The U.S. state of Florida is the southernmost tip of the east coast and welcomes over 100 million tourists to its beaches and shores every year. With miles of crystal blue waters lapping onto the largest coastline in the contiguous United States, it’s not hard to imagine why Florida is a top destination. The peninsula of Florida is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. The Straits of Florida surround the Florida Keys in the south and separate the gulf from the ocean.
Whether you’re visiting a happening spot in south Florida like Miami beach or exploring vibrant ecosystems in beautiful state parks and/or wetlands, it’s helpful to know what is surrounding you when you visit any part of the state. This article will explain what bodies of water surround Florida.
Florida’s Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest ocean in the world, covering approximately 20 percent of the earth’s surface. The name is derived from Greek mythology, meaning the “Sea of Atlas.” The Florida Reef, one of the world’s largest coral reefs, stretches approximately 360 miles from the Florida Keys to the St. Lucie Inlet. Florida’s eastern coastline is also home to the largest number of nesting sea turtles in the world. Turtle walks, tours of sea-turtle nesting beaches, are available in Fort Lauderdale, Loggerhead Park, Melbourne Beach and other locations along the coast.
The Florida Keys islands include Key West (the southernmost city), the Lower Keys, Marathon, Islamorada and Key Largo. From museums to beaches to shopping locations, the Florida Keys might be an ideal destination for your next trip!
The Straits of Florida
The Straits of Florida is a deep cold water channel of water that connects the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The strait carries the Florida current from the Gulf between Cuba and the Florida Keys and north along the eastern Florida coastline. The deepest part of the channel exceeds 6,000 feet, and the stretch of water serves as a conduit for the Gulf Stream. Visitors flock to the Florida Keys for fishing or boating or to dive underwater and explore coral reefs, shipwrecks and diverse marine life. The water surrounding the string of tropical islands off the tip of Florida is home to thousands of species of marine life, including manatees, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and reef sharks.
The Gulf of Mexico
The ninth-largest body of water in the world, almost half of the Gulf of Mexico basin is shallow intertidal waters. Bordered by Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas and the south and southwestern shores by Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico encircles 615,000 square miles. The continental shelf gives way to the Sigsbee Deep, where the average depth drops more than 9,000 feet from the 5,299 feet depth throughout the rest of the Gulf. Fishing, crabbing, shrimping and oyster-harvesting are a way of life for many people who call the Gulf their home. In fact, North Jetty Park, located in the town of Nokomis on the west coast of Florida, includes access to the Gulf for some prime fishing opportunities. Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches have soft white sands, clear waters and calm seas.
Florida’s Maritime Climate
Florida enjoys summer temperatures averaging between the high 80s and low 90s. In the winter, the average daytime highs are in the 70s, with nighttime lows in the 40s. Water temperatures are in the mid-70s to low 80s all year-round. While Florida is known as the Sunshine State, there are still brief showers during the rainy season that last only a few minutes. However, travelers should be mindful of hurricane season from summer to fall.
Note: With large bodies of water comes large, rich underwater ecosystems. Florida is known for its wildlife—specifically alligators. If it's these prehistoric reptiles that you’re worried about when you take a dip in the ocean, no need to fear. Alligators inhabit freshwater, often swampy areas. If you want a close-up look at all kinds of different plant and animal species on your next Florida trip, the Everglades is really where you’ll want to be.