9600 Oceanshore Blvd.
St. Augustine, Florida 32080

By  Mike Miller   Updated December 31, 2023

Marineland is still a tourist attraction, but it is much more than that. It is a historical site, an incorporated town with a population of 8, and a landmark in Florida history.

It is located on Florida State Road A1A about 13 miles south of St. Augustine Beach and 15 miles north of Flagler Beach.

Vintage postcard showing aerial of Marineland in 1946Vintage postcard showing aerial of Marineland in 1946

It did not start out as a place where you could go swimming with dolphins, but that's what it is today.

When I moved to Florida in 1960, this was one of the most popular Florida tourist attractions.

It had spectacular dolphin shows in a large marine stadium on the Atlantic ocean.

It was the world's first oceanarium, and people flocked to it to see the marine animals. They especially loved to see the dolphins perform.

The old postcard below shows "Pudgy the Porpoise" performing at Marine Studios.  The problem is, Pudgy is really a dolphin.

Pudgy the Porpoise is really a dolphinPudgy the Porpoise is a Dolphin

A little research, however, shows that Pudgy was a dolphin, not a porpoise. 

There is a perceptible difference although most people use the terms interchangeably.

Dolphin leaping out of the waterDolphins Have Hooked Dorsal Fins

Dolphins have pronounced beaks and triangular shaped teeth, and a dorsal fin that hooks to the rear of the animal.

A dolphin with a pronounced beak and triangula shaped teethSee my beak and teeth? That means I'm a dolphin.

Porpoises look more like whales, and have a dorsal fin that is more triangular shaped without the pronounced hook of their dolphin cousins.

Porpoises look like small whalesDon't confuse me with dolphins. I am a porpoise.


Marineland was first conceived by W. Douglas Burden, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Sherman Pratt and Count Ilya Tolstoy as an oceanarium that could be used to film marine life.

Count Leo Tolstoy

Count Ilya Andreyevich Tolstoy was born in 1903 in Russia and died in 1970 in New York City. 

He was the grandson of the great Russian writer Count Leo Tolstoy. 

Not only was he one of the founders of Marineland, he was also a U.S. Army Colonel in the OSS and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's envoy in Tibet.

The facility opened as Marine Studios in 1938, and was instantly the most popular of all Florida tourist attractions.

It was also an incorporated town with a couple of dozen residents.  One of its earliest council members was Florida writer Vernon Lamme.

Some estimates say that 900,000 visitors a year came to visit Marineland in its prime.

In 1940, Marineland was incorporated as a Florida town.

Not only did the tourists love the attraction, many movies were partially filmed there.

One of my favorite horror flicks, "Creature From The Black Lagoon", was filmed here.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at Crescent BeachMarjorie Kinnan Rawlings at Crescent Beach

There was a hotel and Moby Dick's Bar right next door on the ocean.

The bar attracted famous people from Florida such as Ernest Hemingway and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  Mrs. Rawlings had a beach house not far north of Marineland.

Marjorie's husband, Norton Baskin, managed the Dolphin Restaurant and its Moby Dick's Bar for many years.

The marina provided a haven for cruising yachts on the adjacent Intracoastal Waterway. I stayed there once more than 20 years ago.

My son Lee and I spent two days enjoying the various exhibits and shows.

After Walt Disney World opened in 1971, Marineland's attendance increased even more as new tourists flocked to Florida. 

When SeaWorld opened in Orlando in the 1970s, however, Marineland was doomed.

Falling revenues, rising maintenance costs and competition from the newer Florida tourist attractions were hurting it.

A couple of hurricanes came along and finally killed the original attraction. The original tanks, buildings and marina docks were finally demolished in 2003.


In 2006, the new Marineland emerged from the ashes of the old.

The new attraction is worthy of a visit, although there are no more mind boggling shows with dolphin riders or tricks in a big marine stadium.

The new attraction has become an educational facility, and is still an experience in nostalgia.

One of the experiences now is the ability to participate in activities at the Dolphin Conservation Center.

This facility has a 1.3 million gallon tank that provides several dolphin habitats.  

You can see these creatures up close and even swim with them.   They are amazing and intelligent animals.

Marineland had three bottlenose dolphins born at the Dolphin Conservation center in July 2008.

Two of them were males and one was female. The calves were named in November 2008.

After your visit here, you will always appreciate the beauty and value of our dolphin neighbors.

Some of my dolphin friends have told me they are glad they don't have to jump through hoops anymore.

Their relatives are still doing it at other Florida tourist attractions.

Marineland Admission Fees

General admission guests are able to view the dolphins through 6 by 10 foot acrylic windows as they swim, play, and interact with guests in programs.

Inquire at the office for details of other adventures such as swimming with dolphins.  Marineland has several programs with varying price levels.


Hours of Operation: 9:00am – 4:30pm everyday, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For current information, visit the website of Marineland.


Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
505 Guana River Rd, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082
(904) 823-4500

The address is for the Environmental Education Center. The GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve offers miles of pristine beaches, hiking trails, and an array of wildlife.

The Education Center itself houses fascinating exhibits on local ecosystems, conservation efforts, and the area's natural history. Our favorite feature is the aquarium, which showcases the diverse marine life of the region.

It's a great spot for nature lovers and families looking to engage with the environment in a meaningful way.

A1A Coastal Byway
Marineland, Florida

A1A stretches through Marineland, offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River. This scenic route is perfect for those who love road trips and exploring the beauty of Florida's coastline.

Along the way, you'll find numerous spots to pull over and enjoy the beach, snap photos, or simply take in the stunning views. Our recommendation? Start your journey at dawn or dusk for a truly spectacular experience as the sun rises or sets over the water.

The A1A Coastal Byway is a reminder of the natural beauty that surrounds us and is an experience not to be missed.

Ripple Effect Ecotours
The Town of Marineland Marina, 101 Tolstoy Ln, St. Augustine, FL 32080 | (904) 347-1565.

Guided by environmental educators, these tours take you through the tranquil waters of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. You'll glide past mangrove forests, oyster beds, and maybe even spot dolphins and manatees along the way.

It's an incredible way to connect with nature and learn about the local ecosystem. Whether you're a seasoned kayaker or trying it for the first time, Ripple Effect Ecotours offers a peaceful yet exhilarating experience that's hard to beat.



From The North

Travelers on I-95 South: Take Exit 305 to State Road 206. Turn left off the exit, follow to SR-A1A. Turn right onto A1A heading south. Marineland is 7 miles ahead on your left.

From The South

Travelers on I-95 North: Take exit 289 into Palm Coast. Turn right off the exit onto Palm Coast Parkway. Follow and cross over toll bridge ($2 for 2 axle vehicles). Turn left at bottom of bridge, following sign to A1A. Turn right onto A1A heading north. Marineland is 8 miles ahead on your right.

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