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Wondering where to see dolphins in Florida? Here are the top places for a magnificent dolphin watching experience.

Enjoy Dolphin Watching in Florida

Aside from incredible wildlife, awestruck beaches, premiere destinations, and stunning mountains, dolphin watching in Florida is among the most popular outdoor activities. With a brain-body ratio behind only humans, dolphins are among the most intelligent creature on the globe. Vacationing in Florida to see these excellent animals in their natural habitat is one of the most exceptional experiences.

Where to See Dolphins in Florida

Where to See Dolphins in Florida


A family visit to the sunshine state should be filled with exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime, and astonishing experiences. So, there is no better way to make your vacation memorable than watching dolphins in Florida’s coastal waters. In fact, dolphin watching is a bucket list and most humbling experience for many of us.


Moreover, Florida is also one of the best states to observe incredible marine life and get up close and personal with dolphins. But the question is, where to see dolphins in Florida?


Luckily, there are plentiful places across Florida where you can see one of the most adorable and intelligent creatures. Here is a bucket of the best places for seeing dolphins in Florida.


Types of Dolphins in Florida


While about 44 species of dolphins are in the wild, a few have now become endangered. Fishing and environmental destruction are among the most significant threats that these human-friendly creatures face. If you want to swim with these majestic creatures, the sunshine state is one of the best places to do it. They live in clear, warm water throughout the year, which means you can join a boat tour and enjoy dolphin watching in Florida.


It is worth noting that about nine dolphin species call Florida their home. Some of the most common include:

  • Bottlenose Dolphin


It is common to see bottlenose dolphins in Florida’s coastal waters. These dolphins are gray and can be as long as 12 feet. According to statistics, there are over 600,000 bottlenose dolphins worldwide, making them one of the most common dolphin species. While some people call them porpoises mistakenly, you can identify these dolphins by their long beaks.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin


Moreover, bottlenose lives both onshore and offshore, so it is a common sight to spot these dolphins in Florida. While they come out to breathe every two minutes, bottlenose can hold their breath underwater for up to ten minutes.


  • Common Dolphin


Also known as Delphinus Delphis, Common dolphins are another species you can find off the Florida coast. It is essential to know that there are two types of common dolphins – short-beaked and long-beaked, and that’s the most significant difference between them.

Common Dolphin

Common Dolphin

You can recognize common dolphins by looking at their sides and having visually appealing markings. With a length between 7.5 to 8.5 feet, these dolphins are smaller than the bottlenose. Moreover, since they live offshore, you are less likely to spot a common dolphin near the shore. That said, the best way to experience dolphin watching is by boat.


  • Spinner Dolphin


The spinner dolphin is one of the most active dolphin species. As the name suggests, watching it spinning and making incredible maneuvers on its tail is one of the best dolphin watching experiences. However, with a length between 4.6 to 6.8 feet, these dolphins are much smaller than other dolphin species.

Spinner Dolphin

Spinner Dolphin


Moreover, these dolphins are dark gray on the back, have a white belly, and may have a curved dorsal fin or an erect triangular fin.


  • Atlantic Spotted Dolphin


Unlike other dolphin species mentioned earlier, the Atlantic spotted dolphin can be spotted at certain times of the year. These dolphins are a bit darker than bottlenose and can be identified by looking at their back with spotted markings.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin


This spotted marking becomes more evident as they get older. So, the more spots you see on a dolphin, the older it is. Moreover, these dolphins also have a thicker beak with white ends. The spotted dolphin can breed in a pod with up to 50 members. You may also find them living alongside other dolphins.


Dolphin Watching Season in Florida


Florida is a top destination for summer vacation. The sunshine state has warm climates and waters in the Gulf of Mexico. So, dolphin watching experience is one of the year-round outdoor activities in Florida. However, to be more specific, the ideal time to spot these magnificent creatures is from sunrise to mid-morning.


During these times of the day, dolphins are more active, and you can find them roaming around the waters for food. That said, while observing dolphins in the wild any time of the day, it is best to go in the early morning.

So, where to see dolphins in Florida?

Where to See Dolphins in Florida?


