Snorkeling near me: Best snorkeling in Florida without a boat

Best snorkeling in Florida without a boat

Where can you go snorkeling in Florida if you don’t own a boat?

Over the years, I’ve discovered a number of right-from-the-beach snorkeling spots I love. While you need a boat to access full reefs in Florida, some of my favorite snorkeling outings have been “shore dives” — places where I can touch the bottom and stand to clear my mask. This sort of snorkeling is good for kids and beginners, too.

Snorkeling in the Florida Keys

You can have fun snorkeling almost anywhere in the Keys — any dock or pier here will attract some fish around its pilings. But I’ve particularly enjoyed snorkeling in these spots:

Snorkeling in Florida: A school of snapper take shelter under a cannon at Cannon Beach at Pennekamp State Park. Photo by Phil’s 1stPix via Flickr.

Cannon Beach at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Most visitors to Pennekamp State Park head out on the tour boats to snorkel the real reefs, and, truly, there’s no snorkeling off the beach that compares with that. But it’s worth your time to snorkel at Cannon Beach.

The park has placed remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck about 100 feet off the beach. Fish congregate under and round the sea-life encrusted cannons and anchor. The Flickr photographer of the above photo writes: “This is a great snorkeling spot, although the viz isn’t always great. I’ve also seen barracuda, rays, mackerel, and there is a huge school of tarpon in the area. A manatee swam right up to me once right where this shot was taken within about 100 yards of the beach.”

  • Florida Rambler guide to exploring John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • Official site for Pennkamp Coral Reef State Park

Indian Key Historic State Park

Snorkeling in Florida: We love snorkeling from shore at Indian Key State Park in the Florida Keys is excellent. (Photo: David Blasco)

Visiting Indian Key is one of my favorite things to do in the Florida Keys. It’s an island, but it is easily reached by kayak or canoe. You can rent a kayak at nearby Robbie’s Marina; here’s my complete trip report about visiting Indian Key.

The island, like all of the Florida Keys, is an ancient coral reef and its shores are sharp, craggy coral rocks that make excellent homes for marine life. To snorkel here, look for a shell-encrusted bench across the small island from the dock. That’s a good place to get in and out of the water when snorkeling.

  • Florida Rambler guide to Indian Key Historic State Park
  • Official site for Indian Key Historic State Park

Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key, a history-filled island in the middle of the Old Seven Mile Bridge, is worth visiting for its unique site and story. You probably won’t want to pay the $15 admission just to snorkel, but if you do visit the island, you can bring your gear along. 

On a sultry summer day, we snorkeled the waters around the Pigeon Key dock.  We saw schools of colorful fish, but what we liked best was finding remnants of history in the water — stones that were obviously building materials from the era of the railroad tracks’ construction, pieces of metal encrusted with barnacles.

Here’s a Florida Rambler report on visiting Pigeon Key. (“Treasures” from the water, by the way, are added to a colorful cart of found stuff on Pigeon Key rather than being removed.)

  • Official site for Pigeon Key
  • Florida Rambler report on visiting Pigeon Key.

Sombrero Beach in Marathon

This beach is popular with locals and it’s also free. The beach is a white sand with palm trees and lots of amenities: changing rooms, restrooms, showers, picnic tables and grills plus a playground. This is a good place to do a little snorkeling from shore, particularly where there are rocks along the shore. These spiny rocks — once parts of a living coral reef — are magnets for fish and all kinds of sea life.

The beach is two miles off the main road. To find it, turn south at MM 50 at the light (Publix Shopping Center) and follow Sombrero Beach Road for about two miles to the end. There is plenty of parking, but spaces can fill up at key times.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach, Key West

Zachary Taylor Beach is located where Gulf waters meet the Atlantic in Key West. The water here is generally clear and the bottom is rocky, which makes this a good place to snorkel and see a variety of tropical fish and live coral. (Because of those rocks, it’s smart to bring water shoes.) The state park offers shady areas to relax and the historic fort is well worth exploring. Parking is hard to find in Key West, and so it’s good to know you CAN park here.

  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach 

Snorkeling in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast

While I live in Broward and I often bring my snorkel gear to the beach, the best spots for seeing fish and other sea life are north of here.

Red Reef Park

This City of Boca Raton park is a gem, and Boca residents know it. Non-residents pay $25 to park here. (If you’re heading here, be sure to check conditions before deciding to pay. )  What’s special here is an extensive set of natural coral rocks right off the beach in four to six feet of water. These red rocks teem with blue tangs, parrotfish, snappers, sergeant majors and an occasional barracuda or two.  It’s among the best shore snorkeling I’ve experienced.  The park itself is a lush shady hammock, with a boardwalk to explore and picnic tables and shelters.

