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I'm switching jobs, and have next week (the last week in February) off between jobs. I'm considering going down to Florida - specifically to Everglades National Park - but I'm concerned about the water temperature.

As a guy who merely knows that VA Beach is an okay temperature in summer, I don't really have a good gauge for what an acceptable water temperature is.

I'm interested both in canoeing the Everglades and maybe doing some swimming in Flordia - but I have no desire to test the limits of the Polar Bear club either.

So, is Florida good "beach" weather, even in the middle of winter, or would I be better off camping in the desert instead?

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Update: I swam at Dry Tortugas national park - 70 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, and the water temperature was in the low 70s. It was "cold" but not freezing cold. In the end, I only stayed in about half an hour or so, preferring walking around the moat and looking at the fish and coral from above the water over against the murkiness in the water... –  Affable Geek Mar 4 '13 at 11:24

2 Answers 2

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Florida is a big state— the distance from Jacksonville to Homestead is comparable to that between San Francisco and Los Angeles, or Washington to Myrtle Beach— and so weather and water conditions will vary a good bit north to south as well as on the Gulf of Mexico side as opposed to the Atlantic Ocean side. In fact, Henry Flagler had built hotels in Palm Beach, intending it to be the "freeze-proof" terminus for his railroad. But a severe frost in 1894 wiped out the citrus crop there, and so Miami became South Florida's main resort town instead, only 50-60 miles to the south.

Fortunately, NOAA's National Oceanographic Data Center does publish water temperature tables which make it easier to compare than looking up current readings from WeatherBug or some such. To cover Florida, have a look at

As you can see, ocean surface temperatures in the Virginia Beach area (Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to be specific) range the mid- to high-70s Fahrenheit in late summer. No place is quite that warm on the Atlantic side, except down in the Keys, but the Gulf side at least seems to be reliably balmy all the way up and down.

I'm not aware of anyone who measures water temperature of small freshwater bodies, but since you won't be immersed in the water when canoeing, I would hardly think a paddle through the Everglades would be chilly.

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This is actually easily checked.

And from personal account of Swimming in the Atlantic in Miami one New Years Day a few years ago. But for me 68°F is fine but I know others that won't go in until it reaches 80°F.

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