Shore Snorkeling Along Florida's Southeast Coast - Riviera Beach to Dania Beach

by Susan Barker
(Delray Beach, FL)

Ocean Inlet

Ocean Inlet

Ocean Inlet Delray Beach Peanut Island Ocean Inlet

Florida's southeast coast has some great places for shore snorkeling, especially if you like seeing lots of tropical fish. The video below shows the top seven spots we found after years of living in Florida, from Riviera Beach down to Dania Beach.

The seven snorkeling spots are:
- Phil Foster Park, Riviera Beach
- Peanut Island, Riviera Beach
- Ocean Inlet Park, Boynton Beach
- Delray Beach & the Delray Wreck
- South Inlet Park, Boca Raton
- Commercial Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
- John U. Lloyd Park, Dania

All sites (except Peanut Island) are easily accessed from shore and with the exception of an entrance fee at John U. Lloyd Park in Dania, all are free. Some spots even have free parking, others cost a few dollars. Peanut Island (although very close to shore) is accessible by boat and there are a number of ferries which service it for a minimal fee.

Although some of the sites have small patches of soft corals only a few have small amounts of hard coral. Many are man-made rock reefs constructed as fish habitats. The exception is Commercial Blvd which has a very unique reef structure.

The exciting thing is that on a good day you never know what you will see. We've seen just about every fish that we've ever seen snorkeling throughout the Caribbean and have even seen large eagle rays and some small mantas at different times.

The best time to snorkel here is when the weather is calm and it has been dry for a while. When there is much rain the agricultural and residential runoff from the inlets frequently clouds the water and lowers visibility considerably.

Two years ago we had a drought throughout the spring and summer which was very bad for the water supply but great for snorkeling as we spent almost everyday snorkeling a different site. Last year was a disaster as it was exceptionally rainy and visibility was minimal.

If the ocean is rough Peanut Island and Phil Foster are protected as they are inside the inlet. It's very important to time your snorkel so as to be there on a rising to high tide for water visibility. The same is sometimes true of the spots by the inlets depending on how much rain there has been during the past week.

We are warm water people so don't snorkel much during the winter here as the water temps are around 74-76 degrees and we really like those warm 80+ waters.


Important Update!! August 1, 2013

Yesterday I went snorkeling at Peanut Island and found that the entire fish habitat along the rocks had been destroyed. The lifeguard said it was hard to see swimmers who went around the rocks during a strong tidal current so the park basically demolished the entire rock system which had started to grow live hard and soft corals and attract a large variety of fish. Now there are only very small fish, mainly Sergeant Majors. This was a radical solution as they could have just built a small stairway over the rocks leading up to a bridge as when the tide was strong it would just push you around to a protected area right by the bridge by the lagoon.

Also, the Delray Wreck has been almost buried in sand as a result of Hurricane Sandy last fall. There is still a small part sticking out and it could eventually be uncovered by another storm but there are very few fish now.


I've made a short video showing exactly where to snorkel at each of the 7 sites along with a few pictures and short video clips from each site:



Hope this information helps answer some questions about shore snorkeling in Florida.

Comments for Shore Snorkeling Along Florida's Southeast Coast - Riviera Beach to Dania Beach

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Feb 09, 2013
Wow! What great Florida snorkeling info!
by: Nicole & Galen

Susan, thanks so much for posting this useful information on our site! What a wonderful resource for people wanting to snorkel the southeast coast of Florida. The video is very usable and a unique idea for combining details about how to get there and also what can be seen at the location.

Feb 09, 2013
FL Coast Snorkeling
by: Adrian

Wow, great info. Been looking for info on the places to shore snorkel. Love the Scrawled Filefish and squid. Two of my favorite animals. Wondered what kind of video and still camera was used? And if there is shore snorkeling in the Keys? Thanks for the info.

Feb 10, 2013
South Florida on my list!
by: debbieo

Thanks so much for this information. I am now adding more of south Florida destinations on my way to snorkel the Keys. Great quality on the video!

