Florida Travel Guide for Scuba Diving
Florida has numerous underwater environments making it an ideal diving destination. (George Skene, Orlando Sentinel) (George Skene, Orlando Sentinel / September 17, 2002)
Whether you're a novice snorkeler or an advanced deepwater diver, you will find a wealth of dive opportunities in the Sunshine State. You may choose to visit an iconic dive site like the Dry Tortugas, an historic wreck in the Atlantic, or perhaps a freshwater spring. Below you will find featured dive sites and centers throughout Florida's famed diving world.
The Florida Keys You don't have to leave the United States to find amazing coral reefs and Caribbean-like dive spots. From the northern most key to 70 miles west of Key West, there is a myriad of underwater opportunities. If your first stop is Key Largo, then a popular dive location is John Pennekamp Park.
Pennekamp offers several different dive sites. There is the Christ of the Abyss, an 8.5 foot statue of Christ that is accessible for both divers and snorkelers. It is one of the world's most popular and visited spots. There is also Molasses Reef, an immense coral reef with dive depths ranging from 10 feet to 70 feet. It is often cited as the most visited reef in the Keys.
Beyond Pennekamp, Key Largo offers numerous dive and wreck sites. Spiegel Grove is the world's largest ship sunk as an artificial reef. It is great for advanced divers, offering views of the 510-foot U.S. Navy ship.
For more on diving in Key Largo, visit one of several dive centers like Rainbow Reef Dive Center, Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo, or Horizon Divers.
As you travel further south through the Keys, you will find more wreck sites and colorful coral reefs. For a dramatic site off of Islamorada, visit The Eagle--a 287-foot freighter, sunk in 1985 as an artificial reef. Although better suited for advanced divers as it is set in 110-feet of water and has strong currents, The Eagle offers a variety of sea life sightings and swims into the ship.
For a glimpse of prolific coral and fish, visit Hens and Chickens Reef, just offshore of Islamorada. It is a great reef for all dive levels and snorkelers, with a depth range of 20-22 feet. And to see even more fish visit Davis Reef and Ledge. Davis is known for its huge schools of fish, resident Moray eels and a statue of a Buddha.
For more on diving in Islamorada, visit one of several dive centers like Key Dives at Bud 'n Mary's Marina, Conch Republic Divers, or the Holiday Isle Dive Shop.
As you make your way towards the Seven-Mile Bridge near Marathon, you can spot the Sombrero Lighthouse, which also marks a wonderful reef. Sombrero Reef offers immense colorful coral, diverse sea life and great dive experiences for all levels. Easily found because of the lighthouse, it is a Middle Keys' must see.
For a more advanced dive and a great wreck site, visit the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt is a 188-foot research vessel once used for studying lightning. It offers divers exploration of the ship's hull, engine compartment, colorful sponge and coral. For more on diving in Marathon, visit one of several dive centers like Hall's Diving Center or Tilden's Scuba Center.
The Lower Keys and Key West offer exceptional diving as well. Looe Key Reef is one of the most prolific and popular reefs in the Keys. The reef is a 5.5-square-mile National Marine Sanctuary, offering a variety of levels and coral growths for all divers and snorkelers. Visit Looe Key Reef Resort and Dive Center for more on diving the reef.
If you make it to Key West and are up for a great dive trip, then you must visit Dry Tortugas National Park. Located 70 miles west of Key West, the Dry Tortugas are only reachable by air or sea, but it is still a popular stop for divers and snorkelers. The ramparts of Fort Jefferson offer views of coral, fish and more on a white sand bottom. You can also take a side trip to the Windjammer, a 200-foot schooner wreck off of Loggerhead Key.
The Yankee Freedom Ferry or Sunny Days Catamarans are popular ways to get to Dry Tortugas National Park. Dive Key West offers trips to Key West's other reefs and dive sites.
Venture beyond South Beach or Biscayne Bay to see a variety of diverse, colorful life. The waters off of Miami have several different wreck sites and the world's only underwater margarita bar. One of Florida's oldest wrecks is the Half Moon Archaeological Preserve, which offers divers and snorkelers calm waters, colorful coral and smaller fish.
The Jose Cuervo Artificial Reef is located in the South Beach Artificial Reef site and is a 22-ton concrete margarita bar. Sunk on May 5, 2000, the reef was nicknamed "Sinko de Mayo" and is the first element along the South Beach Underwater Trail. For diving off of Miami's coastline, visit one of the area's several dive centers like South Beach Divers, Tarpoon Diving Center, or Grove Scuba.