With it’s warm, calm waters snorkeling is one of Floridas most popular outdoor activities.
The best snorkelling in Florida can be found in the Florida Keys, but there are some notable exceptions dotted around the sunshine state.
The state’s 1,350 nautical miles of shoreline, (the longest of any state), offers thousands of beautiful areas for snorkeling, like freshwater springs, caves, rivers and lively coral reefs.
It truly is a paradise for snorkelers.
With its numerous natural sources of water and many rivers, the most difficult thing about snorkeling in Florida is simply choosing where to go!
So in order to help you out on your snorkeling quest, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 best places to snorkel in Florida.
Check it out!
1 John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park & Cannon Beach
For the very best snorkeling in Key Largo head to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
It was the very first undersea park created in the USA, and at 25 miles in length and extending 3 miles into the Atlantic ocean, there are tons of water related activities to enjoy
The coral reef that is located here is the only living coral reef with the continental US, making snorkeling at Pennekamp Park some of the most exciting and memorable.
The best snorkeling at John Pennekamp is on the coral reef located just off shore, and is therefore best accessed via boat tour.
Snorkel tours depart several times per day and you can rent your snorkeling equipment at an extra charge (but we always recommend you invest in your own snorkel gear!).
When snorkeling the reef you can expect to see eels, rays, turtles, grouper, parrotfish, some really vibrant healthy corals and much more!
Snorkeling Cannon Beach, which is also located within the Pennekamp State Park, is extremely popular as well.
Cannon beaches mostly peacefully calm waters are perfect for families.
Only 100 feet off shore you can explore the remains of an early Spanish shipwreck (complete with cannons), and you can also visit the hugely popular Christ of The Abyss sculpture.
This underwater bronze statue of Christ is almost 9 feet tall and weighs 4000lbs!
It lies around 20 feet deep which is somewhat deep for snorkeling, but it is still well visible from the surface. Underwater weddings are also really popular here!
Other activities that you can enjoy at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park are; canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, swimming, scuba diving and wildlife viewing
2 Dry Tortugas National Park
At the westernmost extent of the Florida Keys lies Dry Tortugas National Park.
A remote group of seven islands that are located about 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas is only accessible by boat or seaplane.
This historic site is home to Fort Jefferson, a massive coastal fortress which is eclipsed only in size by by Fort Monroe (VA), and Fort Adams (RI).
The reefs here are simply beautiful, and largely undisturbed. It’s very vibrant and healthy coral reefs are home to a vast abundance of marine life.
The combination of pristine reefs and large amount of marine life to see makes Dry Tortugas the best snorkeling in Key West.
The price of entry to Dry Tortugas ($190 dollars per adult) along with the 2 hour boat trip can be a little too much for some, but the reward for making this trip is absolutely worth it!
Other activities that can be enjoyed at Dry Tortugas National park are scuba diving, fishing, kayaking and camping.
If you are interested in camping overnight at Dry Tortugas then you need to book early as spaces are very limited (also due to the remote location there are requirements that need to be followed).
Bird watching is also extremely popular here as the site is a popular breeding ground for tropical birds, and many migratory birds also pass through here.
3 Phil Foster Park/Blue Heron Bridge
Located in Riviera Beach (toward the South east coast of Florida, in Palm Beach County) is Phil Foster Park.
Right next to the Blue Heron Bridge lies one of the best places to snorkel in Florida.
This area is known for it’s amazing snorkeling and diving, thanks to the large amounts of different marine species that can be seen here.
The reef is actually an artificial man made reef, which consists of limestone boulders and prefabricated reef modules. There are also underwater shark sculptures!
This amazing snorkel trail is located about 200 feet off shore and spans an entire two acre area underwater.
In total the snorkel trail is around 800 feet long giving you plenty to explore!
The relativity shallow water here (averaging between 6 to 10 feet deep), stays pretty clear and the beach is overlooked by a lifeguard making it great for families and snorkelers or all ages.
The park provides free admission and there is also free parking on site. Spaces can fill up quickly, (especially on the weekends) so ensure you get here early to avoid disappointment.
Whilst exploring Phil Foster Park you can expect to find; starfish, squid, octopus, spotted rays and tons of tropical fish. All in all over 300 different species have been observed here!
4 Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is a fantastic day trip for those staying in and around the Miami area.
Head to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center (a one hour drive from South Beach) and hop on one of the many boat tours available and experience some of the best snorkeling Florida has to offer!
These snorkeling tours offer the chance to explore some of the parks many shipwrecks, beautiful mangroves, and the northernmost part of the park contains the Florida Reef (the third largest coral reef in the world, and the only living barrier reef on the continental US).
As part of the Maritime Heritage Trail, you will also experience the only underwater archaeological trail in the National Park Service system!
The pristine reefs in this region offer some of very best snorkeling in Florida, and provide the opportunity to see a huge amount of exciting marine life.
Biscayne National parks roughly 170,000 acres are mostly submerged habitats, where you will get the opportunity to see things like; manatees, sea turtles, large amounts of tropical fish and crustaceans.
5 Peanut Island
The second Riviera Beach snorkel spot that makes our list is Peanut Island, which is literally just south of Blue Heron Bridge.
Peanut Island isn’t accessible by car, so either you will need to grab a sea taxi for a small charge, or, you can even kayak across to it (which takes about 10 minutes).
The walk from Blue Heron to the marina where you can hop on a boat is only 15 minutes so you could quite easily hit both of these snorkeling spots within the same day!
On the South side of this small man made island is a lagoon that is perfect for snorkeling. The water is very clear and shallow making it perfect for families with younger children or novice snorkelers to enjoy.
The rocky shoreline here attracts a ton of marine life as it creates the perfect hiding place for them.
