tampa bay watch sandbar snorkel

Family-Friendly Spots to Snorkel in Tampa Bay

When the weather is warm, one of our favorite activities to do is to go snorkeling off the beautiful beaches of Tampa Bay! Snorkeling is the perfect activity for kids since it’s typically done in shallow water and allows them to learn about Tampa’s ecosystem and get up close to sea critters that call Tampa’s waterways home.

So grab your snorkeling gear, sunscreen, and swimsuits – we’ve rounded up some of our favorite family-friendly snorkeling spots in Tampa Bay.

Snorkeling with Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center

400 2nd Ave NE, St. Petersburg

Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center is located on the St. Pete Pier. In addition to their eco-friendly exhibits and animal experiences, they also offer Sandbar Snorkeling Tours at select times throughout the year. These tours are done in very shallow water, making it accessible for both adults and kids ages 5 and up.

This tour was perfect for kid and amateur snorkelers. We started out on one of their 45-foot eco-vessel boats and were taken out several miles to one of St. Pete’s sandbars – shallow, sandy bottomed areas surrounded by sea grass. While on board, we were educated by expert guides on how to properly use snorkeling gear and learned about the animals we may be encountering when we got there. While we were encouraged to bring our own snorkeling gear, they do have gear available on board to borrow.

When the boat arrived and anchored, we were free to hop off and explore! To help us from straying too far, several of the guides had dive flags attached to them to help us know our parameters. The water was only a few feet deep, making it easy to touch the bottom and do a quick dive down.

Tampa bay watch sandbar snorkel
Find an array of sea critters during the Sandbar Snorkel!

We spent about an hour in the water and found a variety of animals including starfish, sand dollars, hermit crabs, sea mollusks, and even sea horses! The guides carried large buckets in the water where we were able to put our critters and learn all about them. Once we were ready to board the boat to return back, they were placed in shallow touch tank bins so that we could share them with other guests on board (but don’t worry – all the sea critters we found were returned to their home in the water as soon as we docked!). While we were in the water, we also spotted an array of tropical fish, a sting ray and even a small shark!

The Sandbar Snorkel Tours set sail several times throughout the year. Check their calendar for specific dates. Reservations are required.


  • Bring a net to scoop up shells and critters if you have one! They do have a few on board you can use but may be limited.
  • Food is allowed on board. Be sure to also pack plenty of water in a reusable water bottle.
  • While life jackets are not required, it’s recommended for swimmers who are not as strong.
  • It might be tempting, but don’t take any live sea critters home with you. They are only allowed in the eco vessel’s touch bins and guides’ buckets.

Other Fun Spots to Snorkel and Swim with the Fish

TradeWinds Resort Swim with the Fishes

5500 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach

TradeWinds Resort offers a unique opportunity to snorkel with some of Florida’s native fish. Their 90-minute aquarium experience gives you the chance to “swim with the fishes” in their 33,500 gallon aquarium built by the team of Animal Planet’s hit show, TANKED. located in their RumFish Grill! Swim with over 200 fish representing 31 different species (including a green moray eel!). Reservations are required.

$45 per guest

SeaTREK at The Florida Aquarium

701 Channelside Dr., Tampa

For this super unique underwater experience, you don’t need any snorkel gear at all! SeaTREK is a helmet diving experience which means you’ve got a big helmet on your head and an oxygen tank on your back, supplying you with the oxygen you need to breathe as you walk under water. During this experience, you’ll have the chance to actually dive into one of Florida Aquarium’s massive tanks as you go down into 15 feet deep water while fish swim all around you. You also get to see parts of the Heart of the Sea habitat that guests never get to see.

This experience requires reservations in advance.

Read all about our first-hand experience at SeaTrek here: See what it’s like to walk underwater with SeaTREK at The Florida Aquarium.

Coastline Dolphin & Snorkeling Excursions

12312 Manatee Ave., Bradenton

Located near Anna Maria Sound, this family-owned company provides dolphin and snorkeling excursions for the whole family. They offer 2, 3, and 4 hour tours that give you the chance to do everything from shelling and snorkeling on a local sandbar or diving into sunken ruins of Fort Dade. Be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time.

$65 and up

Spend the Summer Snorkeling with Clearwater Marine Aquarium!

249 Winward Passage, Clearwater

Whether you have a budding marine biologist or have a little one who loves the water, Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Marine Science Camp is perfect for some fun in the sun. Kids in grades K-12 can embark on a week-long adventure featuring CMA’s rescued dolphins, river otters, and sea turtle friends. Kids can also snorkel in seagrass beds and sand flats, kayak through local estuaries, discover sea creatures in their natural habitat, and visit rescued residents. Each one-week session takes place Monday-Friday from June 3-August 16. Visit cmaquarium.org to learn more.

$240 for non-members/$220 for members

CMA Marine Science Camp
Marine Science Camp at CMA

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