If you’re looking for sea life, Key West is a fantastic place to find it. You’ll find everything there as well as learn how it all works together in one big ecosystem.
A great place to start your quest for sea animals in Key West is at the Key West Aquarium. This open concept aquarium definitely has an island vibe to it. As you walk in, you’re greeted by a huge touch tank where kids can get their hands on some sea stars, mollusks and horseshoe crabs.
Just behind the touch tank is a huge shark habitat full of nurse sharks. The pool is very open and one of our kids almost fell right in! They offer feedings several times a day where kids can drop food into the habitat and watch as all the sharks jump over each other to get at it.
We had a fantastic time exploring this aquarium and learning all about how each sea animal helps the ecosystem off the Keys.
To see sea turtles up close and personal, then you’ll have to venture about an hour north of Key West to Marathon, Florida. Here you’ll find the Turtle Hospital. Turtles from all over the Keys and even mainland Florida are brought here for rehab and surgery. You can even watch a surgery being performed, so check with the Turtle Hospital for their surgery schedule.
The hospital used to be a hotel property with a private boat dock in back. When the hospital took over, they closed up the dock and turned it into a natural habitat for rehabbing turtles. The pool is fed naturally from the ocean and rises with the tides. This is the final stage for turtles getting ready to be reintroduced to the wild.
Here you can feed the turtles pellets as you walk the edge of the pool. Watch your little ones here as the edge of the pool isn’t fenced off and our little guy almost fell in. Yep, same kid.
There is also a take-over happening on the grounds of the hospital. Iguanas! They are everywhere! They are really cool to look at, and hang out since a lot of the tourists feed them.
I recommend taking the drive from Key West to check out the Turtle Hospital, it’s definitely the best place to see sea turtles in all of the Keys.
Snorkeling the Reef
An amazing place to see ocean life is to get out into the ocean with a snorkel and some flippers. The Florida Reef is the 3rd largest in the world and offers some beautiful views of colorful coral and fish.
Getting out to the reef is easier said than done. We tried several times, but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. On our 3rd attempt, we finally got there on a day that the winds were calm and the sun was shining! This meant clear and relatively calm water.
We all suited up with snorkel gear and jumped in to make the short swim from where the boat was anchored to the reef (since the reef is protected it cannot be disturbed so the boat had to stay well away from it). The colors of the reef and the fish that lived there was amazing! There were schools of all sized fish that swam right under our feet.
This gives you a whole new perspective of seeing ocean life in its natural home. The reef is also something to be appreciated as it provides so much for the ocean.
Read about more of Florida’s gorgeous beaches here, or take notes on an incredible Florida road trip!
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