Looking for the Best Aquariums in Florida? There’s plenty of watery fun to be had in Florida, even away from the beach!
No matter where your trip in the Sunshine State takes you, there’s sure to be an amazing aquatic adventure nearby. Whether you are looking to observe wildlife in natural habitats or participate in unique animal encounters, there’s something for all everyone on this list!
You’ll see an incredible variety of awesome animals, and many of these facilities are committed to conservation and rehabilitation efforts so your money will be well spent. Visit the links we’ve provided below for updated information on each location’s Covid-19 protocols and ADA accessibility.
Don’t forget your sunscreen, a pair of comfy walking shoes, plenty of water, and a hat and insect repellant for any outdoor adventures. Remember to follow the rules of adventuring and don’t touch any animals, exhibits, equipment, or tanks unless you are specifically invited to by staff.
Locals, take note: any of these spots offer robust calendars that are packed with events that you’ll love, including summer camps and educational programs for kids.
14 Best Aquariums in Florida You Definitely Should Check Out!
1. Sea Life Orlando Aquarium – Orlando
Take a break from the nearby theme parks and dive into the Sea Life Aquarium, one of the best Florida aquariums! This attraction is full of family friendly activities.
Gaze into a jellyfish tank and change the colors that spotlight these spineless creatures. Big news: two celebrities call the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium home! Check out the Indian Ocean exhibit and say hello to a turtle who helped researchers develop the Turtle Excluder Device (his name is TED!), a specialized piece of equipment that allows wild sea turtles to escape from fine-meshed trawl nets. You can also see Joy, a zebra shark who was hatched from an egg in her first home at the Georgia Aquarium, and now resides in Orlando as part of the AZA’s Species Survival Program.
If you are brave enough, you can take part in the Feeding Frenzy, where visitors can feed a swarm of tangs and observe their behavior. You can even get a family photo to savor the moment when your trip ends. Get hands-on and find some inner peace at the Coastal Rockpool Exhibit, where you pet an anemone or a starfish in a cool micro-habitat.
After you check out the amazing axolotls and the stunning seahorses, it’s time for the best part of the day. Take a walk through the only 360-degree tunnel in Florida, and watch as sharks, turtles, fish, and more swim above, around, and beneath you! Who will spot Chely, the rescued green sea turtle, first?
2. The Florida Aquarium – Tampa
You’ll be surrounded by the sights and sounds of the ocean at the Florida Aquarium! The wide variety of species found here varies from local Florida natives to creatures found in the most remote locations in the world.
In addition to incredible tanks, you’ll also find land dwellers like adorable ring-tailed lemurs and hissing cockroaches in the Journey to Madagascar exhibit. Stroll over to Bays & Beaches to find coastal creatures like spiny lobsters, eels, and pufferfish.
Brave visitors can touch the cownose rays that drift toward you at Stingray Beach, where you’ll also find conchs, angelfish, doctor fish, and more. A gorgeous touch tank awaits in the No Bone Zone, where you’ll encounter Pacific-dwelling species like sea cucumbers and sea stars.
Brace yourself! These animals thrive in icy waters, so be prepared before you take the plunge. The Florida Aquarium’s largest habitat is the 50,000-gallon Coral Reef. You’ll spy sharks, giant Atlantic stingrays, tons of reef-dwelling fish, and even giant Atlantic stingrays!
Bonus points if you spot a green moray eel; they spend a lot of time hidden among the rocks. If you are a lover of seahorses, don’t miss the Reef Secrets area. You’ll find many species of seahorses and pipe horses that are sure to capture your imagination.
Website – https://www.flaquarium.org/
3. Crystal River – Citrus County
Florida’s Citrus County is packed with opportunities for adventurers of all stripes. There are tons of local art galleries and museums where you can check out permanent and rotating exhibits, great shopping, and lots of options for delicious Florida-style cuisine.
Bike or hike miles and miles of awesome trails in Withlacoochee State Forest, which the World Wildlife Fund calls one of the “Ten Coolest Places You’ve Never Been in North America”. Kayak through incredible natural blue springs.
