- The Adventurous Alfords
A Dolphin Experience in Saint Augustine
Did you know that there is a one on one dolphin experience nestled in the gorgeous and beloved Saint Augustine called Marineland Dolphin Adventure? Marineland has a very long and rich history that dates all the way back to 1938 when it was originally built for Hollywood film-makers to shoot underwater scenes for movies, movies that you and I have probably seen like "Creature From The Black Lagoon". If you visit their website, in the "history" section, you will find an outstanding timeline of their incredible mark on cinematic and aquatic history. So be sure to check that out before you go OR check it all out in person. As you make your way to the Whitney park archway, the dolphin habitat area within Marineland, you will find that the walkway is adorned with its own progressive photographic timeline of so many of Marineland's historical moments. So, if you have heard of this place but have asked yourself, "Is this attraction worth my time and money...?" then I am here to help!
I gotta say, Marineland is not trying to thrill you, but more so educate you. This is a learning experience for all ages and all walks of life. Whether you are here to see sea turtles like their oldest aquatic resident, 36 year old Pokey, or to get up close and personal with some of the friendly dolphins like Zac, you are going to be educated on ocean preservation and even the understanding of things like conservation reproductive research programs. My kids really loved being IN the water with the dolphins, though they admittedly thought that there would be more "entertainment" with these incredible mammals. But that gave us a special opportunity to explain and educate them. We were able to explain to our kiddos that we were there for the dolphins, not the other way around. We were their fun playmates for the day. Your admission costs are funding their wellbeing, the protection of their home, and the tools to teach others how to make a better earth for our ocean friends. You can go knowing that you are actually contributing to something ethical and grand! So keep that in mind when visiting this establishment. Now let's break down some costs and their worth...
General admission is approximately $23 for adults and $14 for children. This includes only walking around the facility, hearing some of the staff give you insight on things like what I mentioned above, and seeing the ocean residents from afar. Remember that, since Marineland is not a very large establishment, meaning your visit will last very long. The more budget friendly experiences include "Meet and Greets". The meet and greet package is $59 +tax. This includes your admission!! So for approximately $60 you get into Marineland and up close to the dolphins, however, you will not be in the actual tank with them. This, in my opinion, is great for families with smaller children. I personally watched a couple of younger children shy away from the dolphins when it came to the more expensive packages that required them to be in the water with the dolphins. There are a few other experiences that are priced differently for adults and children including a "Swim Adventure" package that Garrett was able to try. The "Dolphin Encounter" was approximately $100 (that includes admission) and it was perfect for our two kids. They were able to stand on a platform within the dolphin's habitat and pet and "play" with the dolphins. This experience has you in the water with the dolphins but not in the deep tank to swim. Please use the following link for a full list of pricing and details. https://marineland.net/prices/
Another part of Marineland that was very cool was the shark feedings. The employee doing the feedings was very cautious and informative while doing her job. Another highlight is the Marineland gift shop! Along with taking adequate Covid19 precautions, the shop was filled with very cool souvenirs that we definitely had to stock up on! Roman snagged a great dolphin National Geographic hardback book to take home whereas Fallon opted for a fluffy plush turtle.
So where do you stay when Marineland is at the top of your list of things to do? Hammock Beach Resort, located just south of the dolphin's home, is where you need to be! This hotel has it all, including waterslides, indoor and outdoor pools, excellent dining options and even a Kids Crew drop off program so that parents can sneak away for a date night. (Unfortunately, due to Covid19, the Kids program is temporarily suspended at the resort so be sure to keep checking their website for updates and developments on this.) Visit https://www.hammockbeach.com/ for more details and rates on this amazing resort.
For years I have frequented Saint Augustine and for years I have had friends and family tell me their own fond memories of their vacations and getaways that included Marineland during their visit. I've also had so many people ask me my thoughts on this very same establishment. Since I had never been as an adult/parent, I was eager to experience it for myself as to share with all of you! During these times of uncertainty with the ongoing pandemic, so many facilities are reopening with safety being at the lower end of their requirements. Please know that this is not the case with Marineland. I was beyond impressed with Marineland's staff and crew when it came to safety. Absolutely all measures were taken. I hope that Marineland will be one of your stops this summer when visiting or passing through Saint Augustine. Know that your health and safety will be the number one priority. A huge thank you to Marineland for hosting our family and furthering our education on oceanic importance.
P.s. Please tell Zac "hello" from the Adventurous Alfords.