Dolphin Watching in Madeira Beach, Florida
A trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast would not be complete without catching a glimpse of a few bottlenose dolphins. Taking a cruise is your best option for viewing these beautiful marine mammals up close.
Hubbard’s Marina, located on John’s Pass in beautiful Madeira Beach, is the perfect place for your first dolphin cruise. Laid-back, friendly hour and a half cruises are offered daily year-round. The chance to view dolphins in their natural habitat is a much different experience than viewing them at a zoo. All of the dolphins you will see in the pictures below are Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins.
The dolphins are very fast, so it was difficult to get quality pictures. Also, the dolphins never jumped out of the water, hence, the majority of the time we were only able to get a quick glimpse of a fin.
However, there were plenty of dolphin fin sightings along the way as you can see below.
An up close view of the fin
As you can see, the dolphin is out of the water a bit more in this picture. This is one of the rare instances where we could see a bit of the dolphin’s face.
A few other great dolphin sightings. And check out those gorgeous colorful houses in the background. What a beautiful backdrop!
All staff are knowledgeable as to the best places to find dolphins. They will alert you right away as to the first sign of a dolphin. Plus anyone on the boat will point one out as soon as they are discovered. This gives you plenty of time to get out of your seat and get your camera ready!
Guaranteed dolphin sightings
Fortunately, sightings are guaranteed so you will never leave unhappy! To be honest, I was surprised by the number of sightings. I would have been happy to have seen just one whereas we saw more than a dozen. We were lucky enough to see several groups of dolphins swimming along.
Dolphins often travel together – take a look below
On 2 occasions, they came really close to the boat! Such a cool experience!
Not only did we see plenty of dolphins, we also came across dozens of snowy egrets and pelicans. My favorite part of the cruise was the journey around Dogleg Key Bird Sanctuary, a beautiful mangrove island. As you can see in the photos below, beautiful pelicans and snowy egrets populate the island.
Gorgeous views of Boca Ciega Bay
Wildlife sightings aside, along the journey you are also treated to gorgeous views of parks, islands, and multi-million dollar waterfront homes.
Summer fun (even on a hot day!)
The small admission ticket is worth it for the cruise alone. A cruise is a great way to enjoy the day in Florida without burning in the sun. Although it was a hot day, the temps began to cool down as soon as we started moving and the breeze made the cruise much more comfortable. Thankfully, the boat is covered so you do not have to worry about the sun beating down on you for the entirety of the ride.
We picked a great day for the cruise as there were only a handful of other passengers on board. This made it really easy to get up out of our seats to view the dolphins. I enjoyed this cruise over others due to the casual, relaxed atmosphere. Overall, Hubbard’s Marina Dolphin Cruise was a great opportunity to simultaneously enjoy the sunny Florida weather while also observing wildlife in their natural habitat. Booking your cruise on a weekday (preferably during the off season) will ensure a less hectic experience.
Beer, wine, bottled water, and a small selection of snacks are available for purchase.
Unique Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Facts
*Dolphins can live up to 50 years.
*They are both docile and agile.
*Males tend to roam alone.
*There is a $25,000 fee for feeding or bothering a dolphin.
Before your cruise…
Treat yourself to breakfast and a cup of joe at Sweet Brewnette. This local coffeeshop serves great food in an eclectic space. I love the local artwork adorning the walls (all of which you can purchase) and the lovely outdoor patio.
After your cruise…
Be sure to take a walk around John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk. This area is just beautiful – a fun tourist shopping/dining destinations near the beach. Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company is a fun place to kick back after your cruise. Love the Falafel!
More activities at Hubbard’s Marina/St. John’s Boardwalk
There are plenty of interesting shops, places to pick up souvenirs, a handful of waterfront restaurants (from casual chains like Bubba Gump Shrimp and Hooters to local choices like Scully’s Seafood), and of course gorgeous views! In addition to the Dolphin Cruise, Hubbard’s Bay also offers sunset cruises.
Relaxing at Madeira Beach
Take a walk over to Madeira Beach, located right next to John’s Pass. This great little beach is clean and well-maintained. Madeira is known for smooth white sand and clear, warm water. Not too many crowds around even on a Saturday afternoon.
The beach was peaceful and much less noisy than others in the area. A great place to relax!
Dolphin cruise details
Address: The cruise departs at Hubbard’s Marina (170 Johns Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach, FL 33708)
Parking: There is a large parking lot which only charges $1 per 30 minutes (daily max is $20). We happily drove right into the garage as opposed to circling around finding parking meters at most other beaches.
Prices: Adult tickets are $29.95. Children 3-11 and under are $14.95. Under 2 is free. The senior rate is 26.50.
Cruise departure times: 1pm and 3pm. To make a reservation: Call (727) 393-1947. Or better yet, book online to ensure availability.
Tips for a great cruise
*Bring with a camera, preferably one with a high shutter speed. There are plenty of beautiful pictures to take, not only of the dolphins, but also beautiful landscapes.
*Sign up for the Hubbard’s Marina email club for discounts and a free pint glass.