Explore caves, rough it outdoors at a rustic camp site, or hit the links with your golf clubs. But the absolute highlight of your time spent in this gorgeous area may take place underwater, because Citrus County is the only place in the world where humans are allowed to swim with manatees!
The warm water makes the springs a popular refuge for the endangered West Indian manatee, and with a snorkel and goggles you can hover on the water’s surface and observe these gentle giants in their own habitat.
You might even see a calf swimming along with mama! Remember: don’t attempt to touch or ride these incredible creatures. There are stiff penalties in place for anyone who interferes with or harasses them.
Website – https://www.discovercrystalriverfl.com/
4. Clearwater Marine Aquarium – Clearwater
There is a lot to experience at this must-see spot that is dedicated to caring for animals that would not be able to survive in the wild! Fans of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2 may recognize this location as the former home of Winter the dolphin, who played herself in the movie.
One of the coolest things about Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the variety of animal experiences that they offer to visitors who want to get up close and personal and see how staff feed and care for aquarium residents. You can schedule a VIP dolphin experience, feed a stingray, or help a staff member with a session of shark self-care, then catch a show or exhibit in the Atlantis Theater.
Make sure to save some time for a guided eco-boat tour in Clearwater Bay, where you can watch field scientists collecting information and data and observe animals in their natural habitats.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium also offers guided kayak tours! Before you end your unforgettable day, take a stroll through the exhibits, and see dolphins, otters, pelicans, and more.
Website – https://www.cmaquarium.org/
5. Augustine Aquarium – St. Augustine
Tucked away in America’s oldest city, the St. Augustine Aquarium is a truly unique place. Don’t forget your sunscreen, your bathing suit, or your beach towel, because this open-air, outdoor facility offers something very special…visitors can snorkel with and feed hundreds of reef fish and rays!
All the other equipment that you need for your personal encounter are included in your admission. Don’t want to get wet? Request a clear vision raft as part of your experience and get a birds-eye view of these animals in action. After your swim, take a guided tour of the facility led by a marine biologist, then head to the touch tank to interact with starfish, horseshoe crabs, sea urchins, and more.
For yet another unique experience and a one-of-a-kind souvenir, you can have a canvas or tee shirt painted by one of St. Augustine Aquarium’s resident sharks! Visitors can also adopt a fish, with 100% of your donation supporting the aquarium’s mission, animals, and educational programs.
You’ll get a downloadable adoption certificate and a photo with a species description to show off your new friend.
Website – https://www.saaquarium.com/
6. Loggerhead Marinelife Center – Juno Beach
There’s so much to do at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, one of Florida premier non-profit scientific destinations!
Take a guided tour of the outdoor sea turtle hospital, and learn about the diagnosis, rehabilitation process, and release plan for residents currently undergoing care. Head over to the virtual reality theater to see a sea turtle’s journey from rescue to release.
Viewers use VR headsets to experience action-packed scenes of a dramatic beach rescue and a joyful return to the sea!
Toddlers will enjoy participating in ocean-inspired story time and craft activity to take home. Older children can come to the aid of sea turtle hatchlings and learn about the nesting process in the junior research lab, where they will participate in a mock excavation and learn about the importance of long-term data collection and how scientists and environmentalists are using that information.
Kids can also join in on a fun ArtSEA paint class, where you can decorate a sun catcher and enjoy a read-aloud story that has a marine conservation them. Seniors can participate in 55 & Bolder, a unique program that covers topics of human health and wellness that tie into sea turtle-related topics.
Website – https://marinelife.org/
7. Marine Science Center – Ponce Inlet
Volusia County is home to many well-known attractions, such as the International Speedway and the world-famous Daytona Beach.
But visitors who are looking for a quieter area can head toward beautiful Ponce Inlet and discover a true hidden gem. The Marine Science Center is truly dedicated to animal conservation, and the facility is often the first call for local boaters or swimmers who find injured sea turtles, reptiles, or birds.
