West of Bradenton on Anna Maria Island, the snorkeling off Bradenton Beach is generally known for its sand flats. But, there are now three prefabbed pier structures from the beach that will offer good snorkeling opportunities.
In the past, the only real pier structure left was the northern-most pier that was locally known as Third Pier Reef. Over the years, there was good marine growth of soft corals and colorful sponges, which provided habitat for thousands of gobies and blennies surround the pier which tend to attract grouper, snapper, needlenose fish and snook.
During the summer of 2016, all three old pier structures were removed and an extensive sand replenishment activity occured. After the replenishment extended the beach further offshore, the three piers were quickly rebuilt with prefabricated concrete structures. Over the coming years, the marine growth should reappear thus providing good snorkeling. Note, it may take a while for the new piers to appear on satellite photos.
The best time of year for snorkeling at Bradenton Beach is late April through May when the water is the clearest. The mornings are known for low wind and therefore low surf conditions. Use of a dive flag is highly recommended due to boat traffic.
After a long morning of snorkeling, head over to the Gulf Drive Cafe and Tiki Bar for a cool drink.
To reach the dive site from US75, use Exit #220. Head west on SR64 (aka Manatee Avenue). Turn left on Gulf Drive and park in public area along the beach.
Snorkeling on the Florida Gulf Coast, such as at Bradenton Beach, is not known for good visibility. Matter of fact, the snorkeling is known for very low water clarity in the range from 1 foot to 7 feet most of the year.
Overall, Bradenton Beach is the 5th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 18 snorkeling dives in Florida Gulf Coast.