Beaches / Historic / Kayak & Canoe / Snorkeling / Southeast Florida

Peanut Island: Snorkeling, historic Kennedy Bunker, even camping

Beach at Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida

The beach at Peanut Island overlooks the port. The nearby rocks provide excellent snorkeling.

John F. Kennedy bunker in Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida

Entrance to Kennedy bunker on Peanut Island

The historic Coast Guard Station on Peanut Island is part of the tour of the Kennedy Bunker.

The historic Coast Guard Station on Peanut Island is part of the tour of the Kennedy Bunker.

The dock at Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida

The dock at Peanut Island

Clear water at beach at Peanut Island, Palm Beach, Florida

Knee deep water and complete visibility

Tiki Waterfront Sea Grille, Riviera Beach, Florida

Tiki Waterfront Sea Grille, Riviera Beach, Florida

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

  • It has terrific snorkeling.
  • It offers a fascinating historic site — the bomb shelter used by President John F. Kennedy.
  • It has 20 campsites for tents.

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.

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 are operated by a separate organization, the Palm Beach Maritime Museum.

There are two main facilities on the island — the U.S.Coast Guard Station, now a maritime museum, 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.

The bunker was constructed quickly and secretly during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Hidden in the woods and underground, it fell into disrepair until restored by the museum. Here’s a Florida Rambler story on the Kennedy Bunker.

We’re history buffs (who lived through that particular era of history) and found the bunker a fascinating experience. (So did a New York Times reporter.)  Admission is $14 for adults; $12, seniors; $8 children 5- 17.  This includes both the bunker and the maritime museum in the Coast Guard station, but does not include transportation to the island. Hours of operation and details are here: Palm Beach Maritime Museum

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, and enjoyed the fresh fish at the Tiki Waterfront Sea Grille located there. It’s a fun, open-air place overlooking the marina and makes a great start or end to the day. (You put in kayaks at the end of the marina from a floating dock.)

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. (I’ts $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.

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 20 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:

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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!!

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