Snorkeling in Destin: Locations, Excursions and Marine Life

destin florida


This article is part of our Top 9 Snorkel Spots In Florida.

Destin is located in northwest Florida, just west of Panama City Beach. It is known as “the world’s luckiest fishing village” and popular for it’s “Gulf Of Mexico beaches“. Many people say that Destin offers some of the best snorkeling in all of Florida. You will enjoy incredible views of clear blue-green water and white sandy beaches, as well as a diverse marine life.

There are a good amount of excursions available, but you can just as well create your own little adventure. The underwater visibility is great and can be up to eighty feet, depending on the tides and the weather.

If you’re heading towards the Florida keys (in the south), some popular snorkel destinations are Key West (in the southwest of the island group) and Key Largo (in the northeast of the island group). For people traveling across the east coast of mainland Florida, consider to also snorkel on Peanut Island.

How to get there

Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport is the nearest airport to fly to. From there you could either hire a car, grab a taxi or use public transportation.

We always use Skyscanner, especially because there’s an option to combine your flight with some great deals on airport car hire. If you don’t have specific travel dates in mind, try their “Flexible dates” function (you’ll get this option once you select your departure date). That’s where we often find some great deals!


Boat Tours

Your first option would be to book a boat tour. Flipper’s Adventures is one the of many companies that offers a variety of snorkel trips. If however snorkeling is not your cup of tea, or let’s say not every family member feels the urge to explore the ocean, they offer a whole lot of combined activities as well. Just to make sure everybody is happy.

One of their boat trips includes 2 stops for snorkeling, combined with a whole lot of dolphin watching. It takes about 2,5 hours in total. You can also opt for the harbor tour, the sunset cruise or even parasailing. Furthermore, it’s possible to arrange your own excursion with them according to your wishes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a couple, a whole family, or even a bigger group of people.

Pelican Adventures is another company to maybe check out. Besides snorkeling they also offer deep sea fishing, parasailing, a party fishing boat and sword fishing.

Tip: In case you travel with kids, make sure to read our “Giant Guide For Snorkeling With Kids“.

Destin skyline

Henderson Beach State Park

This incredible state park features a natural shoreline of 6,000 feet. It borders the emerald green waters of Florida’s Emerald Coast. Before tourists even reach the water, there is so much to see. There is a spot for picnicking, there are trails for hiking, and much more. The 30-foot high sand dunes and the warm ocean water will make this a day to never forget. In addition, there are campsites with bathrooms.

The beach is ideal for snorkeling. Loggerhead sea turtles nest here and swim around during the summer months. This is an amazing place to snorkel, paddle, or even celebrate your wedding day.

If you want to learn more, we suggest heading over to the Florida State Parks website. They tell you all about the possible activities and amenities, together with some pictures for a good impression.

Tip: If you want to take some lovely pictures of sea turtles, this beach and ocean could do the trick. Feel free to read our guide about snorkeling with a GoPro. Lots of tricks and tips can be found there.

The beach at Henderson Beach State Park

Norriego Point

This little peninsula of soft white sand is located just east of Destin Harbor. There are protected jetties that make the area calm for snorkeling. So yes, you can snorkel off the beach directly. What’s unique about this spot, is the fact that it’s not directly on the Gulf of Mexico. It lies between the Destin Harbor and the East Pass. More info can be found here.

East Pass Jetties (TIP!)

The Jetties are extremely popular among snorkelers. They are located in Destin’s East Pass, near HarborWalk Village and the Destin Bridge. Check out Google Maps if you’re interested in the exact location. The Jetties are actually a man-made rocky wall. Because they’re partially submerged, a reef with incredible sea life was the result after a few decades.

The marine life is really gorgeous. You can expect to observe redfish, puffer fish, flounder, wrasse, sheepshead, small snapper, grouper and barracuda. If you’re lucky you could also spot hermit crabs, blue crabs and octopus.

