Snorkeling St. Andrews State Park, Panama City, Florida
by Mike Sonntag
(Azle, Texas, USA)
I wanted to share that there is snorkeling at St. Andrews State Park, Panama City, Florida. There is a jetty at the end of the peninsula that forms a sheltered area locally referred to as "the lagoon". The jetty acts as an artificial reef, and a fair amount of sea life can be found there. On the other side of the jetty is the channel that connects St. Andrews Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.
Underwater, you can hear the shrimp making their distinctive crackling sound just like on a natural reef. The visibility, while nothing like the Caribbean, is workable at high tide.
Lots of kids swim in "the lagoon" and lots of people sunbathe on the beach. There is a dive shop there, and scuba divers go out on the channel side of the jetty. People also fish on the channel side of the jetty.
Although we see Stingrays on the bottom each time we go, they are wary enough of people that they keep out of the way, and we've never heard of anyone getting stung. Once a Spotted Eagle Ray swam around us, and one other time, I swam in formation with 19 Manta Rays.
We generally see Needlefish, Jacks, Slippery Dicks, Mollys, Ladyfish, Atlantic Spadefish, Sheepshead, Gag, Redfish, Bluehead Wrasse, and many others. Last year at low tide, I saw two Octopi in the daylight. There is a resident Queen Angelfish there also.
In August, just after high tide, lots of jellyfish can move through the area, and it is not uncommon for the swimmers to get stung. As a snorkeler, however, you usually can see them and stay out of their way.
We go on a low-cost snorkeling trip there every June and August. If you want to snorkel, but you don't want to take a long trip, this location might interest you.