Nestled along the Emerald Coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Destin, Florida, offers a snorkeling experience that’s nothing short of excellent.
With its clear blue green water, diverse marine life, and a variety of under water, this coastal paradise earned a reputation as a great snorkeling destination.
So, lets get started with a list of common snorkel gear.
Snorkeling Equipment and Gear Recommendations
First, quality snorkeling gear gives you the best chance to enjoy your time on the water.
Quality gear enhances your overall snorkeling experience. Clear lenses in masks offer better visibility, allowing you to fully appreciate the underwater scenery. Comfortable mouthpieces and purge valves in snorkels make breathing more enjoyable. Investing in quality gear ensures durability, reliability, and longevity, allowing you to make the most of your snorkeling adventures.Snorkel Mask
Kids Snorkel Mask
Mask Anti Fog Spray
Inflatable Life Vest Waist Strap
As a quick tip, renting snorkel gear from a local shop is a great way to save time and money.
Best Destin Florida Snorkeling Spots
Destin is home to several snorkeling hotspots, each offering a unique underwater experience.
Here are some of the top spots you should check out.
East Pass Jetties
The East Pass in Destin, Florida connects the Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
It contains many of the best places for Destin snorkeling.
More specifically, East Pass begins at the Gulf towards the south.
It continues past the entrance to Destin Harbor near the marina at HarborWalk Village.
Then, it runs below the Destin Bridge and spills into Choctawhatchee Bay at Crab Island.
The clear emerald water combined with swift currents and large rocks bring in a variety of tropical fish.
Keep in mind, strong currents make this location one of the top spots for experienced snorkelers
Similar to East Pass, the Destin Jetties offer a unique snorkel location.
In 1969, rock jetties were added on each side of East Pass to keep the opening from closing from moving sands.
This series of rock formations begin near the harborwalk village and extend into the Gulf of Mexico.
Most importantly, this created an ideal habitat for marine life.
The ecosystem here offers an incredible opportunity to witness a vibrant array of sea life.
Here, you can spot everything from pufferfish to redfish, wrasse, tang, and even barracuda, octopus, hermit crabs, and the occasional loggerhead sea turtle!
The Jetties can be accessed by boat or from the shore.
The east Destin Jetty (East Jetties) tops the list as the best snorkeling spots in Destin, Florida.
A stone’s throw from Destin Harbor, Norriego Point is at the end of Holiday Isle and offers an ideal location for snorkeling.
It is a small peninsula where the Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet.
Furthermore, this dynamic meeting of waters fosters an environment teeming with sea creatures and man-made reefs.
Snorkeling tours around Norriego Point grant the entire family access to calm waters, making it a great spot for both a beginner and an experienced snorkeler.
Crab Island, a shallow water and submerged sandbar, is a must-do excursion experience.
Just north of the Destin bridge and east of the coast guard station, it is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
Although not a traditional snorkeling spot, the crystal-clear, shallow waters allow you to wade, play, and even spot a sand dollar in their natural habitat.
It’s an excellent place to visit and spend the day snorkeling.
Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park offers a breathtaking view of the beautiful beaches even before you dive into the water.
In fact, this beach tops the list of the 5 best beaches in Destin, Florida.
The park features towering white dunes of soft sand and a mile of uncrowded shoreline.
Obviously, this makes it a perfect place for exploring the clear waters.
During the summer, the water temperatures peak in the 80s, making it an ideal time for snorkeling.
Plus, this park is a nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles.
So, you might also spot a few of these gentle creatures underwater!
This pristine beach offers more than just its white sand and emerald waters.
Beneath the surface lies a captivating underwater landscape and an abundance of sea life.
It’s a fantastic location for snorkelers of all skill levels.
South Walton Artificial Reef Association plays a pivotal role in enhancing the marine ecosystem by creating artificial beautiful reefs.
Most of these snorkeling reefs are located under 300 yards from the shore.
The depths of the reefs range around 12 – 25′ and are conveniently accessed by paddleboard, double kayaks, or a small boat.
