The Florida Keys Are Not Just Scuba – Try Snorkel

A lot of people over the years have told me that the Florida Keys may be a wonderful place to boat and fishing and scuba dive, but there are no places to snorkel.  They do not realize that many scuba-diving boats also include snorkel dive spots.

In fact, if some of your family members are good at scuba while others are not interested in learning scuba, there are places in the Florida Keys where you can combine both and many boating firms offer dual scuba/snorkel trips. 

Here are some of my choices for snorkeling at some top spots:

Carysford/South Carysfort Reef –   4.6 nautical miles off Key Largo )GPS N 25-12-20 W 80-13-56) is a 4-25-foot deep double-ledged spur abd groove reef at the foot of a 113-foot 1848 lighthouse.  Locals call the area “the fish farm” for its abundance of tropicals, grunt fish, and pork fish.

John Pennekamp Copral Reef State Park – off Key Largo at MM 1002.5 features many sites including the famous Christ of the Abyss (GPS N 25-06-91/ W 89-18-20).  Off the beach is a good training spot for beginners and low tide offers more inshore locations.

Molasses Reef – off Tavarier in the Upper Keys has a wide series of reefs with the shallowest at Lighted Marker 10.  Snorkel around Sand Island.  This spot requires some veteran snorkelers since there are giant moral eels and a wide range of drop-offs.

Founders Park Islamorada – off MM 86.5 at 86500 Ocean Highway, is a decent snorkeling area just outside the rope area of this community beach.  It is rarely packed with divers and a great stop for small kids..

Conch Reef – some four nautical miles south of Tavenier Key at GPS N 24-56-55/ W 80-28-43 is a large snorkeling area with the three buoys north of Marker 12 the best for visibility.

Alligator Reef – located off Islamorada at GPS N 24-51-07/ W 80-37-21 has depths ranging from 8 to 50 feet and lots of fish.  Resist the temptation to swim right next to the 136-foot lighthouse since it’s a favorite for schools of barracuda.  You won’t find any gators – the spot is named for the USS Alligator schooner which sank in 1822.

Indian Key State Historic Site –  On the bayside off Islamorada is the site of a major Indian massacre in the Seminole Wars.  Rent a canoe at MM 77.5, visit the site via the boat ramp, and cruise the backside of the island where fish teem in five foot water.

Bahia Honda State Park – The best area is on the Atlantic side at the south end of the Park and there are dive flags.  The park facilities and beach are better than the snorkeling sites but the area is safe and well-managed and a good beach set-up for families..

Looe Key off Ramrod Key – offers a very popular snorkeling area with water from 5 to 40-foot depths around GPS N 24-33-19/ W 81-24-77.

Cottrell Key – eight miles west of Key West at GPS N 25-26-20/ W 81-55-58 in just 3 to 15 feet of water and lots of mooring buoys is the best site adjacent to Key West.

#mcbobleonard   Some of this content will be part of an e-book I am producing that is an almanac for adventure travel and extreme sports in Florida.  Continue to watch this website for free offers and more information.

About floridatraveler

Historian and travel writer M. C. Bob Leonard makes the Sunshine State his home base. Besides serving as content editor for several textbook publishers and as an Emeritus college professor, he moderates the FHIC at www.floridahistory.org
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