15 Best Aquariums In Florida You Won’t Want To Miss
Florida is home to a diverse range of freshwater and saltwater environments, some of which are unique due to the state’s irregular shape and location. The state’s humidity and warmth make it a prime place for both land and aquatic creatures, so you can imagine that there are some amazing aquariums in Florida!
In fact, the aquariums in Florida are some of the best in the world. There are numerous options for you to explore and enjoy in Florida, regardless of where you are, whether you’re in Northern, Central, or Southern Florida. The following are some of Florida’s best aquariums and the attractions that make them our favorites!
With over 24 aquariums spread around the state, Florida is a great place to go for a day trip with the kids or just something new to do while you’re here. If you’re searching for a family adventure or an educational excursion, you’re sure to find it at any of the area aquariums listed below.
We’ve compiled a list of the best aquariums in Florida for you to see on your trip – these are both our favorites and some of the most well-known Florida aquariums that you should consider adding to your itinerary!
Florida’s Best Aquariums
Here are the 15 best aquariums in Florida right now, ranked in order! You’ll find our absolute favorite aquarium in Florida down at the #1 spot.
15. St. Augustine Aquarium
The St. Augustine Aquarium is one of the greatest in North Florida. It is an outdoor, open-air aquarium where you can engage directly with aquatic creatures while learning about their lives and care.
As of right now, visitors can take advantage of the aquarium’s guided tours, led by marine scientists, to get a more in-depth look at the exhibits. There is the Touch and Identify display for those who are courageous enough, where you can touch and identify sea creatures such as starfish. You can even feed the rays and sharks!
If you want to snorkel along natural Florida coral with hundreds of Florida Reef Fish and Rays, you can also do this at this Florida aquarium. You’ll need to bring your wetsuits, shoes, and masks, and schedule your excursion in advance.
Because of the aquarium’s ongoing expansion, there will be more to see and do soon! At the moment, the aquarium is open every day and is a must-see for anybody who wants to get up close and interact with aquatic life.
It costs roughly $15 to enter the St. Augustine Aquarium for adults and $10 for a child’s ticket. If you want to snorkel, that will cost you around $50 per person.
14. Gulf World Marine Park
The Florida Panhandle is most known for its beaches and bars, but if you know where to search, you’ll find some hidden treasures. These include Gulf World Marine Park, Panama City Beach’s best aquarium.
Gulf World’s native marine animals are an excellent lure for visitors. You can observe more than a dozen species of marine mammals in this aquarium park, including rough-toothed and bottlenose dolphins. Guests can even purchase add-on experiences that allow them to get even closer to these magnificent creatures, as well as other species like stingrays and penguins.
The park only permits one paid observer per 18-year-old swimmer due to space constraints. There is a $5 observer charge on top of the entrance fee.
The Gulf World Marine Institute, which focuses on animal rescue and rehabilitation, is also located in the park. You can take part in their Adopt a Sea Turtle initiative if you’d want to assist them. You’ll get a picture of your sea turtle, a certificate of adoption, and information on its species and traits.
You can save $3 if you buy your Gulf World Marine Park tickets online, and there are frequently additional discounts available. Admission is half the cost for active-duty and retired military, and local Floridians can enjoy discounts on selected days.
Otherwise, a ticket will cost you $19 to $30, but children under the age of four are free.
Your ticket price includes the entrance to all exhibits and daily animal displays. Though you can interact with stingrays, you must purchase specific passes for other animal encounters.
13. Sea Life Aquarium
With aquariums across the globe, Sea Life Aquarium has a huge following for a reason. Both visiting tourists and local residents enjoy many different aquariums. If you’re visiting Orlando aquariums in Florida, you’ll definitely want to check out Sea Life.
On display at Sea Life Orlando is Florida’s unique 360° Ocean Tunnel, where guests can walk through and be entirely immersed in saltwater with resident fish, rays, or sharks. You can see (and sometimes touch) many species in the Coastal Rockpool as well.
While jellies are uncommon in smaller aquariums due to their particular needs, Sea Life Orlando has an entire wall dedicated to them. There are moon jelly and colored lights that you can adjust to make the jellies shine in the colors of your choice behind them.
For the most part, the Sea Life Orlando site does not feature any species that need an outside home, unlike other aquariums. If you’re looking for a place to get away from the Florida sun or a good spot for a rainy day, this Florida aquarium is your best bet.
Sea LIFE Orlando Aquarium admission ranges from $28 to $34 for adults and children ages three to twelve. You can purchase tickets for Madame Tussauds and LEGOLAND together for a discount if you intend on visiting other famous Orlando attractions.
12. Miami Seaquarium
Like other places alongside international trade routes, South Florida is a melting pot of art, food, music, and history. However, it’s also a great spot to check out one of Florida’s most famous aquariums.
