While Peanut Island has deservedly earned its reputation as one of the wildest Sunday Funday spots in Palm Beach, it also offers some rather fantastic snorkeling. As part of the $15 million revitalization project in 2005, the 79-acre island is drastically different then it’s old Australian pine forest ways. In addition to boardwalks, docks and boat basin, restored maritime and mangrove hammocks, a camp site with facilities, and hiking trails throughout, a lagoon and snorkel reefs were added to the southeastern portion of the island.
Now, Peanut Island is an excellent snorkel spot, especially for beginners. Depths are shallow, barely reaching 10 feet, and man-made outcroppings of rock help dampen boat wakes and strong incoming currents, helping ease water conditions for snorkelers and swimmers. Visibility is best on incoming and high tides, so plan accordingly. Tropical and reef fish are bountiful, with parrotfish patrolling for algae, blue tangs schooling in electric formations, and schoolmasters, grunts, and sergeant majors swarming in all directions, nibbling on seaweed and staking out territory. If you stick to the safety of the snorkel reefs, be sure to peer out into the deeper waters, there are always larger passerby’s swimming to an fro—lots of sting rays, sharks, and schooling fish (jacks and snook especially during the summer).
With Peanut Island being, well, an island, access is not as easy as some other snorkel spots. You need a boat to make the trek. Luckily, there are a few water taxis that will take snorkelers to and from the island. Sailfish Marina’s Water Taxi offers shuttle service to the island—$12 per person for day trips, $20 for the camping shuttle, and allows occupants to bring plenty of beach supplies (which are necessary for the island—there are no concessions). The Peanut Island Water Taxi runs shuttle service to Peanut Island seven days a week (9 a.m.-6 p.m. in the summer, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the winter). Located at the Riveria Beach Marina, slip 522, this water taxi is a little more accessible to day-trippers, with much more parking available at the public marina. Capt. Joe is also a pretty cool dude, so catching a ride on one of his boats is never a bad day—call 561-844-7969 to reserve a spot on the boat.
Type of snorkel spot: Artificial snorkel lagoon
Depth: Roughly 5 to 12 feet
Accessibility: Boat/Water Taxi
What to Bring: Mask, snorkel and fins; dive flag; refreshments—there are no concessions on the island, so bring plenty of water and snacks. There are picnic areas with grills, but you’ll need to schlep all the grilling necessities (charcoal, cooler, utensils, etc.).
When to go: High and incoming tides—but be careful. Essentially located in the Palm Beach Inlet, currents can be very strong so for young swimmers, it is best to wait until the currents abate and the tide has arrived.
Avoid: Strong currents and inclement weather. If the weather forecast is in doubt, don’t go—you’ll be stuck on an island. For new snorkelers, don’t stray from the lagoon; the inlet’s currents can be swift, and it is a very busy boater area around the island. But within the snorkel lagoon, things are very safe and calm, perfect for small children.
What to see: Tropical and reef fish; invertebrates and crustaceans; sea turtles; manatees.
Park Extras: Though there are no concessions, there is plenty to do on Peanut Island. Along with hiking trails and observation tower, visitors can soak up the rays along the sandy beaches surrounding the island. On the south end of the island sit the Historic Coast Guard Station, built in 1932 (now the Coast Guard Museum), and the Kennedy Bunker (right), an underground fallout shelter built in December 1961 as a safe haven for President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both are currently closed, with the hopes of major renovations in the near future, restoring these two true treasures back to their former glory.