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Snorkeling trail at Phil Foster Park is full of easy-to-see sea life

Last updated on August 18th, 2021 at 01:57 pm

Divers have always found much to see in the clear waters around the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach, just north of West Palm Beach.

A few years ago, however, Palm Beach County took this popular snorkeling and scuba-diving site and made it better.

In a swimmable distance off the beach, the county built an 800-foot-long man-made reef and the Phil Foster Park snorkel trail in 6 to 10 feet of water. It attracts a volume and variety of sea creatures rarely seen from the beach.

An artificial reef along the snorkel trail at Phil Foster Park in Palm Beach County. Photo by Michael Scott Photography.
An artificial reef along the Phil Foster Park snorkel trail in Palm Beach County. Photo by Michael Scott Photography.

Phil Foster Park is an island in the Lake Worth Lagoon at the center of the Blue Heron Bridge. It is just a mile from the Palm Beach Inlet and thus gets a steady flow of crystal clear water from the Atlantic, along with all sorts of fish and other creatures that come in with the tide.

The bridge pilings and rocks have long attracted a variety of sea creatures, and the additional reef structures just created more habitat for them.

The reef was constructed with 600 tons of rock and six man-made concrete reef modules. The structures, each of which weighs two tons, have ledges and small habitat spaces ideal for fish, octopus, sea horses and other creatures.

At the western end of the trail, three 5-foot-long concrete statues of hammerhead sharks were added in 2015. The sharks were created and donated by artist Tom McDonald.

This snorkeling site is well-known for the diversity of species. Squid, octopus, spotted rays, and starfish are regularly seen. Colorful angelfish and parrotfish, juvenile snapper, grunts and grouper, damsels, blennies and wrasses are all there.

Shark sculpture along snorkel trail at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. Michael Scott Photography,
Shark sculpture along the Phil Foster Park snorkel trail in Riviera Beach. Michael Scott Photography,

Tips on visiting the Phil Foster Park snorkel trail

My first impression on visiting was how clear the water is here. Right from the beach, you see small fish glistening in the water.

Finding the snorkel trail, however, was a little bit of a challenge as there are no markers showing you where it is.

I started snorkeling on the eastern end of the beach. Wrong. I saw a few fish and enjoyed the clear water, but I didn’t come across any parts of the snorkel trail.

Trying again, I swam straight out from the lifeguard stand. I had better luck, coming across one of the reef structures, and eventually snorkeled the length of the trail. At the far western end are the shark sculptures. Set your expectations appropriately: They’re neat, but they’re not huge and they’re in pretty deep water.

More impressive to me were some of the large boulder piles, which have been in place longer and were covered with coral and swarming with schools of fish.

One of the hammerhead shark sculptures on the Phil Foster Park snorkel trail. Photo by Michael Scott Photography.
One of the hammerhead shark sculptures on the Phil Foster Park snorkel trail. Photo by Michael Scott Photography.

All of the reef structures are located between the white buoys that mark the swimming area and the orange buoys that mark the boating channel, so you need to swim a good distance out from the beach. (There’s a map on the beach to consult.)

When we visited, at high tide on a sunny Saturday morning, there were myriad fish on and near the snorkel trail, including schools of vivid yellow-and-black-striped sergeant major fish. We saw pufferfish, sea anemones, several 2-foot-long barracuda and lots of fish I couldn’t identify. People at the beach talked about spotting sea stars and octopus, though I wasn’t that lucky.

The beach itself is immediately adjacent to the bridge on its south side. (Most of Phil Foster Park is located on the other side of the bridge.)

People set up on the beach to make a day of it here, including in the shade right under the bridge. Nearby are picnic tables, restrooms, a fishing pier and a shaded playground.

We found several divers and swimmers were anxious to tell what they saw and where they saw it, so you might benefit from being chatty.

When planning your trip, also check the tide table. The best time to snorkel is a half hour before high tide. Between tides, the current can be strong.

Snorkeling at Phil Foster Park on the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach.
Phil Foster Park snorkel trail on the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach. (Photo: David Blasco)

Nearby and within site of the Phil Foster beach is another great snorkeling place in the Lake Worth Lagoon, which benefits from the same conditions: Peanut Island County Park.

Phil Foster Park
900 E. Blue Heron Blvd.
Riviera Beach, Florida

Phil Foster Park is open sunrise to sunset. There is no admission fee and parking is free, although the lot does fill up on some weekends. When that happens, some people drop off a member of their party and their gear at Phil Foster Park and then park the car at the Ocean Mall at the Riviera Beach public beach on Singer Island. This is about a 10 minute walk back to the park. Or: Consider a weekday visit or an early-morning arrival.

Looking for easy-to-reach snorkeling spots? Florida Rambler has a comprehensive list of places where you can snorkel from shore, from Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West up to Bathtub Reef on Hutchinson Island.

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

This article is the property of FloridaRambler.com and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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Dive SoFlo

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

I recently went, this was my dive. It was epic.

https://youtu.be/zq1qbftT9bI

Mandy

Saturday 19th of June 2021

Can you dive the snorkel trail?

Bonnie Gross

Sunday 20th of June 2021

Yes. Here's a scuba-oriented article on the area. https://www.puravidadivers.com/dive-blue-heron-bridge-phil-foster-park The Blue Heron Bridge area (which includes the Phil Foster Park snorkel trail) is a long-time favorite diving location.

Tathiana

Saturday 15th of May 2021

I love the article! Very helpful! But I have a stupid question: what time is the high tide? Thank you

Bonnie Gross

Saturday 15th of May 2021

Thanks! High tide occurs at different times every day and in different places. So when you're considering going, do a Google search like: "high tide palm beach inlet" (this would be for Peanut Island location.) If you did that today, you'd see: "11:52 pm Tides in Palm Beach, FL for Today & Tomorrow. Next high tide is 11:52 pm. Next low tide is 5:53 am. Sunset today is 8:01 PM. Sun rise tomorrow is 6:31 AM." You'd also see links below the Google snippet. These will be tide tables, where you'd see the times of high and low tides for the next few days.

Manut B.

Monday 3rd of May 2021

I love your tips! Very detailed oriented! It’s exactly what I am looking for. Thank you!

Bob Rountree

Monday 3rd of May 2021

You're welcome! Thanks for reading! :-)

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