Vacationers and snorkeling enthusiasts alike need to know the 10 best beaches for snorkeling in Florida. The Sunshine State has miles of coastline and is known for its calm, clear emerald waters; and the Florida Keys offers the only living-coral barrier reef in the United States, making it a snorkeler’s haven.
- Florida Keys—Biscayne Bay. Biscayne National Park is the only underwater park in America, making it the perfect snorkeling location. Daily snorkel trips are offered starting from nearby Black Point Marina. Snorkeling enthusiasts can explore shipwrecks and fish bejeweled coral reefs. Visitors also can get a guided glass-bottom boat tour, explore by canoe, or scuba dive.
- Florida Keys—Dry Tortugas National Park. The Dry Tortugas lie at the farthest end of the Florida Keys, near Cuba. There is a designated snorkel area near the park’s campground; snorkeling is recommended along the moat’s outside wall or around certain pilings. The rest of the coral reef outside this moat is protected from snorkeling and swimming.
- Middle Keys—Marathon and Key Colony Beach. There are 30 to 40 good dive sites around Marathon. Sombrero Reef Marine Sanctuary is a 30-acre coral reef with depths from two to 30 feet. It is part of the third-largest barrier reef in the world.
- Lower Keys—Big Pine. Looe Key Marine Sanctuary is located about five miles off Big Pine Key. Its protected reefs hold around 150 species of fish and 50 kinds of coral formations. About three miles west, a 210-foot intentionally sunken wreck called the Adolphus Busch forms an artificial reef for exploration.
- Key Largo—John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The park offers two-and-a-half-hour snorkeling tours of its living, shallow-water coral reefs. All fishing is prohibited and the area’s ocean life is known for being accustomed to scuba divers and snorkelers.
- Key Largo—Key Largo Dry Rocks. This inner bank reef is close to the shore. Its calm, clear waters make it one of the most visited locations in the Sanctuary Preservation Area. The most interesting underwater attraction in the reef is “Christ of the Deep,” a nine-foot bronze statue sunk 25 feet deep in 1966.
- Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola Beach. Popular sites to snorkel include the jetties at the northwest corner of Fort Pickens; ” Sport,” the 1906 tugboat wreck; and the USS Massachusetts, a ship intentionally sunk by the military in the 1920s.
- Key West—Sand Key. This is the best spot for Key West snorkeling. It features a wide array of marine life and a shallow reef that comes right up to a historic lighthouse.
- Caladesi Island State Park. The ocean floor off this island is covered with live sand dollars, according to snorkeling enthusiasts. Caladesi’s white sand beaches were rated as America’s best in 2008.
- Islamorada. Tourists from all over the world visit this area’s “Hens and Chickens” reef, where giant coral formations rise very close to the surface of the water. Besides the great snorkeling opportunities, there are many interesting sites in the area for divers. The San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve is located to the south.
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