Visitors can see the outdoor sea turtle hospital, where giant pools house massive specimens that require rehab before being released back into the wild and hatchlings that were washed back to shore by rough seas. Head inside to see a gorgeous 50,000-gallon artificial reef packed with colorful inhabitants, check out the estuary habitat and immerse yourself in mangrove trees, and scope out whale skulls and a dolphin skeleton.
Check out the classroom laboratory for live reptile and bird presentations and see a variety of preserved specimens. You can even get up close and personal with rays in a giant touch tank!
Head over to the bird boardwalk and meet some permanent residents that are not eligible for release back to the wild, including a stunning bald eagle.
Website – http://www.marinesciencecenter.com/
8. Gulf World Marine Park – Panama City Beach
Gulf World Marine Park is home to tons of cool animals, including rare rough-toothed dolphins, California sea lions, African penguins, and more!
Interact with rays in Stingray Bay and explore a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits that house a variety of animal species. Don’t miss any of the daily shows and educational chats that support Gulf World Marine Park’s educational initiatives and be sure to snap a photo with Russel the Crow and learn about all the clever species’ behaviors.
The Park also offers programs that provide animal therapy for special needs children between the ages of 2 to 12.
Enjoy a penguin encounter, or swim alongside majestic dolphins in a personal experience. If you are going to be in town for a while, check out the ABC Dolphin Trainer Academy. In this 10-day workshop, you can work alongside professionals as they work with and train dolphins, sea lions, and more. You can also sign up to be a Trainer for a Day if your vacation schedule is packed!
Website – https://gulfworldmarinepark.com/
9. The Miami Seaquarium – Miami
This awesome 38-acre oceanarium can be found on the island of Virginia Key in the beautiful Biscayne Bay. Keep your camera ready, because your adventure starts right in the entrance area, where you’ll see a flock of beautiful flamingos roaming freely through the lush Florida landscape.
Kids will love the new touch pools, which are packed with bamboo sharks, cleaner fish, and more. You may even get a kiss from a swarm of fish! We have lots of dolphin encounters on this list, but at the Miami Seaquarium, you can interact with harbor seals!
Get a hug from your new friend and participate in a fun training session. Get one-on-one time with an African penguin in an intimate setting. Visitors can interact with rays and nurse sharks in a mangrove forest for a truly unique experience.
Check out exhibits starring sea turtles and reef fish – you might even spot someone hand-feeding moray eels! And be sure to check out the Manatee Presentation, which provides visitors with an opportunity to learn all about Florida’s most gentle residence. Head to the Conservation Outpost to learn about wildlife rescue efforts and discover how humans are caring for sick or injured marine animals and how you can help.
Website – https://miamiseaquarium.com/
10. The Turtle Hospital – Marathon
Found in a city that spreads over seven of the gorgeous Florida Keys, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon has been rescuing and caring for injured turtles for more than 35 years. This working animal hospital offers visitors the opportunity to take a 90-minute guided tour of the medical facilities and sea turtle rehabilitation area, which includes 23 tanks ranging in size from 150-800 gallons.
You’ll even see a 100,000-gallon tank that houses disabled sea turtles, which used to be a swimming pool! Keep your cameras ready, because you will get an opportunity to feed some of the Turtle Hospital’s permanent residents.
You can adopt a sea turtle and receive a photo, biography, and certificate of adoption. You’ll even receive updates on “your” turtle throughout the year! Be sure to make a stop in the gift shop (it is Florida, after all) to purchase clothing, books, and turtle-themed accessories like totes and décor.
Every purchase helps promote the Turtle Hospital’s mission of rescue, rehabilitation, and release. After your trip ends, keep an eye on your favorite turtles through GPS trackers that collect location data on animals that have been returned to their ocean home.
Website – https://www.turtlehospital.org/
11. Key West Aquarium – Key West
The popular Florida Keys are a well-known destination for honeymooners and couples, but there are tons of great opportunities for family fun, too! Located in Mallory Square in Key West and home to eels, barracudas, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, and more, this unique spot is perfect for people of all ages and offers many great hands-on opportunities.
