By Mike Miller Updated February 26, 2023
Florida aquariums are natural complements to the state's watery surroundings. The state offers hundreds of activities related to sea life and marine animals
Aquariums are among the most popular, especially for families where a great time can be enjoyed by all.
There are many dozens of aquariums, marine exhibits, and sanctuaries around the state, we've listed here what we consider to be among the best Florida aquariums.
CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM
249 Windward Passage
Clearwater, FL 33767
This non-profit aquarium in Clearwater Beach is noted as the former home of the late Winter, the dolphin star of the movie "Dolphin Tale" who sadly died in 2021 at the age of 16.
This location focuses on rehabilitating sick and injured animals and educates guests about the importance of conservation of sea life. The aquarium is home to several sea turtles.
The Clearwater Aquarium is small but significant and over the years has grown and improved with Virtual Reality experiences, animal meet and greets, boat tours and more.
Its virtual and on-site programs, classes and internships make it a popular spot for marine lovers who may be staying around the Clearwater area for a while.
701 Channelside Drive
Tampa, FL 33602
The Florida Aquarium is one of the largest and best aquariums in the state, and popular with locals and tourists alike. It is located within walking distance of Downtown Tampa and the Riverwalk.
The always growing, multi-level facility cares for and rehabilitates animals, while also offering hands-on educational experiences for guests.
This aquarium often hosts events, and also offers add-ons such as boat tours, interactive exhibits and dolphin cruises. An additional fee is quite often charged for these extra activities.
Kids love the splash pad in the outdoor water play zone.
SEA LIFE ORLANDO AQUARIUM
8449 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819
Located in ICON Park, a popular Central Florida attraction and entertainment venue in Orlando, SEA LIFE Orlando aquarium has the state's only 360-degree ocean tunnel, a coastal rock pool, jellyfish wall and more.
From octopi and seahorses to sharks and stingrays, this place on International Drive has everything you could ask for as far as a classic aquarium experience goes.
Along with virtual reality experiences and behind the scenes tours to accompany your undersea exploration, you can feed various creatures to really get up close and personal.
4400 Rickenbacker Causeway
Key Biscayne, FL 33149
Miami has a few local aquariums but Miami Seaquarium is the biggest and best.
Along with traditional aquarium residents, this fun-filled spot offers sea mammal shows and dolphin interactions where you can feed and swim with them.
There are seasonal festivals, special events and extra experiences where you can explore the reefs and swim with seals, if you're willing to get a bit wet.
KEY WEST AQUARIUM
1 Whitehead St
Key West, FL 33040
The first open-air aquarium known for their touch tank and shark exhibit with feeding presentations, Key West Aquarium has loads of onsite tours and experiences, from sea turtle conservation to environmental treks.
This spot has been around since 1933 as a significant Key West attraction. While entry is no longer the original 15 cents, admission is still plenty affordable, with add-ons to splurge on.
With its goal of doubling as a biologist institution and a tourist attraction, this spot is an old gem and sure hit on your visit to Key West.
TARPON SPRINGS AQUARIUM & ANIMAL SANCTUARY
1722 N Pinellas Ave
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
In the sponge-dock town of Tarpon Springs this local aquarium doubles as an animal sanctuary for gators, snakes and more, if you're looking to go outside of the typical sea life scope.
There is a popular alligator show as well as up close reptile encounters, and tons of animal exhibits to explore, both land and sea.
This is a local family business and has been in operation since 1990 with the goal to offer hands on experiences for guests.
With the various ticket specials and quaint nature of the place, this is a lovely, affordable stop in this classic Florida town.
GULF WORLD MARINE PARK
15412 Front Beach Rd
Panama City Beach, FL 32413
This Florida Panhandle popular attraction is more of an educational interaction center than a classic aquarium, where you can participate in interactive programs, watch shows and experience various dolphin encounters.
Gulf World Marine Park has been in Panama City Beach since 1970 and is noted for its Dolphin Stadium and 12 bottlenose dolphins that perform scheduled shows.
There is general admission outside of the dolphin experiences, with entry including access to the shows and exhibits.
Not to mention, despite this spot being dolphin centric, there are other creatures here such as penguins, tortoises, stingrays and sea lions.
MOTE MARINE LABORATORY & AQUARIUM
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
Sarasota, FL 34236
This Sarasota location offers some really unique experiences, such as moonlit kayaking and an International Ocean Film Festival, making Mote Aquarium really stand out.
Focused on research and education, Mote has at least 20 programs. The laboratory has sea animals including everything from manatees to otters, and hosts events nearly every week.
There are programs for kids as well as older explorers and enthusiasts, and there are lots of opportunities to donate to the lab, the animals and the ocean research.
FLORIDA KEYS AQUARIUM ENCOUNTERS
11710 Overseas Hwy
Marathon, FL 33050
Voted "Best Place to Take the Kids" for 5 years in a row, Aquarium Encounters in The Keys hosts multiple coves for up close and personal animal encounters, from both inside and outside the tanks with petting and snorkeling offerings.
