Snorkeling the Space Coast

While the Space Coast of East Central Florida may not be regarded as a top snorkeling destination, quality opportunities do exist, most notably in the vicinity of Sebastian Inlet and along the beaches just south. In fact, snorkeling and diving are fast becoming one of the more popular activities at Sebastian Inlet State Park and is allowed, but there are no areas specifically set aside for diving so caution must be used at all times to avoid getting hooked by fishermen on the bank and avoiding boat traffic. Let common sense preval, make sure that you are properly equipped before getting in the water, use a Dive Flag (required by law) and always dive with a buddy! Tidal Currents are prevalent but are not too strong to deter snorkeling as most of the structure is close to shore.

Sebastian Inlet Google Satellite Image
Sebastain Inlet State Park Website
The visibility within the Inlet can vary throughout the course of the day. At outgoing tide during the lower tidal phase the visibility can be quite poor as the tide has been going out for several hours and the water coursing through the inlet is "Lagoon Water" with suspended sand and other particles. As the tide changes to incoming, the first water to come in will be the same lagoon water that was just pushed out, complete with the suspended sediment, still poor visibility. However, as the tide rises you will see a distict color change, sometimes even a distinct "line" or edge of color change, where the change from recently expelled lagoon water to clean ocean water can be seen. This is the time to snorkel for best results as there is a dramatic change in underwater visibility for the better. Just after the tide changes again and starts going out you will probably still have an hour or so of decent visibility because the water leaving the lagoon through the inlet is the same clean ocean water that was just sucked in. Now for some particular spots.
Snorkeling Spots

Click on name to see aerial view

The Cove
This cove on the North side of the inlet is the perfect place for beginners and kids to try snorkeling as the entry to the water is a nice sandy beach on a calm-water sandy bottom cove separated from the main inlet by two rock jettys with an opening to the inlet between them. Snorkeling along the inside of the rock walls forming jettys you are likely to see species such as Snapper, Sheepshead, schools of little silvery jacks and many small tropical looking fish. We were once even given to a surprise visit by a manatee. This cove almost dries up at low tide but the water along the inside walls are still deep enough for snorkeling near the mouth.
 
Outside wall of the Cove
On an incoming tide, assuming no one is fishing from the rocks this can make an interesting drift dive or snorkel. Swim out the opening of the cove and let the current carry you along the rocks forming the western wall. Soon after the wall there will be a sand beach where you can easily exit the water. You can also enter the water to the east of the opening and drift to the mouth of the cove assuming nobody is fishing along your desired drift route.
 
North Rocks
The rocks that line the north side of the inlet between the cove and the base of the north jetty is a very popular drift snorkel, but not likely suitable for beginners, and should be done on an incoming tide. The strategy here is to enter the water from the rocks anywhere east of the A1A bridge and drift along the rocks with the current westward until you go under the fishing catwalk of the bridge and then enter the mouth of the cove for an easy sandy beach exit.
 
North Jetty
This should only be attempted during calm days with no surf.
At the base of the north jetty where the inlet walking path transitions into the jetty there is a rock support base that extends out into the oceanside along the jetty until you get to the pilings of thre jetty itself. During periods of surf, waves crash onto these rocks and it would not be adviseable to snorkel here due to the possibility of either being washed into the rocks by waves, or being run over by one of the hundreds of surfers that tend to crowd this area when waves are rideable. Fishermen on the jetty will likely be farther out. But on calm flat days that do occur in the Doldrums of Summer, easy access can be had from the beach and this can be a very interesting snorkel with blue runners, snapper, and including the possibility of seeing large barracuda.
 
The Kiddie Pool
This spot is located on the South side of the Inlet near the campground, just east of the dock. I call this spot the Kiddie Pool because for most of the tidal cycle there is a ring of rocks, that completely encircle this spot forming a little pool maybe 50 feet by twenty feet at the widest point that is separate from the rest of the inlet. Not really much room to swim around but a great place for little kids to get used to being in the water with a mask and snorkel, (no fins are really needed, the water depth runs from about a foot to maybe 3 feet at high tide with a sandy bottom with a few rocks within the pool. Float face down quietly in this pool and after about a minute you'll start seeing juvenile snappers, grunts, blennies and other small fish darting in and out of the rocks that form the pool carrying on like you are not there. Again a great place to introduce younger kids to snorkeling without worrying about the tidal current.
 
Outside the Wall of the Kiddie Pool
This is best on an incoming tide. Enter the water east of the "Kiddie Pool" and let the current draw you along the rock a few feet from shore and you'll see the usual assortment of snapper, grunts, and other species while swimming a few more feet offshore into water about 6 to 10 feet deep and diving down you may find yourself swimming among schools of snook. After drifting past the rocks that form the Kiddie Pool there is a nice sandy exit point just before the dock.
 
Campground
Along the Campground shoreline it's pretty much a sandy bottom with isolated clusters of rock. However, these rock clusters do tend to attract small grunts, snappers, and other assorted small fish.
 
Sebastian South Jetty
The North Jetty is a fishing and surfing area so snorkeling the Oceanside of the jetty is not likely the best idea. The South Jetty is used much less and on a calm clear day can provide an interesting snorkeling area with easy beach access.
 
Sebastian South Beach
Beginning just south of the inlet and running south about 25 miles to Riomar are a series of coquina and limestone ridges that begin within 100 yards of the beach and extend out for about half a mile offshore. This habitat is home to many kinds of marine life. Lobsters, Turtles, rays, sharks and over 200 species of fish. About a mile south of the Inlet lies the site of the El Capitana Wreck. The McClarty Treasure Museum marks the spot of the shipwreck survivors camp from the 1715 hurricane induced disaster that claimed 11 ships along the east coast of Florida. The El Capitana is the northernmost wreck from this disaster.