Kids will love all of the interactive attractions, including a touch tank that houses residents found in the ecosystem of the Lower Keys. Explore coral reef tanks, and observe an alligator in a safe place. Bust some of the myths surrounding sharks when you attend a feeding and conservation tour.
You’ll learn about a variety of species, and you just might get picked to feed one of the nurse sharks! Meet the four sea non-releasable sea turtles that call the aquarium home, including Lola and Rocky, the first sea turtles in the world to receive prosthetic flippers.
Round out your visit with a stop at the jellyfish exhibit, where you’ll be mesmerized as you watch moon jellyfish float and pulse through the water.
Website – https://www.keywestaquarium.com/
12. MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium – Sarasota
If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring the ocean or swimming with whales, this spot is for you! MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota offers visitors the opportunity to experience a VR session that will immerse you in the sub-sea world. Experience the astounding biodiversity of Florida as you explore the Creatures from the Coastal Ocean exhibit, which features spiny lobsters, tulip snails, seahorses, butterfly fish, and filefish.
Be sure to look for labels that point out which animals were born and raised at the aquarium, which protects species that are decreasing in the wild. Find out about the unique animals who hide under docks and other human-made structures and learn how to recognize three types of Florida’s coastal mangrove trees.
The Otters & Their Waters exhibit features Huck, Pippi, and Jane, otters who were orphaned when they were pups, and will show visitors how wildlife rehabilitators help sick or injured animals. You can even tune into the Ottercam when you get back home!
Don’t miss the chance to hop aboard the Miss Explorer for a hands-on, interactive eco cruise. After your visit, take a break in the Deep Sea Diner, a retro ‘50s-style diner with an affordable, family-style menu.
Website – https://mote.org/
13. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park – Fort Walton Beach
Lots of unique experiences await you at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park! Get an early start to your day when you enjoy Breakfast Under the Sea!
You’ll be surrounded by colorful tropical fish in the Living Sea aquarium, and even meet an African black-footed penguin. Don the provided snorkel gear and immerse yourself in the water with graceful rays and bamboo sharks.
Meet and feed some playful seals – you may even learn a few behavior signals in a mini-training session! Chill out with some cold-blooded creatures on the Reptile Safari, where you can learn about and interact with turtles, lizards, and snakes. You can even engage with some African penguins and feed them some tasty fish. If you’ve ever wanted to touch an alligator, don’t miss the Discover Gators experience, where you will meet juvenile American alligators and enter the habitat of some magnificent adults.
Attend animal chats that feature dolphins, sea lions, otters, and sharks, and talk to aquarists and aquatic specialists to get answers to all your questions. And if you’ve ever dreamed of working alongside animals, sign up to be a VIP trainer. You’ll enjoy a behind-the-scenes, hands-on experience where you’ll learn what it takes to care for marine life.
Website – https://www.gulfarium.com/
14. Tarpon Springs Aquarium and Animal Sanctuary – Tarpon Springs
Tarpons Springs is a unique little town located on Florida’s gulf coast, and it is a must-see. Whether you come for the Greek food, the sponge docks, or the shopping, make sure you take some time out of your day to visit the quirky, family-owned spot.
You can watch divers interact with sharks, some of the animal kingdom’s most dangerous hunters. Interact with and feed gentle cownose rays, and learn tons of fun facts about this unique species. You can observe an American alligator, many of whom live in Florida’s waters.
Take in the alligator show and get the chance to pet and hold a cute small gator! Check out the Goliath Grouper, a species which some experts say can live for up to 100 years.
You’ll also spot other predators that call the Gulf of Mexico home. You’ll also see snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises, and you can interact with hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, and more in cool tidal pool touch tanks.
Website – https://www.tarponspringsaquarium.com/plan-your-visit
Have we missed any must-see aquariums or must-do animal encounters on this list? Let us know about your favorite spots!