The 4 Best Aquariums in Florida (Two Under the Radar)

Written by Jude Speegle
Updated: June 28, 2022
Image Credit NDAB Creativity/Shutterstock.com
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The Sunshine State is almost entirely bordered by water. This means that there is an abundance of aquariums throughout Florida to help its residents explore nature up close and personal. With quite a few huge lakes and rivers crisscrossing the peninsula, we know there is much to learn about its water sources.

It can be easy to get lost in the beauty and wonder of Florida, the lure of its amusement parks, and its vast amount of party life and leisure. Yet, there is also the coastline, full of sea animals and plants to get to know.

We’re going to explore a few aquariums today that will give you the full Florida experience, with two of them not as well known as the others but not any less exciting.

These include:

  • Florida Aquarium
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • St. Augustine Aquarium
  • Key West Aquarium

1. Florida Aquarium 

Aquariums Near Cleveland - Coral Reef
The Florida Aquarium is home to a 500,000-gallon tank that holds a massive coral reef exhibit.

V_E/Shutterstock.com

Florida Aquarium
Address 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602
Animal to SeeSea Otters
Known ForLarge Coral Reef Exhibit

Located in Tampa, the Florida Aquarium is one of the best aquarium options to see if you’re visiting the state. There are more than 7,000 aquatic plants and animals to observe in this 250,000 square-foot aquarium. The aquarium is the seventh-largest in the United States.

Exhibits to enjoy are:

  • Wetlands of Florida
  • Journey to Madagascar
  • Bays & Beaches
  • Stingray Beach
  • No Bone Zone
  • Coral Reef
  • Reef Secrets
  • Waves of Wonder
  • Moon Bay
Florida Aquarium
Florida Aquarium has many interesting creatures and does a lot to help coral reef research

Palmount45 / Creative Commons – License

There are simulated beach environments, a huge aviary, stingrays, and moon jellies to visit. This aquarium could take more than a day to see if you’re looking to uncover every secret.

The animal habitats they have represented start at the tree level and make their way down to the sea level. This is so you can be educated on how all of nature interacts together in Florida.

Historically, the Florida Aquarium helps with conservation efforts, including the desire to help replace the failing coral reefs. They also help facilitate sea turtle egg hatchings and helping to raise sea turtles so that they can make their lives out in the ocean.

Florida is full of fun, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to educate yourself along the way as well.

2. Clearwater Marine Aquarium

bottlenose dolphin swimming in water
You can get hands-on with rough-nose dolphins and feed them at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Address 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL 33767
Animal to SeeRough-nose Dolphins
Known ForMultiple animal care exhibits 

This particular aquarium is known for its true purpose as a rescue and rehabilitation center for injured animals. They take in marine animals that are hurt or sick and nurse them back to health before releasing them, if able. 

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s primary focus is to perform those duties. Many of the animals that make their home at this aquarium were too injured to be released back into the wild. These animals are permanent members.

You can see multiple exhibits to learn how they care for the permanent residents. If you so desire, you can get hands-on and learn how to feed rough-nose dolphins, care for a shark, or pet a stingray.

Their many exhibits include:

  • Aquaponics
  • Atlantis Theater
  • Dolphin Terrace
  • Mangrove Key Kids Zone
  • Mavis’s Rescue Hideaway
  • Ocean Debris Wave
  • Otter Oasis
  • Rescue Deck
  • Rescue Town
  • Rufus Beach
  • Ruth & J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex
  • Sea Cavern
  • Shark Pass
  • Stingray Beach
  • Surgical Suite
  • Turtle Cove

There is a lot to take in at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. From feeding animals to learning how they live, you won’t be bored, that’s for sure.

Now, here are a couple of more “under the radar” aquariums in Florida.

3. St. Augustine Aquarium

St. Augustine, Florida
If you’re in historic St. Augustine, consider a trip to the aquarium!

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

St. Augustine Aquarium
Address 2045 FL-16, St. Augustine, FL 32084
Animal to SeeSharks
Known ForSnorkel Adventure

This aquarium has an 80,000-gallon tank for those who aren’t faint of heart to snorkel in! That’s right, you can get as up close and personal as possible to many different types of animals. Don’t worry, that’s not the only way to explore. You can walk along and view the aquatic life in the tank as well.

There are designs for a newer building that will hold the main exhibits of the St. Augustine Aquarium. There will also be a shark cage for any brave adventurers who want to be dipped into the deep with nature’s best predator.

Check their website out to see when these new additions will be ready. It sounds like soon this could be one of the best places to visit in Florida.

4. Key West Aquarium 

Key West Aquarium Florida
The Key West Aquarium is small, but located in the heart of this tropical paradise.

Peter Etchells/Shutterstock.com

Key West Aquarium 
Address 1 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040
Animal to SeeNurse Sharks
Known ForFirst opened in 1935

This aquarium was a historical adventure, first thought of during the Great Depression and finally fully coming to life in 1935. The original concrete of the Key West Aquarium was mixed with saltwater because there wasn’t enough fresh water to go around.

The hope was that this aquarium would bring scientists and tourists to Key West and help boost the economy. 

The exhibits at the Key West Aquarium are targeted toward all the local animals you can find around the Florida Keys. There is an exhibit dedicated to alligators, which everyone knows is a Florida staple. You can also learn about jellyfish, sharks, and touch stingrays in a touch tank.

There is a sea turtle conservation tour visitors can take as well. You can meet some of the sea turtles that are permanent residents of the aquarium. There are four turtles, and they are all different species. Two of those sea turtles have prosthetic flippers.

Other Florida Aquariums to Explore 

While we’ve highlighted some outstanding aquariums above. Florida is home to more than 20 aquariums across the state. Here are a few more options worth keeping in mind: 

  • Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory – Located in Sarasota, FL. This Laboratory is known for catching and sharing specimens with other scientists.
  • Mote Marine Laboratory– Located in Panacea, FL. There is an aquarium at this laboratory that is available for the public to visit and see.
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends – Located in Disney World, FL. Would you believe that the second largest aquarium in the United States is located inside Epcot? If you’re traveling to Disney World, make sure to take in The Seas with Nemo & Friends as it boasts an incredible 5.6 million gallons of water across a series of massive tanks.

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About the Author

Jude is a writer both by trade and by heart. They have been writing since a very young age and have eight years of professional writing experience. Passionate about animals, Jude has three birds and three cats.