There are hundreds of spots to see dolphins, especially along the Florida coast. However, if you have no clue where to see dolphins in Florida, here are the top locations:


1.      Marco Island and Naples


It is worth mentioning that Marco Island and Naples have feeding grounds for dolphins. That’s why these locations are at the top of our list. Since many mullets call Marco Island their home, it is a perfect place for dolphins to eat their favorite food – mullets.


In addition to that, the diversity of food in that area means spotting dolphins is a common sight for visitors. Even the time of the day doesn’t matter for dolphin watching, so you can be sure to get personal with dolphins.

Marco Island

Marco Island


Moreover, Marco Island is also famous for housing a variety of wildlife, and you can expect to see manatees there. The Island is just a slice of heaven where you can look for some of the rarest shells in Florida. Booking a dolphin watching tour will allow you to hunt for these rare shells.


Furthermore, while at Marco Island, you will be glad to explore a few undiscovered areas and learn about its fascinating history. Remember that Marco Island is also the biggest Island of the Ten Thousand Islands.


How to See Dolphins?


·         Kayaking


A dolphin watching kayak tour at Marco Island offers a relaxing yet enthralling experience. Kayaking in the relaxed, calm waters of Rockery Bay Reserve will let you explore pristine mangrove forests and have an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of these beautiful and human-friendly creatures.


·         Jet Skiing


Wondering how to see dolphins in Florida when you are at Marco Island? Jet skiing is one of the most fun activities that will let you see dolphins. A Jet Ski tour at Marco Island will guide you deep into the mangrove maze and Rookery Bay Reserve. It will also allow you to explore areas you cannot access by boat.


·         Boating


Boating at Marco Island is fun and allows you to see dolphins. A relaxed cruise tour through pristine Florida waters makes for an enthralling excursion. While enjoying a boating tour, you can be sure to spot bottlenose dolphins swimming, playing, and feeding in their natural habitat.


2.      Florida Keys


The Florida Keys is another popular destination for dolphin watching in Florida. Especially, Islamorada and Key Largo are the places that you should pay a visit to for watching dolphins in the wild. It is worth mentioning that the Florida Keys is also one of the prominent breeding grounds for these beautiful creatures, and it is not uncommon to see dolphins year-round. Moreover, vacationing in the Florida Keys will allow you to swim with dolphins.Dolphin in Key Largo


How to See Dolphins?


·         Swimming


Swimming with dolphins in Key Largo is one of the best ways to enjoy your dolphin watching experience. Dolphin Plus Tours offers various marine mammal interaction and swimming programs, including Structured Dolphin Swims, Guided Natural Dolphin Swims, Shallow Water Encounters, etc. These tours are an excellent opportunity for individuals wishing to learn about dolphins in a safe, natural environment.


·         Kayaking


Paddleboarding and boat-based kayak tours at Key Largo are fun adventure tours. Visitors will be driven into Everglades to discover enormous backcountry waters. In addition to dolphinwhere to see dolphins in floridawatching, you can expect to spot exotic birds, manatees, crocodiles, and other wild creatures.


3.      Gulf World Marine Park


Located in Panama City, Gulf World Marine Park is another excellent place for seeing dolphins. The park offers shows and interactive learning programs with animals that live there. Additionally, many options help you with precisely what you are looking for and where to swim with dolphins. The friendly and caring staff of the park not only cares for marine life but also educates visitors about dolphins.


Some of the dolphin watching and swimming with dolphin packages include Bottlenose Dolphin Royal Swim, Bottlenose Dolphin Encounter, Bottlenose Dolphin Swim Adventure, Rough-Toothed Dolphin Encounter, and more.


The Trainer for a Day package is a nice option for vacationers wishing for a longer experience to fill their day. While this package will let you participate in food preparation, you will also get a complementary Gulf World Marine Park t-shirt.


In addition to swimming with dolphins, the park offers many other attractions and marine life to make the most of your visit. For instance, you can enjoy a Stingray Interactive Program, attend Sea Line Meet N Greet, or participate in Harbor Seal Encounter.


