The 7 Best Places You Can Swim with Dolphins in Florida

Written by Katie Downey
Published: November 19, 2023
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Going to the beach is almost always something to look forward to, and what could be more exciting than a chance to swim with amazing marine life? In the lovely and tourist-friendly state of Florida, there are many places to experience the lifestyle and environment, though a few spots are the best for viewing and swimming with dolphins.

If you’re looking to swim with dolphins, these are the 7 best places to do so in Florida.

At A-Z Animals, we know how tempting and thrilling it may sound to swim with dolphins or interact with wildlife. We also understand it is unsafe for humans or wildlife to do so. Supporting a “swim with the dolphins” themed business or any business promoting animals as a tourist attraction is not an excellent way to experience wildlife. These beautiful animals should not be harassed or reside in captivity while the business owner’s wallet gets fat off the tourist’s dreams. Let’s keep wildlife wild while enjoying their beauty from a safe distance. They deserve to be respected.

The Dangers of Swimming with Dolphins

Any time you choose to engage with wildlife, it is a dangerous thing to do. The animals are wild and may behave unpredictably. Believing the animal wants to interact with you is false and can hurt you or the fantastic animal. When you choose to interact with wild dolphins, or any dolphin, even in captivity, you are disregarding your life. Humans wanting to befriend wildlife may mean well, but it is unhealthy and can lead to the animal’s untimely death.

Don’t Underestimate Their “Curiosity”

Dolphins are naturally curious and may choose to interact with a person in the water. Depending on the dolphin, this could go many different ways. Nothing may happen, and the person may further disbelieve that something could ever happen. This might give them a false sense of security; when they try it again, it could end badly.

Dolphins can be aggressive. Males have been reported raping their kind and also humans. If you fight back, they could gang up on you and drown you on purpose. They are also capable of biting. It’s not the mouth of Jaws, but it is unpleasant nonetheless and capable of breaking bones. These unpleasant encounters are driven by the dolphin surviving in confinement and under extreme stress. They are brilliant animals not meant for confinement; this means the “swim-with-dolphins” tourist attractions.

If a wild dolphin or pod approaches you, it could easily be a sign of aggression and not simple curiosity. It’s best not to engage the dolphin, touch it, splash to attract it, or try to approach it. The best thing you can do is back away from it and leave the area. Dolphins, especially males, may view you as a toy and try to drag you to deeper water for games with their pod. If this occurs, you will become their “ball” and could be attacked by several dolphins at once, and will likely end with you not returning to the beach. It is perfectly safe to view dolphins from the shore or boats. There are plenty of “Dolphin Cruises” available that are wonderful to join at sunset. Now, look at some of the best places to see dolphins.

1. Destin

Destin beach in florida ar Henderson State Park USA

Destin is a magical place with white sand beaches and turquoise water.

©304216/Shutterstock.com

From May through August, Destin is alive with female dolphins from surrounding areas as they gather for mating. There are numerous excellent ways to view dolphins in their natural habitat. The best beach viewing is at Eglin Beach Park and Henderson Beach State Park. Another great way to check out dolphins and many other wildlife is from the 1000-foot-long Okaloosa Island Pier. Another truly magical way to experience dolphins and other marine critters is by riding on the clear-bottomed boats. You can choose from kid-friendly versions or take a paddle at night on a lit clear kayak tour.

2. Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island Lighthouse Sunrise,Florida

Sanibel Island is a lovely island with the finest white sand and crystal-clear blue water.

©Vito Palmisano/iStock via Getty Images

The island is a hot spot for dolphin viewing in late summer, their mating season. If you want to experience wildlife in the mangroves, ride to the 6,000-acre J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Check the beach out at sunrise for the first pick of the 250+ excellent types of seashells. Dolphins are also frequently seen at dusk and dawn, so get out of bed early! The lovely marine animals also frequent Pine Island Sound. Captiva Cruises is another excellent way to spot dolphins. Check out Lighthouse Beach; they love hunting for fish near the pier.

3. Clearwater

Panorama of city Clearwater Beach FL. Summer vacations in Florida. Beautiful View on Hotels and Resorts on Island. Blue color of Ocean water. American Coast or shore Gulf of Mexico. Sky after Sunset.

Clearwater is full of dolphin boat tours, but book them early; spots run out fast!

©Artiom Photo/Shutterstock.com

Florida’s Clearwater is another dolphin hotspot with ample viewing opportunities. Take one of the many dolphin cruises, but check out the Mega Bite Dolphin Tour for kids who love sharks. The boat is made to look like a shark and creates a large wake that dolphins love to jump. Sand Key Park is excellent for spotting dolphins from the safety of the beach if boat excursions aren’t your thing.

4. New Smyrna Beach

Florida’s New Smyrna Beach is a surf hub because of its waves and tranquility.

©iStock.com/Javier_Art_Photography

New Smyrna Beach is a fantastic vacation place with plenty to do. One spot where you will most likely see dolphins every time is in the Indian River. Along the shore, you will also be able to view manatees resting. The dolphins like to swim alongside the kayaks. The boat tours are affordable and recommended since they are the best way to see dolphins and your best chance to get incredible pictures.

5. Amelia Island

Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida

This island is one of the best places in Florida to see dolphins, especially just after dawn.

©Madison Y Photo/Shutterstock.com

Amelia Island’s barrier island is a place of breathtaking dunes. It also has fantastic beaches with white sand. There are numerous ways to view dolphins, from kayaks and scuba diving to dolphin tours at sunset. Some tours boast a 2-seat catamaran boat where you follow a lead boat and look for dolphins, manatees, and wild horses on Cumberland Island. Of course, you can also view them from the comfort of your condo using binoculars or your keen eyes. The best area to see lovely wild dolphins is Fernandina Beach.

6. Marathon

Turquoise waterfront of Florida Keys in Marathon, Florida

This is another exceptional place to spot dolphins and other sea life types.

©xbrchx/iStock via Getty Images

Marathon has beautiful beaches, clear water, and dolphin viewing like our other Florida extravaganzas. Boats are available for dolphin tours, sailboats, kayaks, and personalized tours. Along with seeing dolphins throughout the Keys, you can also visit the sea turtle hospital bird refuge or some of the remaining tiny Key’s deer in their protected area.

7. Pensacola

Pensacola Beach Aerial View of Coastline - Beach

Pensacola is one of many places Floridians know to look for dolphins.

©Matt Buikema/Shutterstock.com

The entire area around Pensacola makes for excellent dolphin viewing. Much of it is simply about being in the right place at the right time. Locals have reported seeing hundreds of dolphins in that area. Just past Pensacola, a protected wildlife area on Navarre Beach has abundant wildlife like nesting shore birds, nesting sea turtles, and plenty of marine life, including dolphins.

Santa Rosa Island has many lush seagrasses growing near it that dolphins frequent early in the morning, looking for breakfast. If you can get out there near dawn, that is the best time to view them, even though they swim around the area all day. Santa Rosa Island is a protected wildlife area. With only a few people navigating past Pensacola, it is no wonder animals prefer it.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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