Where to See and Swim with Sea Turtles in Florida (Top 11 Places)
If you love sea turtles, then getting up close and personal with these awesome sea creatures will be dream come true for you. Luckily, Florida’s waters host many sea turtle species and will grant you the golden opportunity to see and swim with them.
Some of the best places to see and swim with sea turtles in Florida include Florida Key West Reef, Melbourne beach, Dry Tortugas National Park, The Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, John Pennekamp Reef State Park, Vero Beach, Jupiter, Biscayne National Park, among others.
Read the following guide to discover full details on the best places in Florida to see, touch, and even swim with turtles. We have also discussed the best days to see turtles in Florida and other helpful info you need to know in advance.
Best place to see and swim with sea turtles in Florida:
As we’ve just hinted in the intro, Florida is such a diverse state. It is home to all 5 species of sea turtles namely the green sea turtles, loggerhead turtles, Kemp Ridley sea turtles, leatherback turtles, and the rarest of them all—the hawksbill turtles!
Here’s a list of places where you can see and swim with sea turtles in Florida:
- Melbourne Beach
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Key West Reef
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Vero Beach
- Biscayne National Park
- John Pennekamp Reef State Park
- Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge
- Sombrero Reef
- Canaveral National Seashore
Let’s briefly discuss the basic details about each of the places in the above list:
1. Melbourne Beach
If you want to watch sea turtles nesting, then Melbourne beach is the place to be.
Every summer, between June and July, you’ll get to see the highest concentration of sea turtles crawling up to the shores to lay eggs.
Loggerhead sea turtles are the most common species of sea turtle available, though you can also see green and leatherback sea turtles.
If you want more than just seeing sea turtles nesting, then you should consider seeing the turtle swim in the ocean in Jupiter.
Located northeast of Palm Beach County, Jupiter has a handful of popular dive sites that will treat you to unforgeable scenes site of sea turtles swimming while scuba diving.
The best months to see the turtles are from May through August. The area is abundant with loggerhead sea turtles.
3. Dry Tortugas National Park
This park sits about 70 miles west of Key West and can only be accessed via plane or boat. Nonetheless, it’s one of the best places in Florida Keys to see sea turtles.
This island was named “Dry Tortugas” for its large population of turtles. The most common turtles nesting here includes green, loggerhead, and hawksbill sea turtles.
Even when it’s not a nesting season, you can still spot some of these turtles in the surrounding waters.
4. Key West Reef
This is a beautiful reef and a great snorkeling spot in Florida where you get to swim with the turtles! Adult sea turtles are known to migrate to and from Key West Reef all year around.
And this means you don’t have to wait for the nesting season to see turtles here (unless you only want to see baby turtles hatch).
5. The Seas with Nemo and Friends
If you’re planning a trip to Florida with young kids, then there’s no better place to consider than “The Seas with Nemo and Friends.”
Your little ones will get to see the sea turtles in Florida and even swim with them.
Mind you, this theme park is based on the animation “Finding Nemo” and will take you and your kids on a journey through the ocean as you look for Nemo and his friends.
The most common turtles here are the loggerhead and green sea turtles. Note that you must be certified for you to swim with these creatures at this park.
6. Vero Beach
Vero Beach sits south of Melbourne Beach and is another great place you can find sea turtles in Florida. Here, you can easily spot turtles nesting on the beach at nighttime on your own.
For the best experience, however, you’d want to book a turtle walk with Coastal Connections. This is a nonprofit dedicated to helping sea turtles recover while also protecting their coastal habitats.
7. Biscayne National Park
If you ever dream of someday swimming with turtles, then Biscayne National Park should be on your bucket list of places to visit in Florida.
This park is located south of Miami and offers diving and snorkeling trips to see various sea turtles.
The most common species here include the loggerhead, hawksbill, and green sea turtles.
8. John Pennekamp Reef State Park
Located in Key Largo, the northernmost part of Florida Keys, the John Pennekamp Reef State Park also offers you snorkeling and diving trips.
This makes it another perfect place in Florida for closely interacting with sea turtles as well as other marine life.
Here, you can opt for scuba diving trips, or take a glass-bottom boat tour to the park’s coral reef.
9. Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge
Sea turtles are known to nest from around June to October in front of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. This makes it another suitable site for watching marine life.
Mind you, this sea turtle sanctuary hosts 8,000 to 20,000 turtle nests yearly! This makes it one of key nesting sites for sea turtles in the US.
The most common turtles here include the green sea and loggerhead sea turtles.
10. Sombrero Reef
You’ll also get an opportunity to interact with the sea turtles up close if you visit Sombrero Reef.
The reef is a popular snorkeling and diving spot found offshore of Marathon, Florida Keys.
This reef falls between 2 and 30 feet deep to help bring you up close and personal with your underwater friends.
Last, but not the least one, we have the Canaveral National Seashore. Located on Florida’s east coast, this park makes another popular spot for sea turtles nesting.
Visitors usually flood the area during summer months and participate in turtle walks to see the hatchlings of loggerhead sea turtles.
What part of Florida has the most sea turtles?
Loggerheads, being the most common sea turtles in Florida, are found in the highest populations in Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
This sanctuary sits between Wabasso Beach and Melbourne Beach on eastcoast of Florida. It boasts the habitat for the largest concentration of loggerhead sea turtle nesting on the globe.
Moreover, the refuge harbors the highest population of green sea turtles nestings in North America. This makes it the part of Florida that hosts the most sea turtles.
What’s the best time of day to see sea turtles in Florida?
The best time of the day to see sea turtles in Florida is during the early morning hours or late in the afternoon when they come out to feed or sunbathe.
Sea turtles are known to come ashore from around 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And this makes the perfect time for you to watch them.
The nesting female sea turtles usually go ashore at night, and usually during high tide. They also do it alone.
However, some species such as the Kemps Ridley Turtle tend to nest during the day and will emerge from the ocean in hundreds to participate in arribada—a mass egg-laying event.
What is the best time to see sea turtles hatch in Florida?
The best time of the year to see turtles hatch in Florida is in the late summer and fall months. You can, therefore, visit Florida from June to July through November.
This is especially the case for loggerhead sea turtles which are the most common type of sea turtle in Florida.
Remember, assumptions are based on the fact that sea turtle eggs lay around 50-60 days after they’re laid.
So, theoretically, they start hatching around the 19th of June onwards. However, colder temperatures can make the incubation period longer while warmer temperatures make it shorter.
Regarding the time, the sea turtle eggs tend to hatch at around 9 pm and 5 am, so you should get ready for a late-night beach walk!
Can you touch the sea turtles in Florida?
We advise you against touching adult or baby sea turtles in Florida. Such an act can not only harm them but is also illegal.
The sea turtles of Florida are protected under Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act and the US Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Just be a decent human and not get tempted to touch even the next of these sea creatures. Just keep your distance!
Florida is the place to be if one of your dreams is to swim and dive with sea turtles, watch them closely, or even watch them hatch and find their way back to the waters. All these fun and memorable activities are possible to experience across various waters and beaches of Florida, both day and night.
In summary, some of the best places in Florida you should consider for seeing and swimming with turtles include Melbourne Beach, Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West Reef, Vero Beach, Biscayne National Park, Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, Sombrero Reef, and Canaveral National Seashore.