4.      Amelia Island


Located north of Jacksonville, Amelia Island is a barrier island. It is a popular destination for a variety of stunning wildlife. Visitors will have a perfect opportunity to explore the northern regions and observe different bird species, fascinating marine life, and wildlife.

Kayak Dolphin Tour at Amelia Island

Kayak Dolphin Tour at Amelia Island


The nature at Amelia Island is pristine. You will love exploring miles of exceptional beaches. In addition to stunning beaches, there are plenty of restaurants, ocean-front hotels, and even golf courses. While Amelia Island’s most significant attraction is its dunes, the destination is also a perfect place for dolphin watching in Florida.


Moreover, there is an abundance of recreational and outdoor activities to make your vacation memorable. It includes kayaking, boating, swimming, diving, etc.


How to See Dolphins?


·         Boat Tours at Fernanda Beach


Amelia Island Kayak Excursions is a family owned business offering guided kayak and boating tours. Boat cruises and dolphin tours at the Island provide an unforgettable family excursion with up-close dolphin encounters. You will also have the opportunity to discover other sea creatures. Local captains and guides will guide you to the best dolphin-sighting spots.


·         Canoeing


Whether you want to kayak or canoe, Coastal Florida has so much for visitors to discover and see. While the inland waterways and local salt marshes have abundant wildlife and exotic birds, kayak tours at Amelia Island offer many opportunities for up-close dolphin encounters.


5.      Sanibel Island


Sanibel Island is up there with the most popular spots for where to see dolphins in Florida. The Island is just off Fort Myers’s coast as a well-known vacation destination. In fact, it is a slice of heaven in the Gulf of Mexico for outdoor enthusiasts.


One of the most enthralling activities at Sanibel Island is boating tours that let you spot dolphins and be admired. While boating, you can expect to see dolphins frolicking around just offshore. Additionally, it is also possible to see these majestic sea dogs in the distance from the shore. However, ensure that you have your binoculars with you.

Swimming with Dolphins at Sanibel Island

Swimming with Dolphins at Sanibel Island


Furthermore, for those who wish for a close encounter and get personal with dolphins, a paddle or kayak tour is ideal that will let you glimpse these fascinating mammals. Alternatively, if you cannot make it to Sanibel Island, a dolphin watching tour from the mainland of Fort Myers is a good idea.


How to See Dolphins?


·         Snorkeling


Snorkeling at Sanibel Island allows visitors to play with dolphins and experience one-on-one interactions like belly rubs and handshakes. However, remember that dolphins are wild mammals, and snorkeling with dolphins can be dangerous. So, it is essential to follow the guidelines and wear protective gear.


·         Private Dolphin Sightseeing Tours


Private dolphin sightseeing tours at Sanibel Island allow visitors to sit back and relax as they cruise the pristine waters of Sanibel Island, Cape Coral, and Captiva Island. These guided tours will drive visitors to all of the Island’s dolphin and wildlife top spots. Additionally, tourists will discover Blind Pass, San Carlos Bay, Pine Island Sound, and more.


6.      New Smyrna Beach


New Smyrna Beach is yet another popular dolphin watching spot in Florida. It is basically a surf hub on the Atlantic side of Florida, and dolphins love to surf waves. The playful attitude of these incredible sea dogs sees surfing waves just as we do.


In fact, these beautiful mammals do it purely for fun. The only purpose of surfing waves for dolphins is to enjoy life. As we all know, dolphins are so emotionally intelligent; they love to spend some downtime and recreation. While vacationing at New Smyrna Beach, one can be certain to enjoy dolphin watching experience. Moreover, if you are planning a dolphin watching boat tour, there is a chance that dolphins will find you first because they want to have some fun.



Furthermore, in this part of the sunshine state, river cruises are one of the most enthralling activities for dolphin watching. As you cruise the river, you will witness the beauty of famous sites like Prince de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. Similarly, once on the ocean, you will have the opportunity to see hundreds of bottlenose dolphins who call this region their home.


How to See Dolphins?


·         Private Charter Boat Cruises


Boat tours at New Smyrna Beach allow visitors to see everything the place has to offer. These tour guides will tell you about the best dolphin watching spots. In addition to dolphin watching, some may also let you enjoy fish. While there are plenty of excellent options at New Smyrna Beach, our favorites include Spot Tail, Fishing Charters, and Turtle Mound Tours.