One of the most popular reefs is the Dolphin Snorkel Reef, where you can swim alongside playful dolphins in their natural habitat.
Along the Scenic Highway 30-A, you’ll also find the Grouper Snorkel Reef, Turtle Snorkel Reef, and Seahorse Snorkel Reef.
These reefs are located near the shore, making them easily accessible and perfect for snorkelers of all skill levels.
Here is a list of the snorkel reefs:
- Dolphin Reef in Miramar Beach – Depth: 12-20′
- Henderson Park Reef in Henderson State Park – Depth: 12-20′
- Turtle Reef in Grayton Beach State Park – Depth: 12-19′
- Seahorse Reef in Topsail Hill Preserve State Park – Depth: 13-18′
- Grouper Reef in Inlet Beach – Depth: 12-21′
Ultimately, these snorkel reefs provide new habitats for various marine species and contribute to the overall health of the Gulf’s waters.
Clear Water Springs
A short drive to the North of Destin, Florida lies a hidden gem for snorkelers – Cypress Springs on Holmes Creek in Vernon, Florida.
It offers a unique experience with it’s remote location crystal clear natural spring water.
Cypress Springs offers an enchanting underwater world to explore. Snorkelers will be mesmerized by the stunning underwater scenery, which includes submerged limestone caves and formations.
Destin Florida Snorkeling Tours
If you’re a beginner or new to the area, I encourage you to take a snorkeling tour offered by a local business.
More importantly, guided snorkel tours removes the guesswork and an excellent way to explore the aquatic wonders of Destin.
Knowledgeable guides, a professional staff, and great customer service not only lead you to the ideal place and best spots, but also provide insights into the marine life you encounter.
Furthermore, you will have plenty of time on the water and don’t need to worry about snorkeling gear.
Dolphin Tour and Sunset Cruises
While a snorkeling adventure remains a primary attraction for the whole family, Destin offers other activities and things to do for adults and the whole family.
These include dolphin cruises, sunset cruises, and fireworks cruises.
More importantly, some tour companies combine dolphin cruises, snorkeling, and sunset watching.
Destin area visitors can climb aboard a double-hulled catamaran sailboat on a multi hour excursion and enjoy the main things Destin has to offer.
Also, dolphin watch tours and sunset cruises add an opportunity to see abundant marine life.
Imagine snorkeling during the day in the crystal blue waters of Destin and ending the with a magical sunset cruise.
Best Time to Snorkel (High Tide)
The best time for Destin Florida snorkeling is during the summer months at high tide.
High tide, commonly referred to as incoming tide, means the clean ocean water comes to shore.
Obviously, this enhances your snorkeling experience by increasing visibility.
Snorkeling during high tide offers several advantages that make the experience more enjoyable and safe.
Here’s why high tide is often considered the best time for snorkeling:
High tide results in deeper water levels, which can be beneficial for snorkelers. Deeper water allows you to explore a wider range of underwater landscapes, including coral reefs, underwater formations, and marine life habitats.
High tide usually brings in the clearest waters, as the currents are stronger and help to disperse sediment and particles.
Clearer water enhances visibility, allowing you to see marine life, coral formations, and other underwater features more vividly.
Access to Deeper Areas
During high tide, you can access areas that might be too shallow to explore during low tide.
Moreover, this is especially important for snorkelers who want to experience a variety of marine environments and explore deeper sections of the reef or underwater terrain.
Reduced Risk of Scraping
Snorkelers are less likely to come into contact with the seabed, rocks, or coral formations during high tide, as water levels are higher.
Obviously, this reduces the risk of accidental scrapes, cuts, or damage to the fragile marine ecosystems.
Easier Entry and Exit
High tide can provide smoother entry and exit points into and out of the water. It eliminates the need to navigate through shallow, rocky areas that might be exposed during low tide.
High tide often means less turbulence and choppiness in the water. This can create a calmer and more comfortable snorkeling experience, especially for those who might be sensitive to rough water conditions.
