Where to go snorkelling in Florida

by Catalin Andries on September 25, 2019

There’s tonnes of snorkelling to be done in Florida, and this section will cover everywhere but Destin and the Florida Keys. Head to their sections to read about the best snorkeling spots in each of those areas!

For those who are wanting to avoid the crowds of South Florida, the best place to snorkel is in the Gulf of Mexico, where you’ll find less people and cooler waters. Also known as the ‘Emerald Coast’, you can bet there’ll be crystal clear turquoise waters for awesome snorkelling.

Fish in Florida:

  • Angelfish, Ballyhoo, Barracuda, Crabs, Dolphins, Frogfish, Grunts, Lobster, Manatees, Pufferfish, Sea turtles, Seahorses, Stingrays, Urchins, and more.

Corals in Florida:

  • Clubbed Fingers, Common Brains, Elliptical Stars, Golfballs, Ivory Bush, Lettuce Coral, Massive Starlets, Mustard Hills, Sea Fans, Smooth Starlets, Staghorns, and more.

Best places to snorkel in Florida

Blue Heron Bridge, Phil Foster Snorkel Trail

Where: Riviera Beach
Details: This is a crystal-clear patch of water that’s always been a favourite amongst snorkelers – and now even more so thanks to a 240-metre long man-made reef and snorkelling trail that now exists just a few metres away from the beach. Super beginner-friendly, the waters here are calm and shallow with lifeguards available. Expect to see all kinds of rare and exotic marine life, from frogfish to seahorses and octopus!

Information:

  • You can usually snorkel here when the weather isn’t great in other spots,
  • Be sure to snorkel here during high tide when conditions are calmer and visibility is at its peak.
  • There are two bridges to dive from – one on the west and one on the east. Both offer different opportunities to view sea and coral life so try them both!

Facilities:

  • Parking is available but fills up fast,
  • Bathrooms, picnic, and BBQ areas on-site,
  • Dive shops with snorkel hire available.

Devil’s Den Spring

Where: Williston
Details: How about snorkelling deep inside a prehistoric cave? This sinkhole is a breathtaking spot that you don’t get to see just anywhere. Draped with fernery and plantlife with fossils of ancient fish embedded within the rocks, this is a truly unique snorkel site. Dive underwater and you’ll discover a series of tunnels brimming with numerous schools of fish.

Information:

  • Children under 6 years old are not allowed to access Devil’s Den.
  • Snorkelling equipment is easily available for hire at the site, 7 days a week.
  • There is an admission fee of $15 Monday-Friday and $20 on weekends/holidays.

John D. MacArthur Beach

Where: North Palm Beach
Details: A classic Floridian rock reef, this state park has plenty of beautiful sealife to explore from near the shore. You’ll find everything from sea turtles and stingrays to large groups of fish, with beautiful large rock formations that are just as nice to look at. Best of all, the beach is so long and expansive that you’ll feel truly in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature only.

Information:

  • Reach the beach by walking or taking a tram over the long boardwalk across the lagoon. It’s quite the distance, so trams are recommended for older or younger snorkellers.
  • Always check the conditions before you head out, as visibility can be very poor if conditions aren’t right. If the surf is high, forget snorkelling here today.
  • Be aware that there are no lifeguards available, so if you’re planning on taking little ones it might not be the best idea.

Red Reef Park

Where: Boca Raton
Details: This gem of a spot has an extensive natural coral reef that lies just off the shore in shallow waters. The reef grows off a series of red coral rocks which are teeming with sea and plant life. You’ll find many species of fish here, and maybe even barracuda.

Information:

  • Check out weather conditions before heading out, as the reef can sometimes be covered by sand offering zero visibility.
  • There’s plenty of shade in the park, with tables and shelters making it an ideal spot to spend the day.

Sanibel Island

Where: Lee County
Details: These artificial reefs are an amazing spot for snorkelers who love to explore wrecks, man-made reefs, and shells. Edison Reef sits on the rubble of an old bridge, Belton Johnson Reef is built over concrete, and Pegasus/Charlie’s Reef is a beautiful display over an old tugboat, crawling with barracuda, nurse sharks, amberjacks, moray eels, and cobias. While you’re here, go for a walk along the famous shelling beaches and discover lots of beautiful shells in pristine condition.

Information:

  • Edison Reef is located 15 nautical miles from Sanibel Island Lighthouse, with depths of about 13 metres. Belton Johnson Reef can be accessed from Bowman’s Beach, just 5 nautical miles off the coast. You’ll find Pegasus/Charlie’s Reef 45 km west of Red Fish Pass.
  • Sanibel Island is just a 45 minute drive from the mainland of Florida, with the nearest airport at Fort Myers.

Sebastian Inlet

Where: Melbourne Beach
Details: Here you can find a shallow water lagoon that makes a great snorkel spot for beginners and kids, while the inlet is better for more advanced snorkelers due to the current. Pro-snorkellers can check out the Snorkel Monster Hole, which about 6-9 metres deep and located 30 metres or so from the jetty. The waters here are warm and the jetty juts out far into the ocean, where you might be lucky enough to see the rare manatee or dolphin.

Information:

  • When snorkelling at Sebastian Inlet you’re required to be within 30 metres from a dive flag.

Twin Ledges

Where: Fort Lauderdale
Details: This spectacular reef is just off the shores of popular Fort Lauderdale and crawling with corals, crevices, and brightly coloured sea life. Visibility is extremely high and on a good day you can expect to see French angelfish, pufferfish, lobster, and vibrant coral.

Information:

  • Although the coral reef is only about 400 metres from shore, you will need a boat to reach it. There are many snorkel tours available with both glass bottom and regular boats.

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