·         Paddle Boarding


Stand-up paddle boarding at the beach is a trendy activity. This water sport at New Smyrna Beach lets visitors find dolphins and play with them. In addition, to stand-up paddle boarding, visitors can enjoy eco-tours, fishing, and more.


7.      Clearwater City


Clearwater City is another beautiful place for enjoying a fantastic dolphin watching experience. With some of the most stunning dolphin and sunset cruises, the city is just another perfect vacationing destination. If you wish to have a memorable visit, you can join tours like Classic Cruises, Calypso Queen Cruises, Dream Catcher Explorations, Clearwater Beach Marina, and more.

Clearwater Marine Beach Dolphin Boat Tours

Clearwater Marine Beach Dolphin Boat Tours

When you are in Clearwater City, Clearwater Marine Aquarium is one of the best places you cannot skip. You will see “Winter,” a dolphin who lost her tail in 2005 to carb a trap. The mammal now lives with a prosthetic tail.


It is worth mentioning that the Little Toot boat is the only boat in the city that can cruise the Shallows and the Gulf. So, there will be a lot of intimidating dolphin sights.


How to See Dolphins?


·         Boat Tours


Clearwater city boat tours are a fun activity for the whole family. The family-friendly pirate adventures and romantic sunset cruises are perfect for a memorable visit. While you love getting personal with dolphins, Clearwater boating tours will let you see local birds and beautiful wildlife. Moreover, these guided tours will also inform you about the area’s dolphin population.


·         Swimming at Clearwater Beach


Swimming with dolphins off the coast of Clearwater is a popular activity among marine life lovers. You can expect to meet adorable mammal creatures. Clearwater beach is a safe, soft, and beautiful beach. While proficient swimmers with avid knowledge about marine mammals and local waters can swim independently, the novice should take guided swimming tours.


8.      Sarasota


Situated south of Tampa, Sarasota is an astonishing coastal city in Florida. It is popular among visitors for its cultural institutions, making the city an excellent spot for those looking to have educational tours with some adventure. The Ringling Museum of Arts, in particular, is among the most famous institutions in the city.

Dolphin Watching at Sarasota

Dolphin Watching at Sarasota


Moreover, another notable thing about Sarasota is the pod of dolphins living just off the coast throughout the year. There are about 150 of them who feed, breed and live here. While swimming around the Sarasota waters, you may have a chance to spot bottlenose dolphins in the distance. So, it is recommended to join a dolphin watching tour for guaranteed siting.


How to See Dolphins?


·         Manatee and Dolphin Cruise Tour


Sarasota Bay is a perfect location for dolphin watching in Florida. The Manatee and Dolphin Cruise tour at Sarasota is a 2-hour tour, allowing visitors to see bottlenose dolphins and learn about their lifestyle and population.


·         DeSoto Kayak Tours


DeSoto Kayak tours are another fun way to watch dolphins. While kayaking, you will be guided through mangrove tunnels to see manatees, dolphins, exotic local birds, and other incredible wildlife in their natural, Uncrowded setting.


9.      Fort Myers Beach


Wondering where to see dolphins in Florida while enjoying a fast boat ride? Sea Racer Tours at Fort Myers Beach allow the visitors to get close and personal with dolphins. The huge wake will draw dolphins to jump out of the water and play. Additionally, the captains of Sea Race Tours know how to find the best dolphin watching places.


In addition to Sea Racer Tours, Good Time Charters at Fort Myers Beach also help visitors to see dolphins. They also encourage visitors to enjoy other sports activities like snorkeling and explore other marine creatures, such as starfish, sea turtles, manatees, etc.


So, these are the top 9 places for having a fantastic dolphin watching experience in Florida. Now, let’s discuss how to see dolphins in Florida without hurting them.


Wrapping Up


Still, wondering where to see dolphins in Florida? These top hot spots allow you to experience up-close encounters with these majestic and adorable mammals. In addition to dolphin watching, these destinations in Florida also let visitors explore beautiful sights, pristine waters, and fantastic wildlife.


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