Effective Feb. 6: It is now federal law that all persons on a tour boat, ferry or other RCP-provided watercraft within Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection (RCP) managed lands are required to wear a mask. RCP will comply with this order and continue efforts to provide for staff and visitor safety. Please review individual aquatic preserve and NERR pages for specific information for each location. As DEP reopens managed areas, the department will take measures to ensure the protection of staff and the public. During these phases of reopening, visitors should expect limited hours, capacity and amenities.
Initially, approximately six managed areas will reopen remote access trails, beaches and boat ramps at the research reserves. Islands, beaches and submerged lands within the aquatic preserves will open in a manner consistent with local ordinances. Please refer to your local government web pages to identify any local restrictions.
Tour Our Aquatic Preserves
Our interactive story map takes you to our 42 aquatic treasures across the state, describing highlights of each aquatic preserve, along with links to each of their web pages on the DEP website.
If you're more into the technical side, visit our MapDirect of our aquatic preserves. Scale back and you can see where each AP in the state is located.
Explore Our Aquatic Preserves - Earn Swag
We challenge you to visit as many sites as possible with our Explore Aquatic Florida Passport! If you send us your information, you could earn cool swag. Learn more.
About our Aquatic Preserves
Much of Florida's distinctive character lies in the beauty of its 825 miles of coastline. The best of our coastal landscapes, as well as several inland waters, have been set aside for protection as aquatic preserves. Florida's natural beauty always has been a major attraction for both tourists and residents. Ironically, the very features that draw people to Florida are potentially endangered by the increased population pressures. Aquatic preserves protect Florida's living waters to ensure they will always be home for bird rookeries and fish nurseries, freshwater springs and salt marshes, and seagrass meadows and mangrove forests.
These aquatic preserves — dotted up and down Florida's coastline — offer a window into the state's natural and cultural heritage. In 1975, with growing appreciation for their environmental diversity and alluring beauty, Florida enacted the Aquatic Preserve Act. This ensures the continuation of aquatic preserves' natural conditions — "their aesthetic, biological and scientific values may endure for the enjoyment of future generations."
These pristine waters act as critical nurseries for fish and other aquatic life that are an integral part of the Florida way of life. Bottlenose dolphins break the water's surface and manatees feed on seagrasses. Wading and shore birds — including pelicans, ospreys and roseate spoonbills — thrive in the shallow waters.
About two-thirds of Floridians live in counties that border an aquatic preserve. Aquatic preserves are vital to Florida's quality of life. Residents and visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, boating and paddling through the preserves, often unaware the waters are being protected and preserved.
Numerous archaeological sites found along and within the aquatic preserves attest to early human habitation. Like many people today, early explorers found them attractive places to live. Shell mounds, which are heaps of the discarded remains from early meals, bear the evidence of early human communities and add to their cultural and historical value.
Aquatic preserves' natural heritage is entrusted to us — to explore, experience and protect — for future generations.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.