Below the waters’ surface lies a special world, full of beautiful colors that anyone would want to see and maybe capture with his/her diving camera. Sure, when you are getting started with scuba diving, you have to invest both money and time to get certified. However, once you get certified, you will have opened up a limitless world of exploration.
Since we have already talked about the best diving spots in the world, we will be focusing on the best spots for diving in Florida. With more than 1,350 miles of coastline, numerous lakes and springs to explore, Florida features diving spots ideal for both beginning and experienced scuba divers. If you are thinking of packing your scuba mask and heading to Florida, read this article first.
Top Spots for Diving in Florida
1. Devil’s Den Spring
This is a privately operated and owned scuba diving training and recreational facility. The naturally formed underground spring features a maximum of 54 feet.
You can dive in the Devil’s Den during the winter months without having to worry about getting too cold. All year-round, the spot for diving in Florida maintains a temperature of 72 degrees. In fact, even in the coldest mornings, you should be able to see rolling steam rising through the forestry. This eerie mist is the reason the diving site is called the Devil’s Den.
The ominous rocks surrounding the waters feature fossil beds that are more than 33 million years old. Numerous fossils from the Pleistocene age, including human skeleton fragments dating back to 7,500 BC, have already been found in this dive site. If you would like to see the human skeleton fragments and also learn more about the animals that made their mark on this site, you can visit the University of Florida Museum of Natural History after taking off your scuba fins.
It is worth noting that Devil’s Den Spring is only open to scuba divers and snorkelers. Swimmers, children under the age of 6 years, and casual visitors are not allowed into the dive site. The dive site has some associated fees and other requirements which you should complete before diving.
2. Biscayne Maritime Heritage Trail
If shipwreck diving is your thing, you should find the Biscayne Maritime Heritage Trail appealing. The diving site features a series of historic shipwrecks, some of which are almost a century old.
The Arratoon Apcar is one of the shipwrecks you should be able to explore after putting on your dive boots. The 261 feet iron-hulled steamer was built back in 1861 in Scotland. The ship was carrying a coal load headed to Havana Florida on February 20th, 1878 when the ship ran aground at Fowey Rocks after the captain misjudged his position.
Erl King, a 306-foot iron-hulled 3-master steamer was also built in Scotland, in 1865. The cargo ship featured first-class accommodations for about 50 passengers. The ship sank back on December 16, 1891, after hitting a reef on its way to New Orleans from England. Once you dive, you should be able to see the wreck’s cargo and hull outline.
A 345-foot steamer called Alicia slammed into Long Reef during a storm after leaving Liverpool, England on its way to Havana back in 1905. The ship was carrying a cargo valued at over $1 million. The ship rests in 20 feet of water.
A British steamer known as Lugano grounded off the Florida coast back in 1913 with a cargo worth more than $1 million and about 116 passengers. Divers can find the wreck in approximately 25 feet of water.
A 112 feet steel-hull schooner Mandalay sank back in 1965 while carrying 35 people. The shipwreck is accessible to snorkelers.
3. Blue Heron Bridge
Back in 2013, PADI’s Sport Diver magazine named this spot for diving in Florida the best dive site in the world. You can enter the bridge from a small beach available on the west side. The depth varies between 5 and 25 feet.
The ideal time to dive at this dive site is during the high slack tide. At this time, the visibility is usually at its best.
The dive site does feature high boat traffic. This makes a dive flag necessary. Among the debris which litters the dive site’s bottom, divers often come across a wide array of sea life. On the east side, divers may come across mini wrecks.
When exploring the bridge, you will find yourself swimming alongside baitfish schools, manatees, and rays. You may also find yourself gazing in the hiding sites of seahorses, octopus, and lobsters. The dive site is home to over 100 species of nudibranchs.
4. Molasses Reef
If you do like to scuba dive with sharks, this Florida shark diving spot should be ideal for you. Once you put on your dive gloves and get in the water, you will be delighted to see the nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, bull sharks, and more. Being part of the Molasses Barrier Reef, the dive site features some shipwreck remains.
You will find the majority of sea life available in this Florida shark diving spot at a depth of approximately 25 to 45 feet. In addition to the sharks, you will come across Moray eels and lobsters. If you look for depths that do not exceed 40 feet, you should find yourself amongst a wide variety of sponges and different groove coral formations.
The area features over 30 mooring buoys and clearly marked water depths. To most scuba divers, this is good news.
5. Vortex Spring
If you would like to explore this site for diving in Florida, you should be prepared to spend some money on the entrance fee. The spring produces approximately 28 million gallons every day. The average temperature on the dive site is 68 degrees.
If you do not have enough scuba diving experience, vortex spring should be a good diving spot for you. It is not uncommon for scuba divers to come across scuba instructors conducting training sessions on the dive site.
Divers can explore the caverns and sandy bottom from depths of approximately 50 to 115 feet. The marine life you should expect on the dive site includes koi carp, freshwater eels, and catfish.
