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Snorkeling in Florida: Best Snorkeling Beaches and Spots

The best snorkeling beaches in Florida have calm, clear water, and something interesting to look at within a short swimming distance from the beach. Rocks or a hard scrabble bottom with corals, sponges and sea fans make the best snorkeling because they provide habitat for all kinds of marine life like crabs, fish and shells.

Calm water is preferred. Calm water is usually clearer than rough water and its definitely easier to breathe through a snorkel in calmer water. Rough water will bang you into rocks or pier pilings or any other solid object near you. It's also easier to stay in one place to observe marine life when the water is calm.

Clear water is essential. What good is a mask if the water is so full of sediment and suspended particles that you can't see three feet past the end of your nose? And we all want something interesting to look at. Staring at a white sandy bottom gets boring after a short while. Rocks, sea grasses and coral make the most interesting snorkeling. These environments attract all kinds of fish species that we love to see. Old pilings are good attractors of marine life as are old shipwrecks.

You can snorkel from most any beach in Florida, but you'll have more fun if you pick the beaches with the best snorkeling potential. I have not snorkeled at all of these spots. The purpose of these snorkeling pages is to bring together the best information I can find and to link to it to make your internet research easier and less time consuming.

If you are seriously into snorkeling and have high expectations of clear, warm water with lots of corals and tropical fish, you only have one real choice: the Florida Keys. The best snorkeling in the Florida Keys takes place several miles offshore on the coral reefs, so you'll need to take a snorkeling charter (unless you have your own boat and have experience boating and snorkeling around coral reefs.)

There are very good snorkeling beaches in the Florida panhandle and on the southeast (Atlantic) coast. There are a few interesting snorkeling locations on the southwest coast beaches.

What is the best time of year for snorkeling in Florida? Most people prefer the warmer months. The water can get pretty chilly in Florida during the winter months, especially north of Tampa Bay on the Gulf side, and north of Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic side. See the average water temperatures in Florida, by month, for the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Cautions:

  • Diving near or in passes (inlets) should only be done on slack tides, usually an hour or two before high tide. Always check with local dive shops for the do's and don'ts of a particular inlet jetty.
  • Snorkeling off the beach when the surf is up can expose you to rip currents.
  • Snorkeling around a jetty or near a pier can result in you being hooked by a fisherman.
  • Snorkeling where there is boating traffic or jet-ski traffic could result in your untimely death.
  • Always use a dive flag when you are snorkeling (unless you are in a safe swimming area just a few feet off the beach).
  • The sea is not a swimming pool. Conditions change from day to day, even hour to hour. Just because you have warm clear water one day is no guarantee that it will be the same the next time. Fish come and go.
  • Be aware of jellyfish in the water. If you see a lot of jellyfish on the beach, there are probably a lot in the water as well.

 

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This list of snorkeling beaches focuses on spots that are within two hundred feet or less of the beach. Following are popular snorkeling spots that are easily accessible from the beach:

 

Snorkeling in the Florida Panhandle

Fort Pickens Jetties & Pensacola Beach

Destin Inlet Jetty (East Jetty)

St. Andrews Jetties

 

Snorkeling Spots in Southwest Florida

Egmont Key

Sugar Barge (Regina), Bradenton Beach

Point-of-Rocks, Siesta Key

Venice Beach

 

 

Southeast Florida Snorkeling Spots

Other than the Keys, the southeast coast of Florida offers the most snorkeling opportunities. Rock reefs run parallel to the coast at varying distances from shore. In some areas the rocks are just a short swim from the beach. Coral reefs begin to thrive in the warm waters around Miami. Here are some of the best and easiest snorkeling spots to access:

Sebastian Inlet State Park

Bathtub Reef Park, Stuart

Red Reef Park, Boca Raton

Datura Avenue Shipwreck Snorkel Trail, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, Dania

Peanut Island

Biscayne National Park