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Snorkeling the Destin Jetties

The Destin Jetties
The Destin Jetties

The Destin Jetties is a popular snorkeling spot in Florida's panhandle. In this part of the state, there are no close-in coral reefs--just a broad expanse of ocean floor made up of clean, quartz sand. The man-made jetties, however, in addition to fulfilling their primary mission of protecting Destin Pass also provide an artificial reef, attracting a variety of sea life.

In my experience, when you're diving--snorkeling, too--in an unfamiliar location, it's a good idea to stop in at a local dive shop prior to your dive or snorkel to gather a little local knowledge. The things you learn in a few minutes of friendly conversation can make your time in the water safer and more enjoyable.

I expect most people would agree that the best time to snorkel the jetties is during the slackwater at high tide. At times other than slackwater, the current through the pass can be quite strong. On an outgoing tide, you might end up farther out in the beautiful emerald green Gulf of Mexico than you'd prefer.

You'll want to snorkel the jetties during the slackwater at high tide because at that time the area is inundated with the clean Gulf waters. At low tide, the murky bay waters predominate.

The warmer months are probably preferable for snorkeling here. I'm told summer often provides the clearest water. I snorkeled the jetties in late April and the water temperature was about 72 degrees--meaning it had the cool briskness of a Florida spring.

Destin Jetties Underwater View
Destin Jetties Underwater View

It wasn't Key Largo, but I still enjoyed it. Places, I suppose, are like people--each brings its own unique qualities, and it usually serves little purpose to compare one to another.

You'll be snorkeling the east side of Destin Pass. The west side is a military installation accessible by land only to those with a Department of Defense card.

To get to the jetties turn south off of US 98 in Destin onto Gulfshore Drive, which is located 2.1 miles east of the bridge over Destin Pass. Follow Gulfshore Drive for 1.9 miles until you come to a beach public access point on your left and places for parallel parking on your right. Park here and walk south about a quarter of a mile to the jetties.

Besides the main jetties at the mouth of the pass, there are smaller "finger" jetties located about a half-mile to the northwest at Norriego Point. Many people enjoy snorkeling here as well.

The Clear Waters of Norriego Point
The "Finger" Jetties at Norriego Point

The Rocks at Norriego Point
The Rocks at Norriego Point

To get to Norriego Point, follow Gulfshore Drive another 0.2 mile to a public parking area. Park here, and you have about a quarter-mile walk to the finger jetties. Keep this parking area in mind in case there are no available parking places in the parallel parking areas along Gulf Shore Drive, as discussed above.

Norriego Point in Destin
Public Parking at Norriego Point

When I was at the Destin Jetties, the underwater visibility was about 30 feet. The algae-covered jetty rocks were populated with a variety of fish--sheepshead, puffer fish, and others. It felt great to be in clear salt water with the warm spring sun on my back. If I lived in Destin, the jetties would, no doubt, be one of my favorite hang outs.

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