Best Places to Snorkel Near Clearwater Florida

Snorkeling in Clearwater Florida is a popular pastime enjoyed by those native to the area as well as providing an attraction for the thousands of tourists that visit every year. The variety of underwater wildlife that can be seen within Florida’s waters is unlike any other snorkeling experience around the world however, there is much discussion about where the best place to visit is if you want to see marine life ranging from gorgeous coral to the famous dolphins.

Deciding on the best place to snorkel in and around Clearwater Florida totally depends on the type of snorkelling you wish to take part in, if you are more experienced somewhere like Egmont Key with miles of wildlife rich waters would be a great opportunity to observe some unique creatures. If you are looking to snorkel with family, particularly children then it may be more suitable to stick to some of the more shallow, lifeguard protected beaches so you can have some fun with peace of mind for you and your family’s safety. There are some pretty great locations close to Clearwater Florida meaning that there is little need to travel a long distance to have a fulfilling snorkelling experience.

With so many great snorkelling locations available it can be hard to choose which is the best one for you, research before you travel is always a good way to ensure you have the best experience and look for a place that has the marine life you want to see. There are also a variety of snorkeling businesses around the coast that can help you find the best snorkelling area and increase your chances of seeing some great creatures, this is also very useful for those of you who don’t have, and don’t want to buy your own snorkelling equipment as you can rent it for a fee at one of these locations.

Egmont Key

If you are someone who enjoys a more private location whilst snorkelling then Egmont Key may be the place for you, offering calm and clear water filled with a large amount of aquatic wildlife this state park isn’t one to miss if you are looking for a prime snorkelling location. The great thing about Egmont Key is that it also has a lot of history as well as being a great place for snorkelling. As a result of the Spanish- American war, Egmont Key is home to the remains of military forts some of which are submerged in the water increasing the area’s wildlife. With a unique combination of history and marine life snorkelling at this location is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Some things to consider before snorkelling at Egmont Key would be that a third of the area, south west of the ruins is a protected shore bird refuge, this area is inaccessible to the public so you would have to be careful you don’t stray from the main shore. Because of the restrictions present at Egmont key getting to part of the Western Shore that is open to the public may require a significant swim, it would be advisable to hire or bring some form of flotation device like a kayak or life vest in order to make the otherwise tiring swim much easier and safer.

In terms of the wildlife that you can expect to see at Egmont Key, sea turtles are known to nest on the shore, as well as a variety of land turtles. The historic ruins provide a home for a whole range of aquatic life, as well as the thick beds of seagrass that harbours anything from sea crabs to its more well known grouper ( a commonly found fish for this area). Overall, Egmont Key is an excellent location for snorkelling, not only is it rich in wildlife but also has an interesting history behind it making it a crucial addition to any avid snorkelers itinerary.

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island is another great location for snorkelling, with three miles of beaches and clear shallow waters, this island makes for a great day out and provides an excellent opportunity for snorkelling. Caladesi island is another state park that has on duty lifeguards from memorial to labour day, with lifeguard protection Caladesi is great for families as you have peace of mind for your safety. Situated to the north of Clearwater, you may have to pay to access the island either by private boat or ferry, alternatively the state park can also be accessed by walking 2.2 miles from the south of clearwater beach. Make sure to plan how you will be travelling to the island prior to your visit and if you would rather walk the journey then pack yourself some water and snacks as the journey can be overwhelming particularly on a hot day.

Although you will have to travel a significant amount, it is definitely worth it as the island contains a range of family friendly amenities making a visit to Caladesi a great day out. Facilities on the island include picnic areas, a nature trail ( 3 miles), concession stand and the award winning beaches. In terms of snorkelling, the island’s waters are normally a comfortable temperature perfect for long snorkelling sessions, the water is clear and shallow and home to a whole host of aquatic wildlife including fish, coral and maybe even dolphins, so make sure you get one of the best snorkel masks so you can enjoy the wildlife to its fullest.

Overall this location is extremely family friendly, offering a unique and interesting snorkelling experience that although more travel may be necessary for you to get there,is definitely worth the journey. Caladesi island is much more than just an ideal snorkelling location as it has more facilities than some of the other options on this list. Unlike many snorkelling hotspots in Florida that can become extremely busy especially in the hotter months, this location remains relatively quiet meaning there is a level of privacy allowing 

The to enjoy your snorkelling session without thousands of other beach visitors disturbing the ocean life.