You can also see lots of tropical fish like parrotfish, angelfish, starfish, barracuda, and often manatees can be spotted seeking shelter here in the winter months!
Whilst you’re on Peanut Island you can also enjoy a the beautiful 1.25 mile walking trail around it, and bring a picnic with you to enjoy whilst you’re here.
You can also bring your camping gear and stay overnight (up to 3 nights), but there are only 17 camping plots so ensure you book way in advance!
6 Coral Cove
Located in Tequesta, Coral Cove is another West Palm Beach snorkeling gem!
The natural limestone rock and coral reefs within Coral Cove are filled with lots of marine life, and when the water is calm then the water is extremely clear.
The beach at Coral Cove is a joy to explore in itself as well.
It’s quite rocky in some areas, but this is great beach for collecting sea shells as there are an absolute ton of them here. (But definitely bring some water shoes to be protect your feet!).
There is plenty of beach coastline to explore with lifeguards keeping watch. The reef is also pretty close to the shore making Coral Cove Park an excellent spot for all ages and snorkelers to enjoy comfortably.
Whilst snorkeling Coral Cove Park you can expect to see things like; sea turtles, eels, lots of tropical fish and possibly even a seahorse or two!
There are plenty of amenities here as well. There are picnic tables and grills, restrooms and showers, and a playground too, making Coral Cove a great place to spend the entire day.
7 Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda, one of the Sunshine State’s most southernmost parks is worth visiting for many reasons.
It’s small but stunning natural beaches (the only natural beaches in the Florida Keys) make for a great day of relaxation and serenity.
The calm and peaceful waters at Bahia Honda are lovely for swimming and relaxing, but actually don’t provide anything impressive in the way of snorkeling.
The best snorkeling is actually via boat trip to the Looe Key Reef offshore, where some of the very best snorkeling in Florida can be experienced!
When the water is more on the calm side then the water clarity here is simply amazing, and you can spot LOTS of marine life such as; parrotfish, surgeonfish, barracuda, angelfish, grunts, goliath grouper, eels (& more)!
Bahia Honda State Park also allows camping, scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, bird watching and bicycling so you will not be short on things to do here!
Just be aware that if you are hoping to camp here, the limited amount of camping spots fill out ridiculously quickly, and usually months in advance!
8 John D MacArthur
John D MacArthur State Park is a popular 1.6 mile stretch of beach located in North Palm Beach.
The only state park in Palm Beach County, MacArthur state park provides lots of beauty and wildlife no matter which activity you choose to do here.
This beautiful expansive beach offers guests a ton of exciting activities both above and below the water, such as: snorkeling, diving, hiking, kayaking, fishing, picnicking and paddleboarding.
One of the reasons this state park is so good, and so popular for snorkeling is that the reef is only a very short swim, right off the beach, unlike other Florida snorkel spots that may require a long swim or even a boat ride to get there.
The reef here plays home to various tropical fish species, and whilst snorkeling John D MacArthur you can expect to see things like; Sergeant majors, grunts, squid, tarpon, shrimp, crabs, lobster, turtles, the occasional ray & more.
9 Crystal River
Crystal River lies on the West coast of Florida, around 80 miles north of Tampa (about an hours drive).
The Springs offer a comfortable year round temperature for snorkeling, and is one of the only places where you can have the opportunity to snorkel with manatees!
The best way to experience snorkeling with manatees at Crystal River is to book through one of the many tour operators in the area who will take you directly to the best spots, and you can enter the water directly from the boat.
The depth is a comfortable 5 – 12 feet and are pretty much always crystal clear. Combined with a year round water temperature of 72-ish degrees and it makes this a very popular snorkel spot at any time of the year.
Whilst the manatees are present year round the largest numbers can be seen in the winter months as the manatees seek refuge in the warm spring waters.
Occasionally access to the springs may be closed off to swimmers during this time if the number of manatees in the area is particularly high.
Located along Florida’s panhandle is Destin – home to some of Florida’s best snorkeling spots!
Henderson Beach State Park is one such snorkel spot which boasts crystal clear water and a long unspoiled white sandy beach that’s perfect for snorkeling.
Norriego Point, East Pass and the Destin Jetty which are all close to one another are very popular places to go snorkeling.
The Jetties themselves basically serve as artificial reefs which are home to an abundance of sea life, and you can see things like Octopus, various crustaceans, barracuda,
The Emerald coast, with it’s beautiful emerald green waters certainly isn’t short of amazing spots to choose from.
Best Time To Go Snorkeling In Florida
Florida’s vast amount of shoreline and subtropical climate means there a lots of snorkel spots, and they’re all pretty much great for exploring year round!
During the summer months in Florida the temperatures average around 91F/33C on land, and the ocean temperature around 82F/28c, providing excellent conditions for snorkeling.
But even during the winter months Florida generally experiences somewhat mild temperatures which make it a top winter destination for many.
The temperatures during winter are a daily average of around 70F/21.5C, and the sea temperature around 69-75 degrees.
This is somewhat chilly but it’s nothing that a wetsuit won’t comfortably protect you from!
Overall, the Sunshine State’s a perfect place for beginners and more advanced water lovers, and provide you a wide range of different places to explore like coral reefs, freshwater springs or really interesting cave systems.
Marine Life In Florida
Snorkeling in Florida offers of the opportunity to see an abundance of tropical fish and other species such as;
- Crustaceans & more!
Florida’s thousands of miles of coastline offer snorkel lovers a ton of exciting opportunities for an aquatic adventure.
The best snorkeling spots in Florida are generally in the Florida Keys and Key Largo, but no matter where you plan on visiting you’re almost guaranteed to have some amazing snorkeling on offer close by.
I hope you enjoyed our guide to the best snorkeling in Florida! Why not check out our other destination guides too