Learn about the playful nature of dolphins before swimming alongside these clever marine mammals at this entertaining research facility.
For more than half a century, Grassy Key has been home to one of the most progressive and dedicated dolphinariums in the United States: the Dolphin Research Center. The facility comprises a series of enclosed lagoons covering more than 2 acres (0.87 hectares). Swim with the dolphins or learn how to communicate with these exceptional creatures as you discover their gentle and playful nature.
The Dolphin Research Center began life as a small vacation attraction when a local fisherman opened an open-air aquarium on the side of the Overseas Highway. In the decades since, the center has undergone many transformations and is today operated by a team of trainers, scientists and environmentalists who strive to build awareness of the plight of dolphins and sea lions.
As one of the most visited attractions in the Florida Keys, the Dolphin Research Center can get very busy during public holidays and weekends. Make a reservation to swim with the dolphins and hold on as you’re pushed through the water. Feel the smooth skin of the dolphins as they nuzzle your hand. During the session you’ll be learning about the hand gestures used by trainers to communicate with the dolphins.
Professional photographs of your experience with the dolphins can be purchased from the Dolphin Research Center, making for a great souvenir. Take your own photographs at the large viewing platforms as you watch the animals play in the shallow end of the lagoons.
Before you leave, make your way across the center to visit the equally playful and cute sea lions. After you’ve dried off, stop by the café for refreshments or a quick meal. The in-house children’s play area will keep your children occupied while you sit back with a sandwich or a coffee.
The Dolphin Research Center is located just off the Overseas Highway on Grassy Key and is best reached by car. Free parking is available on-site. An admission fee applies, and reservations are necessary if you’d like to interact with the dolphins.