A note about snorkeling at Red Reef: From time to time, parts of the reef are covered by sand. Boca parks folks say: “Snorkeling at Red Reef Park (near lifeguard tower 9) varies from wonderful to poor depending on the beach conditions (waves, current and wind).”

  • Official site for Red Reef Park
  • Beach and snorkeling conditions at Boca beaches

Peanut Island, Riviera Beach

Peanut Island is a man-made island in the middle of the Port of Palm Beach. Its rocky shoreline and its location directly in the mouth of the inlet make it a magnet for colorful fish and creatures, from rays to manatees to small sharks. It is well-known for having some of the best easy-access snorkeling in South Florida. You must reach the island by boat, so pack a picnic and make a day of visiting.

  • Florida Rambler on snorkeling Peanut Island plus the island’s other fascinating features.
  • Official site for Peanut Island Park

Phil Foster Park Snorkel Trail

Snorkeling in Florida: Shark sculpture along snorkel trail at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. Michael Scott Photography,

People have always used snorkel masks and scuba gear to explore around the Blue Heron Bridge. The water here is crystal clear at high tide because it is located a mile from the Lake Worth Inlet. A few years ago, the county completed a novel project at  Phil Foster Park, which is an island on the Blue Heron Bridge — a snorkeling trail. Workers built a man-made reef in 6 to 10 feet of water right off the beach. It is about 800 feet long and is located in front of a lifeguard stand.

  •  Florida Rambler report on the Phil Foster Park snorkeling trail.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Snorkeling in Florida: Rocky outcroppings at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park attract fish and sea life.  (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

This spectacular property has so much going for it. It’s great to explore on foot, by boat or underwater. To reach the expansive beach, you walk or take a tram over a long boardwalk over the picturesque saltwater lagoon. At the beach, there are large rock formations visible at low tide and a worm rock reef just off-shore. These features attract a great variety of sea creatures including stringrays and sea turtles. A park ranger leads a guided tour of the reef on Saturdays from June through August at 10 a.m.

  • Florida Rambler report on John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
  • Official website for John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Coral Cove Park, Jupiter

This park, about a half mile north of the Jupiter Inlet, is home to extensive natural limestone rock formations right at the beach, making it ideal for snorkeling. The same geological formations at play at nearby Blowing Rocks Preserve (below) are evident here, with similar results in attracting sea life. You can walk along the beach between Blowing Rocks and Coral Cove. The park has 600 feet of lifeguard-watched beach, picnic areas, playgrounds and free parking.

  • Coral Cove Park official site

Blowing Rocks, Jupiter

Dramatic, cliff-like rocks extend into the water and, on calm days, provide an excellent snorkeling location. There are enough sharp-edged rocks that you should think twice about snorkeling if there are waves to buffet you.  This park is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy, which has created some appealing nature walks and a nature center across A1A on the Intracoastal side of the park. Because it is a preserve, nearby Coral Cove Park is the place to have your picnic.

  • Florida Rambler report on Blowing Rocks
  • Official site for Blowing Rocks Preserve

DuBois Park, Jupiter

Beloved by locals, Dubois Park is a delightful park with a snorkeling lagoon, sandy beach and picnic areas along the clear waters at the Jupiter Inlet. Parents like the shallow, sandy areas without waves where younger kids are safe. With clear water and fish from the inlet and ocean, the snorkeling is good at high tide. Admission is free and the place gets crowded on weekends; arrive early or come later in the day.

  • Dubois Park, 19075 Dubois Road, Jupiter, FL 33477

Bathtub Reef Park, Hutchinson Island

An unusual “worm reef” protects an idyllic lagoon and creates a perfect home for marine life. The reef was created by sabellariid or “honeycomb” worms that cement together sand and bits of shell to form porous rocks and ledges. The reef attracts a good variety of fish and sea creatures — perfect for snorkelers, particularly young ones, because the reef protects kids from waves.  Get there early on weekends because the parking lot fills up.  

There’s a bathhouse with  showers and pavilions for picnicking. Bathtub Beach is located on South Hutchinson Island on MacArthur Boulevard, which branches south off A1A at the southernmost bridge access in Stuart. 1585 SE MacArthur Blvd., Stuart.

  • Florida Rambler has a complete guide to Hutchinson Island.
  • Official site for Bathtub Reef

Snorkeling in Florida shipwrecks from the beaches of the Atlantic Coast

Most shipwrecks must be reached by boat, but these two can be reached from the beach by strong swimmers and those with kayaks or paddleboards. A few safety notes: These are more ambitious snorkeling outings. You must have a dive flag to venture to these wrecks. Don’t go alone. 

