By Marcia Biggs
Sparkling white beaches, crystal blue water and balmy evening sea breezes—it’s summertime in Florida, when spending playtime on the water is a must. So, why not explore beneath the surface? A number of snorkeling spots in West Central Florida offer a fun and refreshing way to spend the day.
EGMONT KEY STATE PARK, ST. PETERSBURG
Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay, is a 400-acre natural barrier island known for its lighthouse, remnants of an old fort and secluded beaches. The Egmont Key Ferry transports visitors from Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde and Hubbard’s Marina in Madeira Beach to Egmont Key several times daily. The ride is about 25 minutes and offers wonderful opportunities to spot dolphins. The submerged ruins of the fort are a haven for small fish, crabs and other sea life. Snorkel trips range from $20 to $40; snorkel gear can be rented for $5. Reservations are highly recommended during the summer months. Get your cruise on here.
THE REGINA, BRADENTON BEACH
Submerged some 75 yards off beautiful Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island, the shipwreck Regina awaits adventurous snorkelers. A historic Florida Underwater Archeological Preserve, the site contains scattered sections of the 247-foot Regina located15 to 20 feet below the surface. Across the street from the wreck site, Sea Kat Dive Shop rents snorkel gear for $30. Go on a sunny, calm morning, and then explore picturesque Anna Maria Island for the perfect day. Check out the Regina here.
CRYSTAL RIVER, CITRUS COUNTY
World-famous for being a protected sanctuary harboring hundreds of manatees each winter, beautiful Crystal River is also a great place to snorkel in summer. A 1.5-hour drive north of Clearwater, Crystal River is the only place in Florida where you can legally swim and snorkel with manatees. The gentle sea cows gather at Three Sisters Springs during the cold winter months, but are scattered throughout the river during the summer. Guided snorkel tours are easy to find in town; prices range from $30 to $80 and include gear. From July 1–September 24 it’s scalloping season and visitors can snorkel off the mouth of the river in the Gulf and take home their hard-earned booty! discovercrystalriverfl.com
Ready to snorkel the day away? Book your Florida trip at www.allegiant.com now!