The best places to snorkel in the Florida panhandle are at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, FL and at Destin Inlet Jetty in Destin, FL. Sure, there are other places to snorkel but I have not seen nearly the same amount of life at any of them.
Snorkeling St. Andrews
St. Andrews state park has two great areas for snorkelers; the Bathtub and Oceanside. Both are completely different and they are located within walking distance from one another.
The best place for snorkeling with kids in Florida is the bathtub area. Not only is it the best snorkeling places for kids in Florida it is also one of the beast beaches for young children in the state. The bathtub area is a safe area with maximum depth only around 8′ and the average depth is probably around 6′. The visibility is good especially at slack tide. There are a lot of tropical fish to see and last time a manta ray flew by.
The best place to have your youngest children snorkel is near the rocks in the south east corner where it is shallow enough to stand up if they need to. For the kiddies that are too young to snorkel, the shallow beach is a great place to play, chase crabs and build sand castles.
To reach the bathtub, park in the southeast corner of the parking lot and take the trail past the pavilions straight east. Make sure to wear sandals or some type of foot protection on the way to the beach because the grass is full of those evil little pokey things.
The Oceanside snorkeling are is the long point of rocks southeast from the bathtub. The depths are around 20′ and the area is well protected and the visibility is good. We saw lots of schooling fish, tropical fish and even a large octopus (the locals believe his den is somewhere in the rocks.) No need to trail a dive flag unless you enter the inlet. Be sure to keep your eye out for fishermen while snorkeling so you don’t get hooked!
To reach The Oceanside snorkel area, park in the southeast corner of the parking lot and follow the boardwalk to the south.
St. Andrews State Park
St. Andrews is a really great state park. The pavilions are a really nice place to have a cookout. The bathrooms are clean and they provide outdoor showers to rinse off. St. Andrews also has great camping.
Snorkeling Destin Inlet Jetty
Destin Inlet is a slightly more advanced place to snorkel and it’s quite a walk to get to but if you hit it right you will not be disappointed. Snorkeling locations in Destin inlet can be split into to areas; The River and The Beach.
When you walk out you will see a point of rocks that goes out into the river. Along that point is probably the easiest place in the river to snorkel. It is best to dive at high slack tide for visibility and because the current can be pretty fast especially around the point. This is a place you will need a dive flag due to the high volume of boat traffic. I saw some huge flounder, a lot of tropical fish and some schooling fish there. Then you can follow the rocks toward the ocean. Keep on the lookout for fisherman.
From The Rocks head south across the sand toward the ocean. There you can snorkel along the rocks toward the metal thing at the end (you will know it when you see it.) It is a nice little snorkel. I saw some puffer fish and a few tropical fish. This would be a much easier area for children to dive when there is current in the river.
To get to the inlet park on the road near the public beach access sign and walk the long walk south. You cant miss it. Here is the map below.
Destin Inlet Jetty