This attraction focuses on hands-on experiences with marine life, as opposed to simply observing, in order to expand the company's passion of the sea to guests.
Among the many fascinating creatures here are green moray eels.
Learners are especially welcome here, with general admission including guided experiences and Q&As with on-site marine biologists.
7007 Sea World Drive
Orlando, FL 32821
Looking for something a bit more exciting? Sea World Orlando is a popular marine theme park, featuring many animal exhibits, rides, shops, restaurants and more.
This spot has dedicated exhibits for various animals from sharks, stingrays, whales, dolphins, sea lions and so forth. There are daily animal shows, and even an adjacent water park where you can slide through dolphin tanks and explore coral reefs.
SeaWorld definitely falls more into the theme park category than the straight aquarium category, but if you're looking for something more than just walkthrough tanks this is an exciting area where you'll never run out of things to do.
GULF STREAM AQUARIUM
Frost Museum of Science
1101 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, Florida 33132
The full name of this venue is the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum named or its benefactors.
It is a very new and very spectacular museum, and its aquarium is one of the best in the state.
The museum features science exhibits, a planetarium, and a 500,000-gallon Gulf Stream aquarium that is 100 feet wide.
The aquarium is home to mahi-mahi, devil rays, hammerhead sharks and more. It is a multi-level aquarium and the middle level features habitat including coral reefs.
ST. AUGUSTINE AQUARIUM
St. Augustine, FL 32084
This is a recent facility, opened in 2016. Here, you can book snorkeling experiences, marine biologist-led tours, feedings, painting experiences and more.
You can even "adopt" animals, where 100% of the proceeds go to supporting the aquarium and take home your very own certificate and profile of the species of your choice.
A great spot for kids, the educational experiences, camps and field trips provide tons of opportunities for locals and long-term guests, and overall this spot is very focused on children and expanding their knowledge of the sea and its residents.
You can even host designated birthday parties.
GULFARIUM MARINE ADVENTURE PARK
1010 Miracle Strip Parkway SE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
Gulfarium has been a popular marine attraction since 1955. It features dolphin encounters and shows with sharks, sting rays, and dolphins.
Their "Living Sea" exhibit was built in 1956 and was the first to feature floor to ceiling windows for observing underwater sea life.
The park is noted for its research and rehabilitation efforts, including the historic feat of raising a stranded baby bottlenose dolphin.
Although it is primarily an amusement park, you will see plenty of marine animals and be able to interact with many of them.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY AQUARIUM
420 Seaway Drive
Fort Pierce, FL 34949
This aquarium is the home of The Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit, focused on teaching guests about preserving Florida ecosystems.
There are living models of 6 different Florida ecosystems, partnered with the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, where the primary exhibit opened after the Washington D.C. Smithsonian retired their massive coral reef exhibit.
The coral reef exhibit is in a 3,000 gallon tank and is the first living model of an Atlantic coral reef ecosystem available for the public to visit.
MARINE SCIENCE CENTER
100 Lighthouse Drive
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
The Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet south of Daytona Beach is an educational, recreational and medical center where admission starts at only five dollars.
Here, you can witness firsthand what goes into rehabilitating sea creatures, turtles and birds to return to their natural habitats, and learn about local wildlife through programs and presentations.
There is even a drop-off for injured creatures where locals can bring them by and help them get all fixed up to go back home.
This center opened in 2002 and has cared for over 38,000 turtles and birds since, providing mangrove exhibits, reef habitats, touch tanks and beyond for guests to observe and experience while visiting.
Beyond that, there are classrooms and laboratories ready for kids to engage in various marine science programs.
ROOKERY BAY NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE
Rookery Bay, 300 Tower Rd
Naples, FL 34113
This beautiful spot covers over 110,000 acres of South Florida mangrove forests with a nature center, wetlands trail and other opportunities to tour and participate in events.
The reserve is noted for its numerous conservation efforts.
The all-ages hands-on learning estuary encounter interactive exhibit is the primary aquarium feature where you can see pygmy sea cucumbers and horseshoe crabs.
The reserve has many areas of natural habitat along with art galleries, aquariums and more.
Beyond the tanks, there are boat and kayak tours and a wide range of events, from art classes to photography to straight-up classes and lectures. If you're a learner ready to explore Florida's wildlife directly, this may be the place.
FLORIDA OCEANOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
890 NE Ocean Blvd
Stuart, FL 34996
The Florida Oceanographic Society is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1964.
The Ocean Ecocenter in Stuart is their primary aquarium exhibit where guests can explore local fish ecosystems, engage with interactive puzzles and activities, and learn more about Florida's wildlife.
This spot also hosts educational programs and events, such as movie screenings and hands on experiences. This facility's coastal location really enhances the experience, with exposure to not only simulated exhibits, but the ocean as well.
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