Honeymoon Island

Situated to the north of Clearwater, Honeymoon Island isn’t your typical snorkelling location, with a large white sand beach this small island is home to some amazing wildlife including some gorgeous creatures native to the Florida area. Like many other state parks there are facilities available on the beach, there is a beach shop, food retailers and showers ensuring that all of your needs are met during your visit and you can focus on taking in this spectacular environment. Honeymoon island prides itself on its authenticity and is one of the few non industrialised locations within the state, if you are someone looking for a secluded part of Florida that has been left virtually untouched by man then Honeymoon Island may be the place for you. With such a natural atmosphere around this location you can bet the snorkelling experience that is available here will be up to par, the clear shallow waters along the coastline make snorkelling easy and your chances of seeing some amazing wildlife much more likely. You can expect to see a wide range of creatures including – turtles, a range of species of fish and if you get the opportunity to venture out further you may be lucky enough to spot some of Florida’s famous dolphins.

There is a cost to enter the island, but at under ten dollars per vehicle it is definitely worth it, seeing such a naturally beautiful environment within a short distance of the busy city is a surreal experience. In terms of snorkelling the waters are suitable for all ages to have a go at this highly popular recreational activity, with even the shallow waters being rich in wildlife all of the family have a good chance of seeing something interesting in the waters. There are snorkel equipment hire facilities available on site so you don’t have to worry about bringing or purchasing your own equipment.

One of the main snorkelling attractions present at Honeymoon Island would have to be the large reef situated in the northern area, its thick and deep crevices are extremely rich with wildlife. The large clusters of coral are home to a range of aquatic animals some of which are rarely spotted in any other locations in the area. If you are looking to observe unique fish and other underwater wildlife then Honeymoon island is definitely worth a visit.

Panama City Beach 

The Panama City beach area has a range of snorkelling opportunities, depending on your skill level you could either visit the beach yourself and snorkel in some of these locations most wildlife rich areas, or you could pay for a specialised tour. Whichever you choose your chances of seeing some great aquatic life are very high if you decide to visit. Situated a few miles out of Florida it would be ideal if you could reserve some time to spend the day in this location in order to get the most out of your journey, unlike some locations on this list, Panama city beach is a very snorkelling oriented area, with many snorkel hire businesses being available where you can hire and buy equipment and take off on snorkelling tours hosted by experts in the field.

One of the best places for snorkelling near Panama City beach would have to be Shell island, with seven miles of untouched beaches and ocean, the natural life present has been allowed to flourish both on land and sea with little to no interference by man. In order to get to shell island it would be advisable to arrange transport prior to your visit, and there is a daily shuttle that goes to and from the island regularly throughout the day. Once you arrive you will see the island is split into different areas, with a smaller shallow area perfect for children or beginners in snorkelling. If you are someone who is more experienced  there is the opportunity to venture further past the shallow area and towards the vast waters of the Gulf of Mexico, here you will more than likely see a whole host of tropical fish, sting rays, crabs and other marine life, if you wish to venture into the deeper areas it is important to consider your safety so either ensure you stick to the lifeguard protected zones or go on one of the many official tours that are available. This not only shows your support for the small businesses in the area but ensures you can be safe whilst observing some of the most beautiful creatures to be seen in the Clearwater Florida area. The fact that this location strives to remain as natural as possible when it comes to snorkelling really is a once in a lifetime opportunity, seeing the aquatic wildlife within their natural habitat is quite a unique experience and offers respite from the industrialised world we are all used to.

Overall, snorkelling near Clearwater Florida is an experience not to be missed, Florida is famed for the aquatic wildlife found in its waters and the activity is one that can be enjoyed by whole families of all ages.  With such a variety of locations each offering different aspects of snorkelling and different wildlife it would be advisable to do some research prior to your visit. There are some important things to consider such as who you are with, as small children would be better suited and safer in an area that has both shallow and deeper waters, the kind of creatures you wish to see as each location is home to a variety of different wildlife and your experience level can impact whether you choose to snorkel alone or pay for a tour that can take you further out and increase your chances of seeing some unique creatures. No matter how you decide to do it, one thing is certain that snorkelling in Florida is a great experience and provides a rare opportunity to observe the natural creatures of the aquatic world, as well as being home to some of the best, family friendly beaches in America.