The newest dive park along Key West’s Atlantic shore, Key West Marine Park is fast becoming a favorite among local and visiting snorkelers. Featuring no-motor “swim-only” lanes marked by buoys, snorkelers and swimmers can enjoy the coast’s incredible undersea life without worrying about dangerous motorized boat traffic. Located near the popular White Street pier, the park is fast becoming a popular stop for folks looking for convenient Key West snorkeling tours.
The HistoryKey West Marine Park
A cooperative project between the city of Key West and environmental organization Reef Relief, Key West Marine Park’s objective was to create a safe swimming zone stretching some 600 feet off shore between White Street Pier and Duval Street. Modeled after similar areas in the Caribbean, the park helps swimmers, snorkelers, fishermen and jet skiers safely and happily share the same waters. Swim-only areas present a peaceful and environmentally healthy solution.
Beginning Snorkeler Haven
Close to shore and free of motorized boats and jet skis, Key West Marine Park is the ideal spot for beginning snorkelers. Swim-only lanes are marked by prominently visible buoys. Enjoy brilliantly hued fish and fascinating coral patches and reefs close to shore, and then wind up a fun-filled morning of snorkeling with a pleasant nap on the beach. Snorkeling from shore is the perfect way to adjust to the sport at your own pace, heading into the water from the beach for an hour or two of relaxed marine life explorations just steps from sunbathing spots and restaurants. Once you get the hang of mask, snorkel and fins you can venture further afield on Key West snorkeling tours to the exciting reefs and wrecks of the area or even more remote locations like the magnificent Dry Tortugas.
Best Spots at Key West Marine Park
The best spot for snorkeling at the park is generally considered the old sunken pier at Higgs Beach just offshore of the intersection of Atlantic Boulevard and Reynolds Avenue. Any sort of underwater structure can create an interesting environment for marine life, and the grassy sand flats here are home to some 50 species of marine life including star fish, sea urchins, conchs, yellow butterfly fish, nurse sharks, hogfish and parrot fish. You may even see an occasional spotted ray. Just keep a sharp eye out for jellyfish.
Snorkeling Off the Beach at Key West Marine Park
Close to shore and well-protected, Key West Marine Park is a great place for kids to try out snorkeling. The 40 acre marine park has public beach access from South Beach and Higgs Beach. Local favorite South Beach has warm, shallow water and a concrete pier perfect for luring colorful sea creatures. Wide and sandy, family-friendly Higgs Beach has a full slate of amenities including picnic area, rest rooms, full service restaurant and playground. Ladders run from down from the dock to crystal waters and you can rent water sport equipment, umbrellas and chairs. Snorkel, swim and then stay on for the spectacular Key West sunset.