  • The Breconshire Shipwreck off Vero Beach is the remains of a steamer wrecked in 1894. The boilers are visible at the site a quarter mile off the beach behind the well-known Driftwood Inn. At low tide, parts of the ship are only a foot or two underwater. Here’s some background.
  • The wreck of the Georges Valentine off Stuart is now a popular snorkeling and scuba-diving site located about 100 yards off shore from the Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, a museum that preserves the last house of refuge of 10 originally built in the 1800s along Florida’s coast to aid shipwreck victims. The wreck sits in shallow water and the museum site says it’s easy to swim to the wreck, which also abounds in marine life. Here are details..

Snorkeling in Florida: The swimming area at Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest is excellent — if you like 72 degree water. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Snorkeling in Florida springs

Our favorites listed so far on this page are all salt-water snorkeling excursions. We also highly recommend snorkeling in Florida’s fresh-water springs, which have crystal-clear cold water and are full of fish and turtles and other things to see. They are located in Central Florida and North Florida. 

Here are a few particularly good springs for snorkeling about which Florida Rambler has written: 

  • Gilchrist Spring and Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River north of Gainesville
  • Alexander Springs in Ocala National Forest east of Ocala
  • Rainbow River near Dunnellon
  • Three Sisters Spring and other springs in the Crystal River area (famous for manatees in winter)
  • Blue Spring State Park in Orange City.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to snorkeling in springs.

Snorkeling in Florida: A few locations along Gulf Coast beaches

The Gulf Coast does not have the reef structure and hard bottom found along the Atlantic so it is less conducive to snorkeling. There are a few spots that are popular, however:

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park has a hard bottom reef that runs parallel to the beach near parking areas one and two. It’s in about 8 or 10 feet of water.

Egmont Key, an island reachable by ferry from St. Pete Beach, has ruins of some parts of an 1898 fort that are now underwater. 

Point of Rocks at Crescent Beach on Siesta Key is recommended for Gulf Coast snorkeling.

Important tips for snorkeling in Florida

Considering a snorkeling outing? Keep in mind: Good snorkeling requires good conditions.

  • Less wind is good.
  • Recent heavy rain is bad. (It may make the water murky. )
  • Visibility is best at high tide, particularly as the tide comes in.
  • Do not step or stand on living coral or worm reefs; do not touch any marine life.
  • Don’t snorkel alone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings; don’t snorkel too close to rocks when there are waves.

If you’re interested in snorkeling in Florida by boat to coral reefs, consider these outstanding parks:

  • Biscayne National Park, which also offers snorkel trips to shipwrecks
  • John D. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  • Bahia Honda State Park
Notes from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.

This page may include affiliate links from which we earn modest commissions if a purchase is made. 

This article is property of, protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.

Bonnie Gross

The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.

16 Best Snorkeling Spots in Islamorada, Florida

When you visit the Florida Keys, plan to spend time on the water. It’s a must. Now, this can be done in various forms. On a boat fishing, or enjoying sunset cruises, or kayaking, or snorkeling, or other water sports. Sometimes, a day poolside or even on a beach counts as a water activity for me. But, If you are in Islamorada, plan to go snorkeling.

Just 90 miles south of Miami, this is the perfect place to enjoy the waters around the Florida Keys. Known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World” it hosts the largest fishing fleet per square mile in the world. There is so much to do here plan a few days to take in all of the activities. This is my favorite stop to or from Key West for sure.

Let’s explore all of the best spots you can snorkel around Islamorada.

If you are planning to drive down (or up) the Keys, be sure to check out our epic list of best places you must check out.

Epic Road Trip Stops – Florida Keys

Cheeca Rocks Sanctuary

This preservation area is the only one in the Upper Keys designated to protect inshore patch reefs. It is also small, only covering .05 square nautical miles, and is located southeast of Upper Matecumbe Key. Snorkeling Cheeca Rocks is a real treat. The depths range from 8 feet to 20 feet down which makes this a shallow reef also known as a patch reef. This is a short boat ride from Islamorada. Plan to see Hogfish, Green Eels, Grunts, Jacks, Parrotfish, and if you are lucky maybe you will see a turtle. Plan to see Brain and Star corals.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

This Florida state park is located on Key Largo. Depending on traffic, this is about a 30-minute drive from Islamorada. Great day trip location. The park is approximately 70 nautical miles next to Atlantic Ocean waters. Fun fact, this is the first undersea park in the United States. Here you can take a glass-bottom boat tour or get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling. Check out the tours offered here.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Located in the Gulf of Mexico this place offers some of the best snorkeling around. The shallow water (only 5 to 15 feet of water) makes it fun for everyone. Plan to head to Key West (about a 2-hour drive) to board the ferry or take the seaplane over to the Park. Upon arrival, you can tour Fort Jefferson or head over to explore the waters. There are designated snorkel areas and, according to the Ferry’s website, the most popular is 75 yards from the western edge of the moat wall. Here you will see a lot of marine life like tropical fish, large coral heads, seagrass, and more.

