Your Guide to Finding the Best Diving in Florida.
Florida is home to some of the best dive sites in the United States. Along the 1,350 miles of coastline and below the warm surface of the water, you can discover colorful marine life, old shipwrecks, and well-preserved coral reefs. Swap your Grateful Diver UV shirt for the wetsuit and jump in — here are the best wrecks for scuba diving in Florida.
1. USS Oriskany | Pensacola, Florida
A 911-foot aircraft carrier named the USS Oriskany was purpose sunk about 22 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Nicknamed the “Great Carrier Reef,” it’s the largest artificial reef in the world. While technically an advanced dive due to strong currents, distance from shore, and depth, there’s plenty to explore above 100 feet. Advanced and technically certified scuba divers may continue exploring the flight deck at 145 feet. From the depths, keep an eye out for reef fish, sea turtles, the occasional manta ray, and more.
2. USS Spiegel Grove | Key Largo, Florida
The USS Spiegel Grove offers some of the best diving in Florida. This US Navy Landing Ship Dock was sunk about six miles off the coast of Key Largo to create a new reef for divers. For the first three years on the ocean floor, it lay on its starboard side. Then Hurricane Dennis ripped through the Keys in 2005 and propped the ship upright. USS Spiegel Grove is over 500 feet long and 80 feet wide, with the shallowest depth at 62 feet and the maximum depth at 144 feet. With plenty to explore, it’s best to break this dive up into multiple trips.
3. USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg | Key West, Florida
Photo credit: John Lhotka
The military missile-tracking ship, USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, was purpose sunk in 2009, about seven miles off the coast of Key West. The ship is about 524 feet long with a 71-foot beam and sits in nearly 160 feet of water, but there’s plenty to explore at the deck at about 100 feet. From the depths, divers have the chance to see hundreds of species of fish, sharks, eels, goliath grouper, and much more.
4. Eagle Wreck | Islamorada, Florida
One of the most popular dives in Florida is the Eagle wreck. With a colorful history above sea, she’s now a colorful artificial reef 3 miles northeast of Alligator Reef in Islamorada. The whole sink operation of the Eagle was a mess in 1985; she eventually laid to rest on her starboard side, then strong waves and currents during Hurricane George (1998) ripped the vessel in two and left us with a bigger wreck to explore.
Advanced divers will encounter the top of the superstructure at about 70 feet and may continue onto the Eagle’s final depth at 115 feet. She has several deck levels, railings, a bridgedeck, a smokestack, a crowsnest, and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore between the bow and stern. Visibility is good at the Eagle, with opportunities to see goliath grouper, eels, and sharks.
5. USCG Duane | Key Largo, Florida
The USCG Duane was the oldest active U.S. military vessel during her time above the surface. (Quick fun fact: the Duane fought off German U-boats and rescued survivors from torpedoed convoy ships from 1942-1943.) She was purpose sunk in 1987 and now, below the surface, a top dive site in Florida. The Duane is part of the National Marine Sanctuary and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Advanced divers should venture one mile south of Molasses Reef in Key Largo to where she lies upright in 120 feet of water. Goliath groupers, bull sharks, and the super rare (only in season) whale shark may be spotted here. The main superstructure has a few openings for swim-throughs.
As you plan your next wreck dive in Florida, make sure you’re well-stocked with comfortable apparel. Grateful Diver supplies neck gaiters, UV shirts, and hats to provide multi-functional protection against the sun, wind, dust, and insects on your next adventure. Plus, a portion of each purchase goes to Reef Relief's efforts to save the coral reef! See you on the water.