Florida is often associated with manatees; however, it is also home to thousands of wild dolphins that you can't miss at any sea excursion. Besides watching dolphins in the wild, visitors can go swimming with dolphins or take a snorkeling trip into dolphin habitat. With about 40,000 dolphins living in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a lot to see. Dolphin watching tours run all year round.
The warm and sheltered Clearwater is perfect for all sea mammals, which makes it one of the most famous dolphin watching spot in Florida. By the way, Clearwater is the hometown of Winter the Dolphin, star of the blockbuster Dolphin Tale. Clearwater Marine Aquarium was featured in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. One of the most visited attractions offers dolphin shows and swimming with the dolphins.
Dozens of cruises depart every day out of Clearwater Harbor. Some of the most popular ones include Luncheon Sightseeing & Dolphin Watch or a Sunset Dinner/Tropical Party Cruise. Most operators serve food and provide complimentary beer, wine, and rum punch. Clearwater Beach Marina offers classic dolphin cruises on one of the three-masted schooners. The 6-passenger cruise takes place in Clearwater Bay and the Gulf waters. There are also many options to rent a kayak, a glass-bottom kayak, take tube rides, —everything for a more personal encounter with dolphins.
Destin, located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, offers many opportunities to meet the dolphins. The most common residents are bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, and Atlantic spotted dolphins. From late May through August, female dolphins from other areas flock to Destin for the mating season. What a perfect occasion for dolphin watching! The best places to spot dolphins are The Okaloosa Island Pier, Crystal Beach, Eglin Beach Park, Miramar Beach, and Henderson Beach State Park. Dolphins are most active in the morning, and after 2 p.m. Two-hour cruises with glass bottom boats depart from Destin Harbor into the Gulf of Mexico every day.
Panama City Beach is home to common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. They move in pods of about 10. Cruise options include a WaveRunner or smaller boats. They usually head to Shell Island and back.