Bahia Honda State Park

About an hour’s drive south is Bahia Honda State Park. Plan to spend a day exploring the waters around this park. Swim, snorkel, or rent a kayak. Have lunch and take a nap on the beach. This is one of my favorite parks in the Keys. This is one of the best nearshore snorkeling in the Florida Keys. Just a few hundred feet from shore you will see soft corals, small coral heads, tropical fish, queen conchs, and spiny lobster… always something new and different to see. The waters are pretty shallow, ranging from 4 to 6 feet, so it’s perfect for beginners.

Biscayne National Park

About an hour north of Islamorada is Biscayne National Park. You can book a guided eco-tour through the Biscayne National Park Institute. Within sight of downtown Miami, this park preserves aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and vibrant coral reefs. You can explore a coral reef, a shipwreck, or even a mangrove while on a snorkeling adventure in the park.

Fort Zachary Taylor

This park, located in Key West, centers around a Civil War fort. They proclaim to have Key West’s best beach that allows them to offer great swimming and snorkeling. Word of caution, wear beach shoes. The shore/beach can be rocky and can hurt bare feet. Explore the fort and plan to stay for sunset. The sunset views from here are spectacular. They do offer equipment rentals, like a lof the other parks in the area,

Sombrero Reef

40 minutes south of Islamorada is Marathon. Here you can hop on a charter to head out to the Sombrero Reef. This is a spur and groove coral reef with large fingers of coral separated by narrow sandbeds off of Vaca Key. The reef is marked by a large lighthouse. The clear waters around here make this an amazing place to snorkel and explore.

Looe Key

This has become a major destination for snorkeling enthusiasts throughout the world. Located on Big Pine Key, you can book with a captain or plan a snorkel trip while visiting Bahia Honda. Either option offers you the ability to explore Looe Key. You will see Elkhorn and Star coral, plus a multitude of other marine life.

Long Key State Park

This state park offers 965 acres to explore on Long Key. Just a quick drive from Islamorada, you can snorkel the shallow waters and see the beautiful marine life in the seagrass covered bottom along this Florida reef.

Alligator Reef Lighthouse

The lighthouse is 4 nautical miles east of Indian Key and Islamorada. The reef offers snorkelers the opportunity to see more than 500 species of marine life. You will snorkel around and under the lighthouse in beautiful clear water.

Molasses Reef

Located north in Key Largo, this spot is more known for diving. But, there is snorkel only charters available. When the weather allows, this is a great place to snorkel. It is considered to be one of the most visited coral reefs in the world. Just six miles offshore, it sits on the edge of the barrier reef.

Indian Key State Park

Only accessible by boat, you can head over from Islamorada. You can head over to this historic spot, and take a snorkel tour with one of the many local charters that run eco-tours to the park. Fun fact, this was the first county seat of Dade County. The local charters offer many options for boat tours in and around Indian Key.

Hen and Chickens

This protected reef is extremely popular and a great place for beginners to snorkel. The reef is filled with purple coral, Christmas tree coral, star, brain, sea fans, and many more species. While snorkeling plan to see brightly colored tropical fish. Located off of Plantation Key, this is a quick 10 minute drive north of Islamorada.

Founder’s Park

Located in Islamorada, this park is a great place to have a picnic and play on the beach. Swim out and see all kinds of marine life. This 40-acre park is the center of all community events in Islamorada. Located bayside at mile marker 87.

Davis Reef

The shallow portion of Davis Reef is a great place to snorkel. An easy boat trip over from Tavernier, you will see all kinds of marine life, soft and hard coral, and a ledge filled to the brim with tropical fish. Just 15 minutes north of Islamorada, this location is a must see spot. The famous Buddha statue is found here as well as moray eels and sea turtles.

Crocker Reef

Located near Davis Reef, this is another spot to check out while visiting Islamorada. Here you will see beautiful coral formations and a small canyon and turtles, barrel sponges and eagle rays have been spotted here.

Diving and snorkeling in Hurghada, underwater excursions — prices from 12 $

Diving and snorkeling in Hurghada, underwater excursions — prices from 12 $

Found 43 underwater excursions in Hurghada for January-February 2023. Prices for snorkeling and diving with a Russian-speaking guide from $12. See the schedule, choose the route and buy tickets online.

  • Popular
  • Group
  • Individual
  • Sight
  • Bus
  • for children
  • History and architecture
  • Museums and art
  • Evening
  • Gastronomic
  • 9000

  • Luxor
  • Nile Cruises
  • Bathyscaphe
  • Jeep Safari
  • El Gouna
  • Boat trips
  • Abu Simbel
  • Utopia Island
  • Diving
  • Quads
  • Camels


Without prepayment

With discount




20 reviews

The beauty of the Red Sea: diving and snorkeling

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