From the azure shallows of Key West to the picturesque pier views of Pensacola, Florida is the ideal destinations for scuba diving focused eShores multi center USA holidays. With over 1000 miles of coastline and a wide variety of dive sites, the enormous diversity of marine habitats found along the coastline of this southern US state has made Florida one of the most popular dive destinations in the world.
Keen to indulge your inner wreck head? Planning a trip to dive the Sunshine State’s wealth of sunken ships? Here’s our pick of Florida’s best wreck dives.
Dive Key West
Start your adventure in Key West and uncover the impressive collection of scuttled shipwrecks that lay in the waters off Florida’s edgy and eccentric archipelago. Boasting a plentiful supply of wrecks for all dive abilities, whether scuba newbie or tech wreck certified Key West’s coastline is a wreckreational playground for all.
The Wreck of the Vandenberg
LENGTH: 522 feet
SANK: 27 May 2009
DEPTH: 60 – 130 feet
SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate to advanced
DIVE IT FROM: Dive Key West Inc.
The giant Vandenberg lies off Key West, and boasts a giant flag off its mast still. You can dive into its giant satellites that still point to the sky, and for more advanced or Tech divers, explore in its depths. Great dive, that was on my list of top 100 dive sites to visit in the world! The ship was sunk 27 May 2009 and is the second-largest artificial reef in the world, after the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany.
Dive Key Largo
The trail of nine historic shipwrecks and established coral reefs ends here in Key Largo. Each vessel with its own tale of maritime heritage to share, divers of all abilities can dip down beneath the waves and uncover the network of wrecks that line the islands of Florida’s vibrant archipelago.
The Wreck of the USS Spiegel Grove
LENGTH: 510 feet
SANK: June 10, 2002
DEPTH: 60 – 130 feet
SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate to advanced
DIVE IT FROM: Key Largo, Tavernier or Islamorada. Best: Sailfish Scuba dive center.
Known as the Grand Dame of Floridian scuba diving, the wreck of the USS Spiegel Grove was at one time the largest deliberately placed artificial reef in the world. (This title has since been claimed by the Vandenberg and the USS Oriskany sunk off the state’s Gulf Coast in 2006.)
Boasting a fully developed reef ecosystem, a thick blanket of soft and hard corals covers everything from the huge cranes and gun mounts to the decks and doorways. Descend down to the bow for an eerie view of the vessel that is laid across the seabed on her side.
The Wreck of the Benwood
LENGTH: 320 feet
SANK: July 10, 1917
DEPTH: 15 to 25 feet
DIVE IT FROM: Key Largo, Sailfish Scuba dive center
The story goes that in 1942 the English-built Benwood collided with a passing ship, the Robert C. Tuttle, off the Florida Keys causing it to sink in the shallow waters just off the coast. Destroyed to avoid potential navigation hazards and used for bombing practice, the remains of her bow now lie in 25 feet of water and provide a home to many species of fish.
Goatfish, grunts, moray eels, glassy sweepers, snapper, lobster, grouper and hogfish frequent the scattered remains of the wreck, and a healthy collection of sea fans, sea whips, brain coral, sponges and fire coral have also established themselves amid the debris.
Dive Miami Beach
The epicenter of wreckreational scuba diving in America, Miami plays host to over 75 wrecks and affords divers year round access to its wealth of dive sites thanks to its plethora of sunny skies.
With its close proximity to the Bahamas and the Gulf Stream, its nutrient-rich waters, and Miami Beach’s aggressive artificial reef program, the region’s sunken structures are swiftly transformed into marine havens for creatures large and small.
The Wreck of the Steane D’Aurey
Lying dormant on the seabed for almost 30 years, the Steane D’Aurey (or the St. Anne as it is known) is a 110-foot North Atlantic Trawler attracts an abundance of life thanks to the nutrient-rich Gulfstream that surrounds the site. Vibrant soft corals adorn the hull and the vessel’s dark passageways are navigable, making it the ideal dive for those with a penchant for adventure.
LENGTH: 110 feet
SANK: March 28, 1986
DEPTH: 40 – 68 feet
SKILL LEVEL: Beginner to intermediate
DIVE IT FROM: Miami, Miami Beach, or Key Biscayne
Here’s a great guide with more information covering the best wreckreational dives near Miami Beach.
Known as the western gate to the Sunshine State Pensacola is almost 700 miles from Florida’s dive capital Miami, however for wreck enthusiasts the 10 hour drive is well worth the trip. With over 50 miles of protected shoreline fringed by clear waters and sugary white sand, recreational diving in the area has improved greatly since the introduction of the Escambia County Artificial Reef Program in the 1970s.
The Wreck of the USS Oriskany
LENGTH: 888 feet
SANK: May 17, 2006
DEPTH: 80 ft. to 212 ft
SKILL LEVEL: Advanced
DIVE IT FROM: Pensacola
Nicknamed the ‘Great Carrier Reef’, the USS Oriskany is a massive aircraft carrier that rests in 212 feet of water and offers a one-of-a-kind dive experience. Launched in 1945 it served admirably in both the Korean War and in Vietnam before finally coming to rest on the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico in 2006.
One of the most popular diving destinations in the United States, thanks in part to its magnificent scale, the wreck of the Oriskany hosts a myriad of pelagic and sedentary marine life, and offers divers fantastic opportunities for underwater video and photography.
From the abyssal depths of the USS Oriskany to the shallows of the Benwood, a road trip from Key West to Pensacola will offer the opportunity to experience a number of Florida’s best wreck dives.