Peanut Island: Snorkeling, historic site, even camping

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Beach at Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida
The beach at Peanut Island overlooks the port. The nearby rocks provide excellent snorkeling. (Photo: David Blasco)
John F. Kennedy bunker in Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida
Entrance to Kennedy bunker on Peanut Island, now off-limits to visitors
The dock at Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida
The dock at Peanut Island

There are three good and distinctly different reasons to visit Peanut Island:

  • It has terrific snorkeling.
  • It has 20 campsites for tents.
  • It has a fascinating history– it was the location of the bomb shelter designed for President John F. Kennedy. You can no longer access or tour the bunker, however.

As a bonus, if you’re a kayaker, it makes a fun destination while you avoid the expense of the water taxi.

Peanut Island is a man-made island in the middle of the Port of Palm Beach, created in 1918 when the Lake Worth Inlet was dredged. (Its only connection to peanuts, it turns out, was a never-implemented proposal to make it a shipping point for peanut oil.)

It’s an 80-acre county park with guarded swimming, picnic shelters, 20 camp sites and a 1.25 mile paved walking path around the perimeter. It’s a magnet for power boaters, who moor around its perimeter and party in the shallow, sandy-bottom water that extends out into the Intracoastal. (There’s even a pizza boat you can reach only by water.)

If you're going to Peanut Island, pack a picnic. There are many shaded tables with good views.
If you’re going to Peanut Island, pack a picnic. There are many shaded tables with good views. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Surrounded by boats playing music and located in the middle of a populated area, it’s not much of a natural experience — except for what you see underwater.

With its rocky shoreline and its location directly in the mouth of the inlet, it is known for having some of the best easy-access snorkeling in South Florida. Plenty of colorful fish are viewable in waist-deep water, making it particularly popular with families. The best snorkeling is along the southern edge of the island. Visitors have seen rays, manatees, small sharks as well as many varieties of colorful reef fish.

The historic features on the island closed in 2018 when a non-profit group lost its lease.  There are two main facilities on the island — the U.S.Coast Guard Station and the underground bunker created during the Cold War as a command center for President John F. Kennedy, whose Palm Beach compound was right across the Intracoastal. You can walk past the historic Coast Guard building but cannot reach the bunker, which is hidden in the brush a distance from there.

While you currently can no longer visit the bunker here’s a Florida Rambler story on its history.

We’ve visited Peanut Island to snorkel many times, arriving by water taxi on several occasions and paddling over once.

To kayak, we parked and put in our boat at Riviera Beach Marina, 200 E. 13th St. Riviera Beach. There is a launch area from the north end of the marina, where you will find several outfitters. There is also a tiki bar in the marina, Rafiki Tiki, where you can get food or drink.


Other put-in spots for kayakers: Phil Foster Park, 900 E. Blue Heron Blvd., Riviera Beach, and Light Harbor Park, 1800 Broadway, Riviera Beach.

You take the water taxi from Sailfish Marina:  98 Lake Drive, Palm Beach Shores. (It’s $12 per person.)  We love leaving from Sailfish Marina because the docks there have clear turquoise water filled with schools of fish — jacks, parrot fish and more. You can buy shrimp here to feed the fish.

Clear water at beach at Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida
Knee deep water and complete visibility

Camping on Peanut Island

You can book campsites 90 days in advance, and for Saturday nights, that’s just what you have to do. If you can camp on a weeknight, however, you can almost always get a spot, according to a park staff member. Peanut Island is so popular for camping that the park requires 60 days between reservations to give more people a chance. Reservations are limited to three nights. Here are details about camping. 

The 17 campsites include three designed for groups of up to 12 with two tents. Single sites are $31.36 including tax and expanded sites are $62.72,

In the past, beachfront camping was possible along the northern shore, but rising sea levels and erosion have forced the closure of those sites.

Eventually, the park will offer reservations via its website but until then, you have to call 561-845-4445 to reserve a spot.

More planning resources:

More things to do in Palm Beach County and nearby:

Updated 9/18

3 Comments

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  2. We just visited Peanut Island August 31, 2017 and the Kennedy Bunker, only to find out that the Coast Guard building and the bunker will be CLOSED permanently. More history gone!!

  3. Pingback: REVIEW: Peanut Island Used to Be a Non-Stop Drunken Party, Now Good for Kids Once in a While | Up Down Travel

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