Access to Snorkeling Sites
Some snorkeling sites, particularly those near shorelines or reefs, might be accessible only during high tide.
Low tide can expose shallow areas, making it difficult to swim or snorkel in those spots.
High Tide Safety
However, it’s important to note. that while high tide generally offers these benefits, there are exceptions.
Local conditions, currents, and weather patterns can impact water clarity and safety.
Therefore, always check local tide charts and conditions before embarking on a snorkeling trip.
Additionally, be aware that strong currents can accompany high tides, so it’s essential to have proper flotation devices, and know your limits.
Follow safety guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable snorkeling experience.
Diverse Marine Life
Snorkeling and scuba diving in Destin, Florida offers the chance to encounter a diverse range of marine life in its clear, emerald waters.
Here are some of the marine species you might have the opportunity to see while snorkeling in Destin:
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Loggerhead sea turtles are a common sight in the waters around Destin.
These gentle giants can be seen gracefully gliding through the water or surfacing for air.
If you’re very lucky, you might come across a manatee while snorkeling.
Manatees sightings in Destin, Florida occur mostly in the Destin Harbor or roughly 50 to 100 yards off the beach.
Do not actively seek out or disturb Manatees.
The law protects them and you should observe them from a respectful distance.
Colorful Tropical Fish
The clear waters of Destin are home to a variety of vibrant tropical fish and schools of fish.
In addition, you might spot species like parrotfish, angelfish, damselfish, sergeant majors, and wrasses in a rainbow of colors.
Southern stingrays are often found resting on the sandy seabed.
Furthermore, these graceful creatures carry a distinctive diamond-shaped body and can blend in with the ocean floor.
While snorkeling, you might be lucky enough to encounter pods of playful dolphins swimming by.
Bottlenose dolphins are common in the area and are known for their interactive behavior.
If you take a dolphin cruise, your tour boat operator locates dolphins easily.
Corals and Sponges
While not as extensive as some tropical destinations, Destin still has patches of colorful coral and various types of sponges that provide habitat and shelter for marine life.
While not all jellyfish are harmless, they are fascinating to observe from a safe distance.
Also, the translucent bodies of jellyfish can be mesmerizing as they move through the water.
Along rocky areas and coral formations, you might come across sea urchins.
These spiky creatures are usually found attached to the substrate.
Although they can be elusive, spotted moray eels and other types of eels might make appearances in crevices and rocky areas.
Look closely among the corals and rocky surfaces for a plethora of invertebrates, including sea anemones, shrimp, and various types of mollusks.
In addition, you are likely encounter hermit crabs crawling along the bottom.
Their intricate shells offer a protective home, and their curious nature makes them fascinating to watch.
Blue crabs, with their vibrant blue claws, are also a common sight.
Also, ghost crabs crawl along the sandy bottoms closer to the shore.
With its calm waters, rich marine life, and a variety of snorkeling spots, Destin Florida snorkeling offers an unforgettable underwater adventure for everyone.
What is the best time of year to go snorkeling in Destin, Florida?
The best time for snorkeling in Destin is typically during the spring, summer, and early fall months when the water is warmer and the weather is more predictable.
Where are the best snorkeling spots in Destin, Florida?
The best snorkeling spots in Destin, Florida are the East Pass Jetties, the Destin Jetties, the jetties at Norriego Point, and the Dolphin Snorkel Reef in Miramar Beach.
What types of marine life can I expect to see while snorkeling in Destin?
The marine life you can expect to see while snorkeling in Destin, Florida includes tropical fish, manatees, sea turtles, jellyfish, dolphins, and even small sharks.
Do I need to be an experienced snorkeler to enjoy Destin’s snorkeling sites?
No, Destin offers snorkeling opportunities suitable for all skill levels.
While some spots, like the jetties, might have stronger currents, there are calmer areas such as the snorkel reefs at Henderson Beach State Park that are great for beginners.