Feb 10, 2013
Answer to question about cameras and Keys snorkeling
by: Susan B.

Hi Adrian. I've used Liquid Image Camera Masks extensively and my husband uses an Intova hand held camera which has it's own underwater case. Both have a number of advantages and disadvantages.

Most of the video was taken with the Liquid Image. There are at least 3 different masks - the very inexpensive yellow one capable of only VGA video and several more expensive ones capable of HD video which are fitted with a wide angle lens. Advantages are incredible convenience as you don't have to carry anything and no settings to mess with as the white balance is almost always perfect.

On the other hand there is a steep learning curve as you have to learn to hold your head completely still when filming and if you have the yellow mask you need to make sure what you are trying to capture is right in the cross hairs of the lines on the mask or you will end up taking a lot of pictures of sand and rocks as we did the first several times we used it.

The advantage of the cheaper yellow mask over the more expensive ones is that the wide angle HD lens seems to push everything about a yard or two farther away than it really is so it is very difficult to get close ups and because all of the masks are basically 5 megapixel, you can only do limited cropping before a picture becomes blurry.

Although each of the 3 masks I've owned were an incredibly comfortable fit, a major problem is that the camera is above my head. Although not a problem for a diver this can be difficult for a snorkeler especially in wavy or choppy waters as the camera is usually breaking the surface or gets my hair in the picture.

The Intova is responsible for a lot of the good close up pictures as it is a true 14 megapixel and takes some very good close-ups. The video can be iffy as it seems my husband is frequently having difficulty with the white balance.

Another major problem for him is fogging in the camera case. He's tried a number of different solutions but found that he needs to shut the camera off and let it cool down several times during an outing which can be really frustrating if one of those times is when something spectacular happens to swim past. Price for the Intova is very reasonable though.

Most all of the reefs in the Keys require a boat trip. If anyone knows of a good snorkeling spot that doesn't please let me know. The Keys in general have very mucky, grassy areas near shore and very few true sandy beaches in general. Bahia Honda is your best bet for beaches and possible snorkeling.

Feb 13, 2013
Thanks!
by: Jeanne

Hi Susan,

Thanks so much for this information! We are currently vacationing in south Florida- staying on Singer Island. Having read Galen and Nicole's information on this site, we took a day trip to the keys and snorkeled Alligator Reef which was fabulous.

Yesterday I went to Peanut Island not expecting much. I did go at high tide and the visibility was great. Even though there is not coral, the fish variety and water clarity made it a great trip. I saw a huge moray eel, barracuda, angelfish, tangs, small slugs, some type of blenny, foureye butterflyfish....etc., most all you see in the Caribbean.

Now I am excited to try the spots you have mentioned! Thanks again for your post!

Feb 13, 2013
Singer Island snorkeling
by: Susan B.

Hi Jeanne,
Glad Peanut Island worked out for you. As long as you are at Singer Island I thought I'd mention a place I didn't include in my video. There is an artificial reef very close to shore just north of the main beach park on the ocean. I didn't include it because all too often the water has been cloudy when we've gone. You need a day with a west wind and a calm ocean which it looks like you might have tomorrow or the next day. Usually plenty of fish if you have the visibility.

Feb 14, 2013
Singer Island
by: Jeanne

Hi Susan,
Thanks for providing the additional snorkeling information. Unfortunately it's raining and we will head back north on Sat. But,we have been here looking at homes for a near future relocation so I will find your snorkeling guide very useful. My sister and her husband will be here to see baseball spring training in a couple of weeks and want to snorkel at Peanut Island. Do you know of any spots north of Singer Island--near Vero Beach or Jupiter? Thanks.

Feb 14, 2013
Kudos and thanks!
by: Dave C.

Thanks so much for posting this video. It is extremely informative, and I can appreciate the time and effort it must have taken to put this together. So many people live in south Florida and vacation there that I think this will be very useful. I remember hearing about the Delray wreck when I was a kid vacationing there, and I have always wanted to see it.

