relatively close proximity.
As for the structural wonders of the Dry Tortugas National Park, snorkel your way over to the moat wall and the coaling pier pilings. Then, above water, explore Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century fortified harbor.
If you’d like your snorkeling adventure to be a part of a bigger trip, Red Reef Park in Boca Raton is an excellent option. You’ll revel in the prime snorkeling here, then have the opportunity to discover all that the Boca Raton area has to offer.
As with most of Florida’s parks, you’ll pay a per-car fee to enter, but the park is open for long hours, so you’re only really paying a dollar or two each hour to park. Red Reef Park features a human-made reef that’s close to the beach; even inexperienced snorkelers will have a blast here!
When you’re done viewing eel, barracuda, snook, and bonefish, there’s plenty to explore on the mainland. Golf, shopping, parks, nature centers, and luxury resorts pepper the Boca Raton map. There’s truly something for everyone here!
The next hot snorkeling spot on our list is Shell Island. Shell Island and Panama City Beach are located on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s northwestern part. To get there, first access St. Andrews State Park for a small per-person or per-vehicle fee. Then, take the Shell Island Shuttle to Shell Island.
Shell Island is seven miles long and features 700 acres of undeveloped nature. In the water, snorkelers can spot crabs, rays, and even sea turtles. Many visitors to Shell Island will also spot dolphins, both up close and from a distance.
You can skip the expense of the shuttle and bring your own boat to Shell Island. Alternatively, while the island is best for snorkeling, you can snorkel right along the beach at St. Andrews. Equipment is available for rent on the property.
(You might be interested in reading our article on Best Snorkeling Spots in Mexico)
If you’re traveling light on your trip to Florida, Sanibel Island is another of the best snorkeling spots in Florida. Snorkeling equipment is available to rent at most hotels, or you can visit one of the numerous surf or beach shops on the island or in nearby Cape Coral.
Artificial reefs near the coastline of Sanibel are home to manatees and dolphins, as well as tarpon, snook, and nurse shark. You don’t necessarily need a boat to get you to the good spots; you can snorkel from the beach. However, boat charters are abundant on the island, so feel free to explore further offshore.
Sanibel Island is quite family-friendly. When your day on the beach is over, you’ll find yourself with many options for lodging, dining, and shopping.
Who said the best snorkeling in Florida was in the ocean? You can have just as much fun snorkeling in freshwater; just take a look at Ginnie Springs in High Springs, Florida. Ginnie Springs is a private campground, but you can purchase admission for a day.
There are three dive sites at Ginnie Springs: Devil’s Spring System, Ginnie Ballroom, and the Santa Fe River. While you may not view as many living fish and other creatures at the first two of these dive sites, the river views are amazing. For even more adventure, rent SCUBA gear and explore the underwater caves and tunnels.
If you choose to camp at Ginnie Springs, you can choose from primitive tent sites or RV sites with water and electricity. Either way, you’ll enjoy access to tubing, paddleboarding, canoeing, and kayaking.
A Few Other Snorkeling Spots Worthy of Mention
We’ve covered the top ten best snorkeling spots in Florida, but there are a few more that are worth a mention:
- Devil’s Den, Williston
- Norriego Point, Destin
- Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach
(Read our article on other Snorkeling Spots in Florida)
If you’re looking for some underwater adventure, look no further than the Sunshine State. Some of the best snorkeling spots in the United States are in beautiful Florida. Pack your gear, book your flight, and take off to the American south – you won’t regret it!