The Seaquarium features more than simply bottlenose dolphins. It also houses Pacific white-sided dolphins and orcas, allowing you to see all three species in one day. You can also meet African penguins, swim with harbor seals, and take a VIP tour to see numerous smaller native species.
Seaquarium visitors also visit the Tropical Wings section, where macaws and other birds of prey reside with animal care professionals who are on hand to answer questions about the most intelligent birds on the planet, such as African Grays.
On weekdays, you can save $10 by purchasing tickets online instead of at the gate and approximately $5 on weekends. Regular entry on a weekday costs from $29 to around $40, and admission is free for children under two.
You can purchase tickets at the Miami Seaquarium entrance in combination with admission to the Miami Zoo and Lion Country Safari if you want to make a full day of it.
11. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters
The Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter, located in Marathon, is a South Florida aquarium well-known for its family-friendly activities and offerings.
The aquarium offers a wide range of activities, from simple observation to more involved exhibits. The Big Shark Bay Encounter is one of their most well-known encounters. You can learn about the training process of adult nurse sharks and participate in feeding and even touching the gorgeous creatures at the facility.
Equipment such as wet suits and snorkeling gear are supplied for your convenience. There is also a Coral Reef Snorkel Encounter where you can safely snorkel and see the marine life that flourishes in a natural Mangrove ecosystem firsthand. Tourists can also have the option to nourish stingrays and other coral animals while snorkeling.
Since it is open every day, you have lots of opportunities to see Florida’s sea life at the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounter. If you’re searching for something a little more lighthearted that’s an outdoor aquarium experience, the Florida Keys have a lot to offer.
For youngsters ages 4 to 12, admission to the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is around $17 depending on the season. Tickets for adults cost approximately $24. The admission price includes the touch tank and Q&A sessions with marine scientists.
There are additional fees for interactions with animals, coral reefs, and snorkeling, and you must book these in advance. Even though these activities occur in the park, they do not come with a park entrance, so you’ll need to pay separately to attend.
10. Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Though not technically an aquarium, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is an excellent spot to visit if you’re in Central Florida and want to see some local wildlife.
It is essential to protect Florida’s wildlife on land and at sea, and the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park does just that. The park, dubbed “the most beautiful river and springs globally,” is home to an incredible variety of fish, including snook, snapper, and more.
Attractions in the park include the Fish Bowl Underwater Observatory, which sits above the mainspring and allows visitors to witness a variety of fish and manatees in their natural habitats.
Orlando and Tampa have a lot to offer tourists after enjoying Florida’s natural wonders, which are only a short drive away from the park.
Ticket prices range from $13 for adults to $5 for children aged 6-12, and children under 5 are free.
9. Key West Aquarium
There are a lot of tourists flocking to the Florida Keys, where they can swim, see historic landmarks like the Hemingway House, and relax on the pristine beaches. Meanwhile, Key West Aquarium is the best place to find aquariums in the Florida Keys. Nurse sharks, moon jellyfish, and conchs are just some of the aquatic critters on display.
The most frequent of the Florida Keys sharks, the Nurse Shark, is featured in an exhibit at this aquarium. Aside from educating them on the truth and fiction surrounding sharks and their lore, this experience also provides you with information on how you can contribute to conserving these magnificent creatures.
After the presentation, the sharks are fed by audience members, so those who want to get up close and interact with the animals should keep their eyes peeled. We learned so much just from a short exhibit since you get to stand right next to the sharks during feeding!
The Jellyfish Exhibit and the Sea Turtles Conservation Tour are two more famous attractions at this aquarium. If you want to learn more about sea turtle conservation, the Turtle Tour provides an opportunity to see some of these animals in action. And the Jellyfish Exhibit allows you to interact with the moon jellyfish, the most abundant jellyfish in the Florida Keys.
This Florida aquarium is on the smaller side but is definitely an up-close and personal experience that we love while visiting Key West!
You can save a penny by purchasing your Key West Aquarium tickets online. It costs from $10 to $16, but nothing for a kid under 4. Students, seniors, and members of the military pay around $14. Purchasing tickets in person might add up to a $2 surcharge.
8. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
In the Florida Panhandle, Okaloosa Island is surrounded by world-class shopping, luxury resorts and spas, and an abundance of fresh seafood. The local zoning board’s placement of pubs and clubs bolstered the island’s nightlife, making the island a popular destination for tourists and locals. The Gulfarium continues to amaze its many admirers as a tourist attraction and a piece of local history.
In the course of your park tour, keep a lookout for Charlie, the yellow-crested cockatoo, who greets guests and visits other park inhabitants every day. Dolphin habitats have been set up in two separate locations for the pods of bottlenose dolphins who call the island home. A blacktip reef shark and lionfish will greet you at the Living Seas, where you can see the world’s first commercial floor-to-ceiling aquarium exhibit and interact with other marine life.
