By Susan Barker – (Delray Beach, FL)
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 and 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 seven 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 Moved From Previous System
Nicole & Galen – Feb 9, 2013 – What Great Florida Snorkeling Info!
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.
Adrian – Feb 9, 2013 – Florida Coast Snorkeling
debbieo – Feb 10, 2013 – South Florida on My List!
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!
Susan B. – Feb 10, 2013 – Answer to Question About Cameras and Keys Snorkeling
Hi Adrian, I’ve used Liquid Image Camera Masks extensively and my husband uses an Intova hand held camera which has its 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 three 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 closeups and because all of the masks are basically five megapixel, you can only do limited cropping before a picture becomes blurry.
Although each of the three 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 closeup pictures as it is a true 14 megapixel and takes some very good closeups. 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.
Jeanne – Feb 13, 2013 – Thanks!
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!
Susan B. – Feb 13, 2013 – Singer Island Snorkeling
Hi Jeanne, I am 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.
Jeanne – Feb 14, 2013 – Singer Island
Hi Susan, thanks for providing the additional snorkeling information. Unfortunately it’s raining and we will head back north on Saturday. 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.
Dave C. – Feb 14, 2013 – Kudos and Thanks!
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.
Anonymous – Aug 6, 2013 – Peanut Island Question
I was headed to Peanut Island this week. How bad is the damage with regard to viewing fish and sea life?
Susan B. – Aug 6, 2013 – Peanut Island Damage
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.
Marilyn – Aug 27, 2013 – Peanut Island
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 and I snorkeled for a few days in early December about six 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!
Susan House – Dec 25, 2013 – South Inlet Boca Raton
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.
Catherine – Sep 4, 2014 – Thank You!
Great information. Thank you so much. Really looking forward to visiting relatives more than ever now!
Anonymous – May 17, 2015 – Delray Wreck
Any updates on the Delray Wreck? We are going to Delray for first time and wondering if the wreck is still mostly covered up?
Susan B – May 17, 2015 – Answer to Delray Wreck Question
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!
Adriana – Jun 8, 2015 – South Inlet Park – Boca Raton
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.
Nick – Jul 10, 2015 – Dive Flag
I’m new to snorkeling and I’m wondering which of these areas I need to get a dive flag for. Thanks.
Susan B – Jul 11, 2015 – Dive Flag
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.
Jeanne – Nov 3, 2015 – Snorkel Trail at Phil Foster Park (Blue Heron Bridge)
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 6-15 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!
Rhino – Dec 30, 2016 – Thanks
Awesome info. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Really helps out-of-towners like me here for a short time who want to make the most of it.
Pam Thomas – Mar 19, 2022 – Good Sightings at the Bridge to Singer Island
I recently drove up from Miami Beach to meet an old friend who was staying at Singer Island. She had arranged for us to do a snorkel tour at the bridge that goes from the mainland to the island. People can go in from what I think is called Phil Foster Park, right from the beach there. There is a big parking lot which we hear can fill up early on the weekend but was not a problem on the weekday we were there.
Peter from Oceanside Beach Services on the beach at the Marriott at Singer was meeting us as my friend had arranged. The day before we had gone to the water sport shack on the beach and tried on our equipment. We easily found Peter at the beachfront of the parking lot. It was about 9:30 am. We could see lots of divers who were apparently completing their diving courses.
You wouldn’t have to go with a guide but the point of having Peter was that he knew where the rocks and artificial reefs were underwater that attract fish. He said there’s a current that we needed to traverse immediately which brings in all kinds of fish but can be a little tough to swim against. He gave us noodles which he said would help, and they did.
We were kicking pretty hard against the current (got a few foot cramps) but once past it there was plenty to see underwater. Lots of different fish, a small ray and one fish with accordion wings crawling on skinny legs along the sea bottom. Even Peter hadn’t seen one before: a sea robin.
I suspect a variety of local services are available to be hired for this tour. It was definitely worth it! I had been reading about this opportunity for several years and was happy I got the chance to go.
Anonymous – April 11, 2022 – Snorkeling Peanut Island April 2022
Just last week (4/8/22) I snorkeled Peanut Island. The ferry ran every 20 minutes and the island provided a full face snorkeling mask or a mask and separate snorkel. The sea stars blend in to the surroundings so they are hard to find, but I saw some in my photos. There are lots of fish in the water and they swim all around you.
The beach has nice walking paths and BBQ areas. It also welcomes dogs. My friends and I were glad to have gone there. 👍