Sea-level fluctuations, particularly those associated with glacial-interglacial cycles, can have profound impacts on the flow and circulation of coastal groundwater: the water found at present in many coastal aquifers may have been recharged during the last glacial period, when sea level was over 100 m lower than present, and thus is not in equilibrium with present recharge conditions. Here we show that the geochemistry of the groundwater found in the Floridan Aquifer System in south Florida is best explained by a reorganization of groundwater flow following the sea-level rise at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum approximately 18,000 years ago. We find that the geochemistry of the fresh water found in the upper aquifers at present is consistent with recharge from meteoric water during the last glacial period. The lower aquifer, however, consists of post-sea-level-rise salt water that is most similar to that of the Straits of Florida, though with some dilution from the residual fresh water from the last glacial period circulation. We therefore suggest that during the last glacial period, the entire Floridan Aquifer System was recharged with meteoric waters. After sea level rose, the increased hydraulic head reduced the velocity of the groundwater flow. This velocity reduction trapped the fresh water in the upper aquifers and initiated saltwater circulation in the lower aquifer. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.