With the Gulf of Mexico visible from virtually any place in the park, the Gulfarium is a two-minute walk from Fort Walton Public Beach. It makes it a perfect backup option if the beach gets rained out. Wet weather is still possible due to the seaside breezes, but you’ll be sheltered enough to view the animals swimming and playing. The dolphin and sea lion presentations go on rain or sun to transform a wrecked beach day into an animal-filled excursion.
There are seasonal and weekend price variations for Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park admission. Typically, the discrepancy is about two dollars.
Starting at $24, the cost of a ticket for adults includes anybody ages 13 to 61. Senior citizens over 62 receive a discount and anyone under the age of two get admitted free of charge. Military personnel receives a $2 off per ticket.
The cost of an animal encounter varies according to the activity you choose.
7. Marine Science Center
The Marine Science Center, located south of Daytona Beach, is another Florida aquarium worth seeing. Volusia County, where the Center is situated, has a variety of diverse ecosystems that you can learn about.
The Marine Science Center puts a significant emphasis on animal rehabilitation and conservation. Visitors to the facility can learn everything about the process of rehabilitating and reintroducing these creatures back into their natural habitats. On-site medical facilities for sea turtles and seabirds are open to the public so that you can watch these procedures in action.
There are also displays to educate the public on protecting the natural environment and biodiversity to benefit future generations.
The Science Center’s enormous visitor center has several tanks and exhibits devoted to teaching visitors about the region’s diverse wildlife in addition to the facilities for animal care.
Freshwater exhibits, abundant in Florida and teeming with life, are featured at this aquarium. It consists of artificial reefs that will educate you about how the local habitat works.
A touch pool for pet stingrays is available in addition to the numerous exhibitions. The Blue Room showcases the wide range of animals found nearby, such as octopuses, seahorses, and lionfish.
The cost of admission to the Marine Science Center is relatively inexpensive. Children under the age of two are admitted free of charge. A $5 fee is required for those above the age of 13. Children from 3 to 12 are charged around $2.
Keep in mind that this is one of the smaller Florida aquariums on this list but it offers a lot of education and cool experiences for a super affordable price!
6. IMAG History and Science Center
In Fort Myers, Florida, many inhabitants would tell you that there is no such thing as an aquarium, and they’d be right in the sense that there are no aquatic-focused businesses in the city. However, the IMAG History and Science Center will not let you down if you’re in Fort Myers and looking for a location to see fish.
The IMAG aims to engage visitors in learning while having fun. The museum’s Hall of History is a must-see for history buffs with meteorology, physics, and World War II displays.
Aquarium-related activities are plentiful, and there’s a wide variety of marine creatures to see. While this isn’t technically an aquarium, there are plenty of fish tanks to check out. At the same time, the Backyard Nature exhibit offers an outdoor boardwalk for you to learn about Florida flora.
Shrimp, Sea stars, horseshoe crabs, and more life are found in the SEA-to-See Touch Tank. Guests may reserve seats to watch animal caretakers feed animals and learn more about their diets for a charge. You can even interact with the creatures, and animal care professionals will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.
The real draw here is a 3,200-gallon saltwater tank at the Living Lab that was even featured on Animal Planet. The artificial reef serves as a haven for a plethora of marine life including sharks, grouper, and dozens of other species; you can all find them in the vicinity of the sunken vessel. This is literally one of the coolest saltwater tanks I’ve ever seen!
This aquarium is open from Tuesday to Saturday around 10 am to 5 pm, and from noon to 5 pm on Sundays. On Mondays, it is closed. Adults pay $15, while students with a school ID pay $12. Children under the age of two get free admission.
5. St. Lucie County Aquarium
Anyone interested in learning more about rescuing ocean animals from extinction should visit the St. Lucie County Aquarium in Central Florida.
A major attraction of the aquarium is the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit. Six marine habitats are represented in the exhibit, which aims to educate the public about Florida’s seas. Aquarium visitors can get a sense of how complicated these coastal environments are and how important it is for us to keep them safe and healthy for the animals and plants that live there.
The Caribbean coral reef region is the largest model. In addition to the deepwater Oculina coral reef, seagrass, lagoon hardbottom, mangroves, and nearshore reefs are included.
You can see tiny sea life as well as giant aquariums with marine habitats. The touch tank at the aquarium allows visitors to get up close to some of the local marine species.
Everyone should put this Florida aquarium on their bucket list. It’s a really cool aquarium offering so much education about the Florida reefs and native habitats. Visit the aquarium’s website for the most current information on the aquarium’s operating hours and free entry periods.
The entrance fees for adults are charged $4.25 for a ticket and $3.25 for minors and older citizens. There is no fee for children under the age of four.
There is no charge for admission on the first Tuesday of every month. With early notification, group rates are available for a discounted price.
