Nothing beats snorkeling as an introduction to the amazing underwater ecosystem. The freedom and joy of incredible up-close encounters with fish, rays, and turtles can be an exciting experience.
Take deep breaths and dive underneath the surface, and you’ll be swallowed up by an entirely different atmosphere. Colorful fish, stingrays, colonies of polyps making up dwindling reefs, and, if you’re lucky, sea turtles and even whales can be seen. While snorkeling is often overlooked in favor of scuba diving, this seemingly uninteresting activity can be far more thrilling than you might expect.
As opposed to scuba diving, snorkeling keeps you near the surface of the water, making it the perfect outdoor sport for small children and those learning to swim.
Fortunately, the Eastern seaboard of the United States has a plethora of these snorkeling spots. Here are some of the best East Coast snorkeling spots to try and visit!
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park is the US’ most isolated National Park and among the country’s southernmost points. With only primitive camping available and only accessible by ferry, this is an ideal destination for those who enjoy the backcountry as you do the lively underwater world. And, because only about 1% of the Dry Tortugas is above water, there’s a lot to see once you put on your snorkel.
Plenty of artificial infrastructures became a haven for sea life and are a fun place to start your underwater adventure, from the ruins of past military fortifications to old pier pilings. A shallow shipwreck from the early 1900s and the Moat Wall are two other fun sights that make this among the best places to snorkel in the United States and the entire state of Florida.
However, the real magic at Dry Tortugas is on the natural reefs, which are nearly 12,000 years old and were formed by the hard labor of 30 coral species, including two endangered and rare corals, the Staghorn and Elkhorn varieties.
Acadia National Park, Maine
The Acadia National Park’s rocky coast in Maine is another strange but amazing snorkeling destination. While you must take precautions and extra care to ensure your safety because of strong tides and currents and wear a wetsuit to avoid the chill of the water at any time of year, snorkeling or diving is entirely possible.
You’ll see a completely different set of fauna and flora when you go underwater. While tidal pools have incredibly diverse ecosystems, venturing into the water just offshore opens up a bigger area to see such fascinating, incredible wildlife.
Little Hunters Beach is an excellent snorkeling location in Acadia. There are red sponges, copper sweepers, and even moray eels to be found there.
Navarre Beach, Florida
During the summer of 2004, Navarre Beach, a state park in Florida, served as the state’s reply to Mississippi’s Gulf Islands National Seashore. Then came Hurricane Ivan, followed by Hurricane Dennis the succeeding year. The devastation caused by those storms provided an opportunity for the county to seize control of Navarre Beach and start investing in marine ecosystem restoration and artificial reef construction.
A massive “super reef” one mile out was built with $1.22 million in funding from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) program after the Deep Horizon oil spill in 2011. Today, Navarre Beach is home to three public reefs easily accessible from the beach, making it among the top locations to snorkel near a metro area.
Navarre Beach also has permanent beach wheelchair access for outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities, which helps to increase public access.
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
St. Thomas islands in the US Virgin Islands, surrounded by numerous shallow and calm bays, is among the best snorkeling destinations in the Caribbean, especially for families. The shallow sandy entrances make it simple for beginners to use their snorkeling equipment.
Sapphire Bay is a great place for families to rest and snorkel. Everybody can go at their own pace with amazing snorkeling spots right outside your door and condos right on the beach. The proximity to the condo is a big plus for families, allowing parents to take turns snorkeling while their children take breaks from the sun or sleep inside.
Secret Harbour is a close second with condos right on the water. The snorkeling, however, is a little further from the coast than at Sapphire Bay, which can be intimidating for beginners.
Brewer’s Bay is another popular destination on the island. You’ll almost certainly snorkel with sea turtles, and the location near the airport landing strip is a child’s favorite! Although it lacks coral, the high likelihood of seeing turtles and the shallow sandy beach make it a must-see on any St. Thomas snorkeling trip.
Coki Beach is likely the most popular snorkeling location on the island, and it is among the best places to see a variety of colorful fish. It’s a good place for adults to learn, but the gentle splashing waves along the rock formations make it less suitable for young children.
Elliott Key, Florida
Elliott Key, located near the Miami shore in Biscayne National Park, provides snorkelers with a rare opportunity to explore not schools of fish and reefs and a series of sunken shipwrecks that comprise the Florida Maritime Heritage Trail.
Park rangers even offer special eco-tourism offerings, such as guided tours of the shipwrecks and many other parts of this 95% water park. In addition to self-guided snorkeling tours of Biscayne, several licensed charters will take divers and snorkelers to various parts of the park and bow fishing expeditions, deep-sea fishing trips, and seaplane tours.
Bahia Honda State Park, Florida
It should come unsurprising that Florida has so many of the best snorkeling spots. Bahia Honda is popular not only with snorkelers but also with sea kayakers, scuba divers, and anyone else looking to experience the Florida Keys.
The incredibly shallow waters on the Atlantic side are ideal for snorkeling for beginners, and you’ll have the opportunity to see seahorses, hawksbill sea turtles, sponges, octopuses, and queen conch. Looe Reef, which is nearby, is another popular snorkeling spot.
Snorkeling is among the most popular outdoor activities on the East Coast, thanks to the warm, calm waters. These states’ pristine and diverse waters allow experts and novices alike to discover diverse marine life straight from the beach. Grab your fins and mask and head to one of these must-see snorkeling locations.