A Guide To Snorkeling in Tampa
If you plan to visit Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or any part of the Tampa Bay region, you should consider snorkeling the bay or on the Gulf Coast. This area allows one to snorkel from the shore, in the bay, or by boat out in the ocean.
Tampa Beach has powdery white sand that is soft and consistently warm all year round. The water is blueish turquoise, clear, and also warm year-round. Tampa is often called the “Sunshine City” because it averages 361 days of sunshine a year.
Best Snorkeling Spots in Tampa
Clearwater Beach is known for its bright white, sugar-soft sands, clear water, and good weather. In 2018, it was named TripAdvisor’s #1 Beach in America. People love this beach for swimming, snorkeling, sunning, and recreating because it is always clean, safe, and family-friendly. Every day, the sand is raked and groomed, and every day, lifeguards carefully keep watch during daylight hours.
The water is calm and clear, so it’s ideal for beginners and young snorkelers who haven’t quite mastered the art of swimming in the ocean.
There are several hotels, restaurants, and fun attractions in the immediate vicinity, so when you finish snorkeling, there is still plenty to do.
You can find Clearwater Beach and the Pier 60 Fishing Pier that sits atop 1 Causeway Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33767.
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Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island
Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island used to be one until a devastating 1921 hurricane hit the area, splitting the island into two parts.
The islands can be reached by boat, ferry, or on foot if you are willing to walk in from Highway 60, which runs from Clearwater to Caladesi Island.
The water here is calm, shallow, clear, and monitored by a lifeguard, usually from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Since Caladesi Beach is a little out of the way, it is less crowded than some other locations in the area, especially Clearwater Beach.
Here, you will likely see coral, a few colorful varieties of fish, and perhaps a dolphin or two.
Honeymoon Island is even quieter than Caladesi Island. It is intentionally non-industrialized, making the area feel more special.
Go to the island’s north end (Honeymoon Island Beach) to see a large reef teeming with stingrays, sharks, manatees, gopher tortoises, sea turtles, dolphins, fish, coral clusters, and deep crevices on the ocean floor. You’ll also find many species of birds, large and small, on the island and in the air above you.
Caladesi Island State Park can be found at 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698. You can find Honeymoon Island just north, at 1 Honeymoon Island, Dunedin, FL 34698.
Sunset Beach and Treasure Island Beach on Treasure Island
Treasure Island Beach offers a large beachfront and gentle waters with mild waves. If this wasn’t family and child friendly enough, there is a clean, well-maintained playground area right on the beach too.
The island has about four miles of beachfront, all gently sloping, soft, and sandy.
When you finish snorkeling for the day, make sure you find the Osprey Trailhead to hike the island’s interior. Mosquitos are prolific, but so are the views and other more pleasant forms of wildlife. Bald Eagles, hawks, ospreys, Great Horned Owls, vultures, tortoises, crabs, frogs, lizards, and of course, Pelicans can be spotted around this area.
You can find Sunset Beach at 1800 Gulf Rd, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.
Shell Key and Egmont Key
Shell Key and Egmont Key are great for snorkeling, swimming, and searching for sea shells. Wildlife and marine life are abundant here, as is the rich history. Be sure to ask your guide (should you choose to hire one) to tell you all about it. Both keys are on the National Register of Historic Places and serve as a state park and National Wildlife Refuge. You are highly likely to see at least a few of the following creatures:
- nurse sharks
- gopher tortoises
- sea turtles
- tropical fish
- sea birds
- and so much more
Underwater, you’ll find sunken ruins of gun batteries that slowly eroded and collapsed into the ocean in the 1980s. Both Shell Key and Egmont Key are quickly eroding with rising water levels. Most of the shore is three feet deep, but further out (like the ruins) is in nine feet deep water.
Are There Coral Reefs in Tampa?
There are coral reefs in Tampa, but they are artificial. Most of these are concrete reef balls, broken debris, shipwrecks, bridge rubble, and retired military equipment. Here are twenty-two reefs near Tampa, Florida:
- Dunedin Reef
- Clearwater Reef
- Madeira Reef
- Treasure Island Reef
- St. Pete Beach Reef
- St. Petersburg Bay Reef
- Picnic Island Reef
- Picnic Island Pier Reef
- Port Tampa Reef
- Howard Frankland Reef
- Courtney Campbell Reef
- Ballast Point Pier Reef
- Bahia Beach Reef
- Port Manatee Reef
- Egmont Key Reef
- Bulkhead Reef
- Southeast Tampa
- Manatee River’s Emerson Point
- Meisner Barge
- Seven Mile Reef North
- Three Mile Reef North
- One Mile Reef North
There are even more reefs that are further offshore and scattered across the entirety of Florida, which you can find here.
Is Snorkeling Good at Clearwater Beach?
Depending on your goals, Clearwater Beach has the potential to be a good snorkeling spot.
Clearwater Beach is ideal if you want a family-friendly location that is easy to access, with comfortably warm waters, good visibility, and shallow, gentle waters.
However, suppose you are more interested in remote snorkeling in deep waters, exploring ruins, and seeing lots of fish, wildlife, or other forms of biodiversity. In that case, Clearwater Beach probably isn’t a good fit for you.
There is always a chance that you could catch a glimpse of sea turtles, manatees, or dolphins. The probability just isn’t high, due to the high population of people who frequent Clearwater Beach.
Still, Clearwater Beach is perfect for families, beginners, and casual snorkelers who just want a chance to play in warm and beautiful waters.
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Are you ready for your next snorkeling trip to Tampa, Florida? Book a boat and maybe even a captain today. We are thrilled to be able to offer dozens of boats (and captains) to the Tampa and Tampa Bay Region. Adventure awaits!