Make sure to watch the video below this picture in order to get a good impression of the Jetties.

jetties destin


A Short Video About East Pass Jetty Snorkeling

Tip: Get A Pontoon Boat

You can actually rent a pontoon boat in order to visit and explore the Jetties even more. You’re definitely not the only one. Combine your boat trip with a visit to Crab island for example and make a whole day out of it. Make sure to understand all of the safety rules, like the flag system, and never drink when you drive.

Crab Island

Crab Island is a very popular sandbar. In the 1960s, it was a crab shaped island, but now it is a sandbar. Water depths range between 1 and 4 feet. Just be aware that quite some people anchor their boats here. The only way to get there is by boat, unless you are a strong paddle boarder or kayaker. 

Once you made it to Crab Island, you can snorkel around the boat. Remember, it’s not a “real” island. Who knows you might even spot some dolphins. All in all, this area could disappoint if you can’t stand crowded places. More information can be found on Destin Vacation Boat Rentals.

Destin Bridge

In case you already did a little research, you may have noticed the Destin bridge. It offers some amazing marine life, however, watch out for boat traffic. Some people say that snorkeling under the last three pilings is possible, but still, make sure to ask for the advise of a local snorkeler or expert on this subject. If you decide to give it a go, make sure to use a diver’s flag and a safety observer above the water. Whenever a boat comes your way, you and everyone else needs to get away as fast as possible. So, is it fun? Probably, but you always need to be on the watch. I’d say, just skip this location, especially if it’ your first time and you’re a little scared to snorkel.

Marine Life in Destin

There is a variety of marine life in the waters around Destin. You will find coral, sponges, lobster, tropical fish, stingrays, man-o-war, jellyfish, sea turtles, manatee, and even a few sharks. And like we said, maybe even dolphins. In addition, tour companies say that you may run into yellow tang, wrasse, goby fish, starfish, queen angelfish, puffer fish and damselfish. These reef fish of Florida might also be waiting for you.


Tip: In case you join one of the tours, you will notice that some of them provide all the necessary gear. Stay safe and read our review about full face snorkel masks first. Another article we’d suggest is snorkeling and seasickness. Yes, it happens regularly and could ruin your day.

You may come across a sea turtle

Other Wildlife In Destin

In addition to snorkeling, there is more wildlife to see. Taking a break or having a day off can still be one big adventure. You can visit the butterflies at Edens Garden for example. This is their website.

The Okaloosa Island Pier is a great spot for watching sea turtles. You might catch a glimpse of rays and sharks. Henderson Beach State Park has many different types of wildlife to see, including bird species, reptile species, rabbits, bobcats, gopher tortoises and more. 

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

The Gulfarium offers visitors the opportunity to have hands on encounters with wildlife. Their programs include reptiles, fish, mammals and birds. They also promote marine habitats. One huge attraction is snorkeling with rays and sharks. Another fun thing to do is swimming with dolphins.

In addition, the Gulfarium has turtles, penguins, seals, sea lions and many other species. This is a great place for family adventures. Read more on their website.


Snorkeling and Shelling in Destin

Another fun way to double up on activities is to do the Snorkeling and Shelling Excursion. Enjoy an afternoon of snorkeling and shelling with the whole family. Some of these excursions even take you to feed the fish and watch the dolphins as the sun sets over the harbor.

Final Thoughts

One of the best things about Destin, is that people of all ages can enjoy this destination for snorkeling and more. You’ll love its beautiful beaches with emerald green water, and there is plenty to do whilst you’re there. Your vacation can be whatever you want it to be, from a romantic getaway to a family vacation.

Snorkeling is an incredible experience because the waters are clear and visibility is great. Even if you are experienced and decide to snorkel in the rain. You can see dolphins, manatees, sharks and more. If you want, you can even snorkel with tropical fish, rays and sea turtles. There is plenty to keep you entertained.


Recent Posts