Florida, with more than a thousand miles of coastline, is the most south-eastern state in the USA and has just about everything for the scuba diver from inland lakes and caves to magical reef and wrecks. There's a lot here so take a look at the map before you read on!
North Florida, known as the Panhandle, from Pensacola, the land curves around the Gulf of Mexico and is called the Gulf Coast. These waters are generally calm. There is no shore diving here, but some interesting wreck dives lie offshore of Pensacola and, off Mexico Beach, is the wreck of the Empire Mica, a British tanker sunk in 1942 by a U-boat.
A bit further south is Crystal River which is a popular winter home for manatees. It is possible to dive with these slow-moving and gentle sea animals. The manatee is protected so dive with care!
Nice beach diving sites are off of Bradenton Beach where the Regina (or Sugar Barge), a tanker that sunk in 1940, was declared an Underwater Archaeological Preserve in 2004 and at Venice Beach where prehistoric sharks' teeth (some as large as 6 inches) have been found by divers.
The north-central region is filled with natural springs, sinkholes, rivers and lakes. Most have large openings allowing easy entry and plenty of room to explore within the natural light.
South Florida - Home to the beaches of Miami, the swamps of the Everglades, and the beauty of the Florida Keys. These 31 islands curve gently to the west into the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Reef, the only living coral garden in North America, lies on the edge of the Gulfstream on the Atlantic side of the Keys. Key Largo is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Protected since 1960, you can dive 16th century treasure galleon wrecks as well as more recent shipwrecks.
The Atlantic coast - in the past, the waters off Florida from Jacksonville to Vero Beach were considered a non-diving area. The waters were said to be deep and dark with miles and miles of unbroken seafloor. However, a number of artifical reefs including shipwrecks, aircraft and a broken up concrete bridge! The lower Atlantic coast (south of West Palm Beach) is one of the best dive spots in Florida thanks to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream passing close to shore. Mizpah Corridor which is three wrecks (Mizpah, PC1170, and Amaryllis) that line up to form an amazing 1700 foot drift dive.
- The Mizpah Corridor on the lower Atlantic coast - The first wreck, the Mizpah, 185ft Greek luxury liner, was sunk in 1968. Next in line is the PC1170, an old patrol craft measuring 160ft in length. Also sunk in 1968, the PC1170 is split in two pieces under the bow of the Mizpah. Next, the Amaryllis is the third in line on this dive. Only the hull and bottom deck of this 450 foot ship remain as the other decks were removed to salvage the boat after it washed ashore during a hurricane. Finally, (as long as you've still got some air left!) the China Barge is the fourth in line on this amazing site.
- The USS Oriskany, an aircraft carrier deliberately sunk by the US Navy 24 miles out of Pensacola. Its the world's biggest artificial reef.
- Crystal River for manatees that congregate here from November to April.
|Climate:||Subtropical in the south and warm temperate in the north|
|Natural hazards:||Late summer is hurricane season|
|Diving season:||Year round|