Secret Reef Locations
At Fury Water Adventures, a visit to the coral reef is central to most of our trips—the Morning Snorkel Trip, the Reef & ‘Ritas, the Rum & Reggae, the Double Dip Snorkel Trip, the Glass Bottom Boat, the Ultimate Adventure, the Island Adventure, and the Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Adventure. Being that Key West is home to North America’s only living coral reef and the third largest barrier reef in the entire world, it’s no wonder we spend so much time out there. It’s an absolute “must experience” on any visit to Key West and we’re proud to offer a variety of ways to do just that.
The barrier reef system, known as the Florida Straits, stretches for about 220 miles, so there are more than a few options for exploration in this National Marine Sanctuary. The section of the reef you visit depends upon the Fury trip you’ve chosen, the weather conditions for the day, and your captain’s preference. Here are a few of our most popular Key West Snorkeling Tours along the reef.
If you’ve been snorkeling in Key West with Fury, chances are you’ve been to Sand Key. At seven miles due south, this is our most frequented spot along the reef because it’s the most protected. We can almost always find a mooring ball here offering calm, flat conditions. It’s also home to a true Key West landmark, the Sand Key Lighthouse, originally built in 1853.
A few miles east of Sand Key is Rock Key, a favorite spot amongst our captains and crew for its flourishing coral and diverse marine life. Expect to find schools of colorful sergeant major, blue tang, yellowtail snapper, and parrotfish swimming amidst deep coral canyons.
Eastern Dry Rocks
If we continue traveling east of Rock Key, we’ll end up at Eastern Dry Rocks, another popular snorkeling location. Key West’s barrier reef is often described by our captains as “finger canyons.” If you look down at your hand, imagine your fingers as coral rock and the space between as where you swim to explore. It’s a great way to navigate and get the most out of your snorkeling experience.
Watch our video about Key West Snorkeling Trips.
Cottrell Key is located west of Key West, about five miles into the Gulf of Mexico. As opposed to being apart of the Atlantic’s barrier reef system, it’s known as a patch coral reef and sponge garden. You’ll find yourself at Cottrell if conditions are too rough out front or, perhaps, if you’re on one of our trips that explore the backcountry, such as the Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Adventure or the Island Adventure. The water at Cottrell is relatively shallow with a sandy bottom covered in seagrass and coral outcroppings. Keep your eyes peeled for spiny sea urchins and conch shells on the ocean floor. It’s also a great place to spot some of the bigger animals in the ocean, such as the Goliath grouper, stingrays, and even sharks.
This is another point in the Atlantic even further east from Eastern Dry Rocks. Western Sambo is a nine square-nautical-mile preserve, so that means there’s a lot of diversity within this destination. You can expect beautiful water clarity, coral canyons, and colorful tropical fish. This is an ideal destination to visit during the Double Dip snorkel trip since the Reef Express can make the longer journey in express time and the large preserve offers plenty of great snorkeling opportunities.
This is one of those spots that’s all about the captain’s knowledge. That’s because Man Rock isn’t even marked on nautical maps. Approximately six miles southwest of Key West, this coral outcropping is shaped in a circle that our crew sometimes describes as a “halo” set against the sandy bottom. This spot, and others like it, are often visited during the Island Adventure, thanks to the Cruzan Cat’s shallow draft. It’s also en route to the mangrove islands and sandbars of the Gulf of Mexico that are a part of the all-day trip. The Island Adventure is one of the most relaxing Key West Snorkeling Tours offered by any company on the island and also includes sunbathing on a remote beach, kayaking, food, and drinks.