Scuba diving in Florida is among our top dive sites in the world
The the state of the sun shining is one of the largest tourist sites in the United States with lots to offer, including fantastic diving. Scuba diving in Florida, whether for beginners or advanced technical diving, is a truly amazing experience.
With a subtropical climate, the waters off the coast of Florida, particularly the Key Islands, are home to many corals, including the only coral reef in the continental United States, Florida Reef, Florida, which is one of the largest reefs in the world. The reefs are in good condition, offering divers plenty of coral and reef fish and much more.
For divers with more of a “rust craving” there are a ton of wrecks to discover in the water around Florida. Shipwrecks around Florida include some of the largest shipwrecks ever sunk. Discovering Spiegel Grove or Vandenberg should definitely be on every diver’s must-dive list.
The crown jewel of Key Largo and arguably Florida scuba diving Molasses Reef is beautiful and teeming with life. The reef is a protected area which has given rise to a very healthy coral population and a huge abundance of fish. So far, over 600 species of life have been documented on Molasses Reef, making it one of the richest and most diverse reefs in the world.
The reef is suitable for all levels of divers and snorkelers. The shallowest part of the ref is scenic and offers beginners and divers a great experience.
Advanced divers can venture a bit deeper into the reef area known as the “Deep Molasses” at 90ft/27m. here divers can find huge amount of sponges, corals, turtles etc. This area is particularly renowned for its beauty, and underwater photographers flock there to take great pictures.
The equally outer edges of Molasses Reef make for excellent drift dives, where you can explore the reef and encounter turtles, reef fish and sometimes also sharks.
Wreck of USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg
One of the largest shipwrecks ever sunk and one of Florida’s exceptional scuba diving experiences. The Vandenberg is a truly vast wreck. The massive former missile tracking vessel measures a jaw-dropping 522ft / 160m. due to the size of the Vandenburg, it takes more than one dive to explore this truly spectacular wreck.
USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg lies upright on the seabed with her keel at a depth of 165ft/50m. The uppermost part of the ship sits at a depth of around 60ft/18m, while most of the ship’s main deck sits at a depth of 100ft/30m.
During her life as a missile tracking ship, the Vandenberg was used, among other things, to track space capsules for the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury programs. It did this via huge radar antennae mounted on its superstructures. These are the most interesting parts of the wreck, and fortunately they are in the shallowest part of the wreck. These dishes and the marine life they attract are very photogenic and feature in many of the photos you will see of Vandenberg.
Conditions on the wreck are relatively straightforward, although currents can increase occasionally. It’s a good idea to only try the Vandenberg if you have some diving experience. As fascinating as the wreck is, there is plenty of marine life to see on the Vandenberg.
While exploring the Vandenberg, you may encounter barracuda, goliath groupers, lobsters, octopus, Nassau groupers, and sharks. This is in addition to all the usual parrotfish, wrasses and surgeonfish that dot the wreck.
A deep wreck and one of Florida’s best-kept scuba diving secrets, the USCG Duane is only open to experienced divers or technical divers. The old coastal cutter sits upright on the seabed, with the top of her deck at a depth of 120ft / 36m. USCG Duane is a 327 ft / 99 m long Treasure class cutter. After a long and distinguished career, she was sunk as an artificial reef with her sister ship, the Bibb, in the waters off Key Largo in 1987.
Due to the wreck’s location at sea, away from the reef line, conditions at USCG Duane can be harsher than at other sites. Currents can be strong, making diving reserved for advanced divers in good physical condition. Although sometimes, as if by magic, when the diving gods smile, it can be the perfect dive with no current, with visibility over 100ft/30m and abundant marine life. If you are lucky enough to dive it one of these days, it is a remarkable experience.
After being in the water for over 30 years, the Duane has been colonized by abundant marine life. Corals and sponges are present, as well as many marine species, including turtles, barracudas and gray nurse sharks. The wreck has many cutouts and openings in the hull making it easy to swim with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and discover.
Florida Scuba Diving Must See: The Spiegel Grove
Arguably the most famous and one of the best places to scuba dive in Florida, only one word can be used to describe the Spiegel Grove as “Huge”. The ship is enormous, measuring an impressive 152m/500ft in length. It’s an extremely large wreck that needs to be dived more than once to do it justice.
The Spiegel Grove was sunk in 2002, about 6 miles off Key Largo. She rests on the seabed at a depth of 100ft/30m, while the upper deck begins at a much shallower depth of 60ft/18m. due to the depth of the dive it is ideal for advanced/experienced divers, and as most of the diving is done below 60ft/18m the Spiegel Grove is the perfect Nitrox dive.
Over the years the wreck has become home to a wide range of fish and slowly and surely it is becoming covered in sponges and corals. While diving on the wreck, you can regularly encounter parrotfish, silversides, trevallies and barracudas.
One thing to remember about the Spiegel Grove is that not all areas of the wreckage are safe to explore. Due to the danger, deeper penetration into wreckage is not recommended, even for divers with advanced scuba certification.
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Our Top Dive Sites of the World guide is brought to you by Suunto. We recommend using a Suunto dive computer scuba diving or snorkeling at one of these dive sites. Suunto is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of dive computers providing dive instruments for recreational, technical and freediving. You can learn more about Suunto.com.