A woman in a yellow swimsuit and wearing snorkeling gear floats in the big, blue ocean.
Want to snorkel a shipwreck? Look no further than Hutchinson Island.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Underwater Adventure: 7 of Florida's Best Snorkeling Spots

Hutchinson Island

There’s a reason why people call the trio of counties north of Palm Beach the Treasure Coast. Though the name ostensibly originates from a Spanish fleet lost in the area 300 years ago, the area is also an untouched Old Florida jewel in and of itself. And Hutchinson Island is a place where you can see it.

A mere 100 yards offshore from the 1876-built Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge lies an easily snorkelable shipwreck located on the south end of the island. The TripAdvisor-celebrated Bathtub Reef Park also boasts beautiful honeycombed reef rocks best enjoyed at high tide.

Aerial photo of Egmont Key, FloridaTake a boat out to Egmont Key and snorkel amid torrents of fish and dolphin.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Egmont Key State Park

Wrecks feature heavily in Egmont Key State Park, too. Head almost due west from Hutchinson Island, and you’ll find the former home of Fort Dade on a barrier island just off the coast of St. Petersburg. A remnant of the Spanish-American War, it’s not the only engaging thing on the island.

Check out the 1858 lighthouse, and don’t forget the wildlife. Tortoises have overrun Egmont Key State Park, and its waters teem with fish and dolphin.

You can only get to the park via boat, so either hook up with a local tour company or take the ferry at Fort De Soto State Park on the mainland. Although the island has bathrooms, you won’t find any stores or drinking water, so prepare accordingly.

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Crab on a white beach bracketed by blue wavesIf you choose to hire a guide, they will usually seek out pods of dolphins for you to swim with.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Panama City Beach

If you aren’t familiar with the panhandle (i.e., northwest) area of the Sunshine State, you might be forgiven for thinking that its one of the duller corners of the peninsula. But there’s a reason why people call it the Redneck Riviera. Combining Southern charm with gorgeous natural sights, it could be the best worst-kept secret in Florida. And Panama City Beach is one of the finest places for snorkelers in the area.

Indeed, it’s hard to find a bad place to dip your fins in the water around Panama City Beach. But given that various dive outfits and tour companies positively clamor for your business, consider hiring one for a guided underwater experience. Many will seek out pods of dolphin to swim with.

Shell Island (a peninsula that sometimes morphs into an island with the shifting tides) is another favorite beach in Florida and a great stop for seeing starfish, sand dollars and sea urchins.

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