Snorkeling is an easy and cheap alternative to scuba diving. It requires little training beyond being a good swimmer, and the necessary kit is limited to a dive mask, fins and a snorkel. The warm tropical waters, colorful corals and abundant sea life of southern Florida make it one of the best places in the United States to go snorkeling, and there are a few destinations there that provide multiple, high-quality sites.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is centered on Fort Jefferson, an early 19th-century brick sea fortress located about 70 miles west of Key West, amid the Tortugas islands. The 46 square miles of water surrounding the fort have been declared a Reserve Natural Area. Since 2007, fishing and anchoring in the area have been banned in an effort to preserve the excellent corals and sea life. It is an excellent place for snorkeling, with plenty of underwater adventure lying in just a few feet of water. This is also one of the few places in the world with a choice of shipwrecks lying in waters shallow enough to be skin dived. The National Park Service does allow a small number of dive shops to send both snorkeling and diving trips into the area, but one of the beauties about snorkeling is that it is possible to come straight to the park, strap on the gear and jump in. Although there are other places for snorkeling in the Tortugas, this is the best because of the tight restrictions protecting the fish and corals.
P.O. Box 6208
Key West, FL 33041
Biscayne National Park
On a clear day, Biscayne Park is within sight of the Miami waterfront. Like Dry Tortugas, most of the park's enclosure is at sea, creating a marvelous environment for snorkelers. There is a coral reef inside Biscayne Bay that can be reached by enterprising snorkelers from the beach, and trips by boat are available to take snorkelers out to the keys and farther reefs that lay elsewhere in the park. Fish fans will find the recently confirmed presence of lion fish in the park's waters a special treat. These trips are operated by the park's concessionaire, Biscayne National Underwater Park, Inc.
Biscayne National Underwater Park
Biscayne National Park
9700 SW 328 Street
Homestead, FL 33033
Islamorada offers two sites that are suitable for snorkeling. Pickles Reef lies in depths ranging from 15 to 25 feet, so the entire reef will be visible from the surface on all but the worst days, and all of it can be skin dived. However, the best site is Alligator Reef. Now marked by a 13-story lighthouse, this is where the USS Alligator sank in 1822. The reef grew up around it in the time since. The only signs of the wreck are the piles of ballast stones, but the corals and sea life are in 25 feet of water, so the top of the reef will be easily visible and reachable by snorkelers.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.