St. Augustine: Make A Splash With Marine Life Attractions

January 4, 2020
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St. Augustine is famous for being the oldest city in the U.S., but the historic northeastern Florida town also offers amazing, bucket list opportunities to experience marine life.

One of the most popular and famous attractions of the area, Marineland Dolphin Adventure is a must-do for visitors.

Founded in 1937 as Marine Studios, then known as Marineland began as an underwater film studio. In 1938, it was opened to the public as the world’s first oceanarium.

Marineland pioneered dolphin training in the 1940s and the mammals soon became the stars of elaborate performances where they exhibited aerial acrobatics. The ever growing popularity of bottlenose dolphins, conservation and education resulted in Marineland evolving from a show stadium environment to a new habitat that allows guests to meet dolphins up close.

Today, guests enjoy an educational experience swimming, touching, feeding, and even painting with dolphins.

Swimming with dolphins is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience and Marineland Dolphin Adventure caters to this bucket list item. Designed for all ages, the Dolphin Encounter program allows guest to experience and meet up close the animals in shallow waters on an underwater platform. so visitors don’t have to worry if they’re not swimmers.

“This was a bucket list items for us,” Ginny from Urbana, Ohio wrote in a recent Tripadvisor review. “It was the best ever. I loved the interaction we got to do. We learned hand signals that we got to do with them, pet them, feed them and best of all they take you for a ride. The trainers were very educated in what they do. Highly recommend this experience to everyone.”

The facility is not huge, so don’t compare it to SeaWorld. However, the Dolphin Encounter program is more affordable than the dolphin encounter at SeaWorld Orlando’s Discovery Cove.

Marineland also offers a Behind the Seas Tour and Observation Pass.

Guests are escorted onto the dolphin deck to meet and learn more about Marineland’s dolphin family. Then visitors will take a journey back in time through the Historical Museum followed by a “below the decks” experience, where guests will see hundreds of species of exotic sea life, coral, anemones, moray eels, octopuses and rays. The tour concludes with visitors watching sand tiger sharks gracefully swim in their habitat, as well as a variety of turtles.

The trainers and dolphins also provide a educational programs. Guests can also watch the shark feeding.

While the attraction is famous for its dolphin shows and underwater tanks, which gave visitors a chance to see marine life up close, Marineland has become more than just a vacation destination. The attraction also serves as a place for scientists to study sea life and work on conservation efforts.

After opening more than 80 years ago as a Hollywood filming destination, Marineland Dolphin Adventure even returned to theaters in the summer family movie Bernie the Dolphin and its sequel, Bernie 2. Both were filmed in part at the attraction. The Marineland dolphin Aqe appears as the films’ namesake.

Newer and smaller than Marineland Dolphin Adventure is St. Augustine Aquarium. The aquarium is small and has only one large tank with multiple fish, but the attraction also offers a Snorkel Adventure and zipline.

Snorkel Adventure, which includes admission and all gear plus water that is 80 degrees year round, features fish and ray feedings while snorkeling make this interactive for guests.

“This is a new and very small aquarium, but they have big plans to expand over the next few years. ,” Julie617781 from Boston wrote in a recent Tripadvisor review. “Their exhibits are outside, but sheltered from sun and rain. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and they encouraged visitors to gently touch the creatures in the touch tank.

”:Our primary reason for visiting the aquarium was the snorkel experience in the tropical reef tank,” she added. “It did not disappoint! The animals were gorgeous, the guide was great, and we loved every second of the experience. Despite the hot day, we were grateful they provided wetsuits. The pool is quite chilly, but we were very comfortable. Tip: spend the extra money and sign up to feed the fish while you’re in the tank. You’ll get lots of VERY up-close interactions!”

Visitors to the historic city can also experience marine life from a boat via the St Augustine Scenic Cruise. Guests can relax and enjoy the affordable one hour and fifteen minute cruise aboard the Victory III. The narrated tours provide an incomparable way to view St. Augustine’s historical landmarks and natural sites of interest.

Combining sightseeing and learning, the cruise appeals to nature enthusiasts. The Intracoastal or Tolomato/Matanzas River in St. Augustine is home to a plethora of wildlife, including birds, dolphins, manatees, turtles, and much more.

The dolphins are seen here year-round and call this bay their home. Guests regularly witness all types of behaviors like playing, hunting, breeding and caring for their young.

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Eric Tiansay is a freelance writer with more than 20 years experience working as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor as well as writing for numerous Christian publications. Originally from Reno, Nev., Eric moved to Florida, where he became a Christian. An avid angler, film aficionado and fitness buff, Eric is an active member of his church along with his wife and five children.

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