6. Tenneco Towers
On top of exploring spots for diving in Florida featuring natural reefs, you can also choose to explore this artificial reef. The reef is created by 5 oil platforms. The oil platforms we installed by the Tenneco Oil Corporation.
Only 3 of the 5 platforms are reachable with the recreational diving limits. The top decks for the rigs are at 60, 80, and 100 feet. The remaining 2 platforms are available in waters approximately 200 feet deep.
If you decide to wear your wetsuit and dive at Tenneco towers, you should be able to witness spectacular coral and marine life. A wide range of sponges, soft, and hard corals are available on the dive spot.
The Tenneco Towers open structure offers a freeway to the Gulf Stream and hence creating highly nutritious waters that attract pelagic species like tuna, barracuda, and mackerel. Reef fish, including queen angelfish, hogfish, and amber fish swim around the wreck looking for food.
The site becomes one of the best Florida shark diving spots during the wintertime. During the winter, it is not uncommon for bull sharks to patrol the oil rigs.
7. Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary
Looe Key Sanctuary is a groove and spur reef. It is part of the reef system that parallels the Florida Keys Atlantic side. The reef got its name from the HMS Looe, which sank back in 1744 while towing Snow, a French Vessel.
The reef available at Looe Key is approximately 800 yards and 200 yards wide. It is generally U shaped and features both outside and patch reefs.
If you decide to dive at Looe Key after familiarizing yourself with diving concepts, there is a chance that you will be able to come across more than 150 fish species. Some of the fish species you will come across include French grunts, yellowtail snapper, queen angelfish, blue parrotfish, stoplight parrotfish, sergeant majors, porkfish, barracuda, Spanish hogfish, black grouper, bar jack, etc.
After donning your scuba tank and getting underwater on this site for diving in Florida, you should be able to view more than 50 coral species. Some of the corals include Elkhorn, brain, fire, and staghorn corals.
The dive site features a maximum depth of approximately 30 feet. This makes it an ideal site for all scuba divers, irrespective of their skill level.
8. Fort Lauderdale Wreck Trek
If you are preparing for a dive holiday, you wouldn’t want to miss this wreck trek on your list of diving sites to visit in Florida. The Lauderdale Wreck Trek is a 3-wreck drift dive. The dive includes Merci Jesus, Tracy, and Jay Scutti.
Covering 2 wrecks should be easy for you. If the weather is currently perfect, you should have the ability to cover all three wrecks.
The Jay Scutti is a 95 feet tugboat that sits upright on the sea bed. It was donated to the artificial reef program in the honor of the owner’s late son, Jay. After putting on your dive safety gear and diving, you should be able to find the wreck at a depth of 65 feet.
Merci Jesus was a 90 feet tugboat. After sinking, the wreck lies in 72 feet of water. The Tracy wreck is approximately 130 feet long. Before sinking, it was an oil supply vessel. It lies in 72 feet of water.
While drift-diving the shipwrecks, you should be able to see large schools of fish. If you do know how to take pictures underwater and you have great lenses for underwater photography, you should be able to capture barracudas and stingrays in this diving spot.
9. Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail
This shipwreck trail features 12 unique shipwrecks. Among the shipwrecks, you will come across while exploring the waters in the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, is the USS Oriskany. This is the largest artificial reef. The ship sunk back in the year 2006, approximately 22 miles south of the Pensacola, in over 200 feet of water.
Additional wrecks available include YDT-14, Pete Tide II, Three Coal Barges, FAMI Tugs, USS Strength, the Vamar, USS Chippewa, USS Accokeek, San Pablo, Black Bart, and Miss Louise. Most of the shipwrecks feature a wide range of sedentary and pelagic marine life.
On top of the shipwrecks, the dive site features a wide variety of fish habitats. Undercut limestone ridges featuring reliefs of approximately 5 feet rise from the sandy plains, offering an anchor for the sponges and soft corals, plus hiding places and habitat for cobia, groupers, lobsters, and frogfish.
10. Crystal River
If you have already spent some of your time learning the common mistakes made by new scuba divers and how to avoid them, chances are, meeting a manatee might be on your bucket list. One of the ideal places to meet the manatee is the Crystal River.
Numerous manatees seek refuge in the warm Crystal River waters, which have a constant temperature of 72 degrees all year round. While certain areas around the sanctuaries are protected and off-limits, it is possible to snorkel with the manatees outside the perimeters.
To increase your chances of viewing the manatees, you will need to visit this spot for diving in Florida in November when the marine animals arrive through to April when they leave. The marine animals can grow up to ten feet and may weigh over 1000 pounds.
Globo Surf Overview
If you are new to diving in Florida, you may not know the ideal diving spots you should explore. Florida has some extremely exciting diving sites. On top of the sites having a wide range of marine life species, the sites do feature numerous shipwrecks.
For people who enjoy exploring the waters with sharks, the Florida shark diving spots included in this article should offer you an ideal experience. Irrespective of whether you will be diving with your friends or alone in Florida, do not forget to be responsible for your own scuba diving safety.
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- 10 GREAT SPOTS FOR SNORKELING AND SCUBA DIVING IN FLORIDA, Visitflorida.com