Aug 06, 2013
Peanut Island Question
by: Anonymous

I was headed to Peanut Island this week. How bad is the damage with regard to viewing fish and sea life?

Aug 06, 2013
Peanut Island Damage
by: Susan B.

There are hundreds of Sergeant Majors but aside from that not many other fish, a few tangs and very few other fish. If you are going to be in that area, I'd recommend you go to Phil Foster. I wouldn't waste the time or ferry money going to Peanut Island if snorkeling is your main goal. I was heartbroken to see a perfectly good fish habitat totally decimated.

Aug 27, 2013
Peanut Island
by: Marilyn

I was so sad to hear about the removal of the habitat at Peanut Island and truly wish they would have found a more reasonable solution.

My friend & I snorkeled for a few days in early December about 6 years ago when the manatees were in and it was one of the most awesome experiences I've ever had!

The manatees came in between the rocks and shore in the very shallow water. Because of the 'cool' water there were not many people around that week. Being from the north we found it to be warm and had many contacts with our new manatee friends, who were curious, playful and very graceful in the water.

I'm not sure they will come to that spot in the future now that the protection of the rocks has been removed, but I hope they do and that others can have the same experience. So very sad!

Dec 25, 2013
South Inlet Boca Raton
by: Susan House

For a disabled person with walking challenges this park was difficult to access. Somewhat steep ramp bridge to navigate both up and down before reaching beach area. Beach area is wide and reef starts several hundred feet down from park, in front of first hotel south of beach. Was tired before ever starting to snorkel. People with physical challenges should scout this out first to see if it is feasible for them to do. Lifeguards are very helpful, friendly, and very polite.

Sep 04, 2014
Thank you!
by: Catherine

Great information. Thank you so much. Really looking forward to visiting relatives more than ever now!

May 17, 2015
Delray Wreck
by: Anonymous

Any updates on the Delray Wreck? We are going to Delray for first time and wondering if the wreck is still mostly covered up?

May 17, 2015
Answer to Delray Wreck question
by: Susan B

We haven't been out for a few months but last time we were there, the wreck was still buried with only several feet of the tank visible. Unfortunately most of the little corals were taken over by algae so many of the bright colors were gone. Still a few fish haunting the area, who knows, you could get lucky and see something neat. If the weather is calm, I'd really recommend Commercial or Boca, which is closer. Good Luck!

Jun 08, 2015
South Inlet Park - Boca Raton
by: Adriana

There is a nice, very close to shore reef. Please please please take a dive flag or some kind of flag with you. There are a lot of people on jet-skis very close to the reef and my husband almost got hit by one.

Jul 10, 2015
Dive Flag
by: Nick

I'm new to snorkeling and I'm wondering which of these areas I need to get a dive flag for. Thanks.

Jul 11, 2015
Dive Flag
by: Susan B

Anytime you are outside a designated swim area you must have a dive flag in Florida, so pretty much all of the sites. Occasionally you will see the marine patrol at Commercial and Blue Heron supervising the snorkelers there and asking people to leave if they do not have dive flags. This is for your safety as boat traffic can be heavy especially on weekends. I have not experienced jet skis in snorkel areas as the person in the above post has but I do know many I've seen can be quite inexperienced and reckless so it's always a good idea to use a dive flag.

Nov 03, 2015
Snorkel Trail at Phil Foster Park (Blue Heron Bridge)
by: Jeanne

I appreciated the information that Susan and her husband provided with this post.

One thing to mention is that there is a snorkel trail at Phil Foster Park at the Blue Heron Bridge. The snorkel trail is made of limestone boulders and prefabricated reef modules. The trail spans a two acre area in 6 to 15 feet of water. Snorkeling there (or diving) is tide dependent. Some nice coral is growing on the rocks and the area is teeming with fish and sea critters, i.e.- turtles, squid, octopus, crabs, fish of many varieties, etc. It's worth a visit if you're in the area!

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