4. Tarpon Springs Aquarium
Tarpon Springs Aquarium is another aquarium in Central Florida. The aquarium is family-owned and operated, with engaging displays for all ages. Eco-friendly organizations and animal welfare advocates are among the aquarium’s partners.
The aquarium offers three performances each day. The audience can watch a Florida alligator’s vicious biting while being fed. You can see Florida marine life in a tank full of vast animals while a diver swims among them and feeds them so you can learn how and what they eat. Observe lizards, tortoises, and snakes in Florida’s ecosystems as well.
In addition to viewing the displays, you will be able to interact with the aquatic life. It is home to alligators, crabs, stingrays, sharks, turtles and tortoises, along with other invertebrates.
There are also touch pools for those who want to get up close to some animals. It is even possible to hold alligators and other reptiles and take pictures with them.
Day admission to this aquarium costs around $20 for adults over 13. Children between the ages of 3 and 12 pay approximately $15, while those over 65 pay almost $18.
3. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota is another aquarium worth visiting in Central Florida. The mission of the Mote Center for Marine Research is to assist our oceans in recovering and restoring to their natural state of sustainability for marine life.
Several Laboratory programs monitor coral reefs in order to help protect dolphins, sea turtles, whales, sharks, rays, and manatees. In addition to studying ocean acidification, they also examine the effects of global warming on the ocean.
Mote’s research also serves as an educational tool for aquarium displays. Each exhibition offers a unique perspective on the world to visitors. At Mote, you can see the alligators and crocodiles of Florida’s Teeth Beneath, SharkZone, and the beginning of Mote’s research initiatives.
Mote is most famous for its two manatee residents. Researchers have learned a lot from Hugh and Buffett about manatee hearing, sight, navigation, and body temperature. The manatees have been at Mote since 1996.
“Oh Baby! Life Cycles of the Sea” is another family-friendly exhibit that explains the reproduction of marine life and Mote’s methods for breeding and raising marine animals to restore ecosystems. The seahorse show is especially popular with tourists.
The Mote Aquarium is a must-see for anyone interested in marine research and conservation. It’s one of the most highly educational aquariums in Florida!
Visit the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in advance by purchasing tickets online. The tickets cost from $18 to $24, and children under two are free.
2. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Another aquarium worth visiting in Central Florida is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Known for its rescue operations, it is a well-known aquarium in Florida. The organization rescues and cares for marine creatures, including sea turtles, dolphins, otters, sharks, and pelicans, among others.
Whenever possible, the aquarium releases the creatures back into nature. Visitors are permitted to spend time with certain species who, because of their specific problems, must remain in the aquarium’s care.
Among these creatures are Rex and Rudy, rough-toothed dolphins who were rescued from the wild due to their hearing loss. They were also featured in the films Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.
Tourists can also watch a variety of aquatic creatures swimming in a famous observation tank. Virtual reality allows visitors to watch whales in the wild at the “Whales: Living with Giants” exhibit.
This is one of my favorite aquariums in Florida to get the full experience. Budding marine biologists will be in heaven here! However, it might be over the heads of young children. It’s more of an educational facility.
Whether you purchase tickets online or in-person at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, you can get the same admission price. The ticket price ranges from $26 to $33 depending on your age, but admission is free for children under two years.
On Mondays through Thursdays, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium offers free admission to active-duty military and teachers, as well as discounts for local residents on all other days.
1. The Florida Aquarium
At the top of the list is Florida Aquarium, the state’s most prominent attraction. This aquarium is one of the best in Central Florida. Several conservation efforts are being carried out at the aquarium, and it offers wildlife habitats from all over the state.
The Florida Aquarium is located on the waterfront in downtown Tampa and is easily accessible by streetcar. The 200,000 square foot climate-controlled facility houses more than 14,000 animals from around the state of Florida and abroad.
The Wetlands Trail’s mangrove forest and aviary filled with birds provide a perfect starting point. Alligators, otters, stingrays, sea turtles, eels, reef fish, sharks, and more can be seen at the aquarium! Two of Madagascar’s species are ring-tailed lemurs and hissing cockroaches.
In three touch pools, you can pet moon jellies, stingrays, and creatures without bones. Among the top attractions are the Waves of Wonder exhibit, the 500,000-gallon Coral Reef environment, and Penguin Meet and Greet. Guests can also see and interact with creatures such as clownfish and octopuses at the Waves of Wonder.
Consider purchasing tickets to the Florida Aquarium online in advance to save money. The aquarium is free to enter for children under the age of two. A general admission adult ticket costs roughly $30 and is lower for child and senior tickets.
If you can come during the week, you may want to do so since Saturday entrance is more expensive, plus it gets crowded.
These best aquariums in Florida provide something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of marine life, a science buff, or are simply seeking relief from the southern heat. I highly recommend visiting one of Florida’s best aquariums – you won’t regret the experience!