Best Diving sites in Florida

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If you have dived in Florida before, please share your experiences: Dive spots you would recommend, which Dive Center you used, Fishes & Diving, Visibility, Currents, etc. Please post your comments in the section below, by doing so you will help fellow divers to plan their next trip ;)

Florida is the premier diving destination in the Continental United States. It is also one of the leading vacation destinations in the USA and even the world.

When we discuss diving in Florida, we are really talking about four distinct destinations, each with their own traits.

The Florida peninsula has the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida Barrier Reef off its east coast and the Gulf of Mexico off its west coast. Running south from the Florida mainland are the Florida Keys. Florida is also know for its springs and cave diving on land. Florida has long been active with artificial reef programs and there are hundreds around the state.

The Fort Lauderdale area along with adjacent Miami is a very popular destination. The area is alive with sunken ships some done by nature and others by man. The Florida Barrier Reef northern reach is just a few miles off shore.

The Florida Barrier Reef is the third largest in the world. The Gulf Stream passes between the reef and shore giving the waters the same traits as the Caribbean Sea.

The Gulf Coast side is known for its vibrate reefs and abundant marine life. Except when there is a hurricane in the area, the water is generally calm.

florida keys scuba diving

Florida Keys National  Marine Sanctuary

The Florida Keys start in the Gulf of Mexico at Dry Tortugas National Park and extend 184 miles to the Florida mainland about 25 miles from Miami. There are over 1,400 Cays (Keys) in the archipelago. However only a few are inhabited. Key West is the largest population center in the Keys.

The Overseas Highway starts in Key West and continues north for 113 miles to the far side of Key Largo. Along the way there are 42 bridges connecting different Keys. This is the only major road in the Keys and locations along the road are expressed by road marker.

florida scuba history of diving museum

History Of diving Museum Key Largo Florida Photograph by Charles Davis

As an example the Museum of Diving is located at mile marker 83, while its address is 82990 Overseas Highway.

The Keys are divided into four groups. These groups are the Upper Keys, the Middle Keys, the Lower Keys and the Outlying Islands. The Upper Keys are those located the farthest north and closest to Florida’s mainland and the groups extend out from there. The city of Key West is located in the Lower Keys. The Outer Keys consist of islands that are accessible by boat.

Like the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, Florida was once an underwater reef. The land has build up over the limestone remains of the prehistoric reef. Erosion have created underground caverns and sink holes. Springs have filled many of these giving central Florida an outstanding selection of dive sites.

In this page you will find more detailed information about scuba diving in Florida.

Photos Florida

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Best Dive Review

It would be impossible to list even a small percentage of the best diving sites in Florida in a single page. So, We will just highlight some that are frequently found on “best of” list.

  • USS Oriskany: On a play on words this dive site is also called “The Great Carrier Reef”. With a 911 foot overall length and a 157 foot beam, the USS Oriskany is the largest ship intentionally sunk as an artificial reef. She sits upright in 215 feet which leaves her flight deck at around 140 feet. However, her superstructure, called the island, reaches up another 70 feet. This brings the carrier to the depth accessible by Advance Open Water Divers. While deep divers can not reach the flight deck, they can get close enough to still examine the area. The wreck is about 22 miles off shore and at the edge of the Gulf Stream. Visibility on and around the wreck is outstanding normally over 100 feet. This allows even the AOW diver the ability to look down on the flight deck. Also in the area is the battleship USS Massachusetts.

  • Key Largo and Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Besides being the title of a great romantic song, Key Largo is also one of the leading dive destinations in the world and often called the Dive Capital of the world. Here you will find John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This was first undersea park in the U.S. and encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. Also reachable is a part of The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. A number of dive sites here are world renown. Maybe the most recognized is the “Christ of the Abyss”. The status of Christ sits in 25 feet of water. USS Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot landing ship dock, is dived from Key Largo.

dive with the florida manatee

Florida Manatee Photograph by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge: This is a site where you will but aside your tanks and enjoy yourself snorkeling. Established in 1983, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the endangered Florida Manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee. A full grown Manatee will weight over 1,200 pounds and be 10 feet long. November sees the water temperatures drop in the Gulf of Mexico. The Manatees head towards the shore and up the rivers. They move towards some of the warm springs in the area, such as Three Sisters Springs and King’s Spring both in King’s Bay. They will spend from November to March in these warm waters and will raise their young here. These creatures are very gentle and curious, they will frequently approach snorkelers. Each year about 600 Florida Manatee will find their way to King’s Bay. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is not far from Tampa which is known for its spearfishing.

  • Neptune Memorial Reef: This reef about 3 miles off the coast of Miami Florida is a truly unique artificial reef project. It does share some key points with other artificial reef projects around the world. The reef is being built on a sandy patch of the sea in about 40 feet of water, in this case, sand deposited that was eroded from the beaches further north. It has statues and other pieces of art similar in concept with other underwater art museums, and is designed to mimic a sunken city. However, what makes this reef different is that is contains cremated remains. More and more people are being cremated each year. Some are placed in a Columbarium, other cases ashes are spread into a garden or at sea. At the Neptune Memorial Reef, the remains are mixed with cement and used in the structures or sculpture of the reef. A memorial plaque is added to show who is there.

  • Diver’s Den: This is a natural spring dive that is unique. The surface of the water is 60 feet below ground level. A set of steps takes you down to a dive platform. Once in the 72° water, you have unlimited visibility and a maximum depth of 58 feet. There are rock formations, fossils and swim through.

How to dive Florida?

Diving in Florida is land based. There are few liveaboards and those head to the Bahama’s family islands. Diving in the springs are shore dives, you just walk right in. other locations are normally a mix of shore diving and boat diving.

Best time to dive in Florida

Florida is a year round diving destination. Some parts of Florida may require a heavier wetsuit in the winter months, however, the further south you are the more stable the temperatures.

Water temperatures in the springs will stay constant over the course of the year. However, it will vary between springs. Florida is subject to hurricane and the season being the same as the Caribbean from June to November.

Top liveaboards in Florida & USA according to divers reviews

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Dive courses

Florida is a great place to learn to dive or to expand your diving knowledge. The Florida Keys may be one of the best destinations to take an Open Water Diver course. Most other dive courses and specialties are also available here.

Scuba Diving conditions

Unless a hurricane is approaching or just past, you will seldom find consecutive days that have weather conditions that cancel diving. Visibility is generally very good and diving conditions great.

Snorkelling in Florida

You will find some of the best snorkeling in the world around Florida. Each of the destinations have many sites suitable for snorkeling.

Fishes and Coral

The marine life in Florida is typical to what is found in the Caribbean. Many different species of corals and sponges and hundreds of species of reef fish. Large pelagic are also easily found.

Diving Safety

If you are planning an upcoming dive trip or travelling to Florida, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving, because you never know what could happen and when you might need it (because accidents do happen!). I recommend this diving insurance as they offer worldwide coverage and focus on providing scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.

Florida is one of the most popular destination for American scuba divers. It offers all the features of the Caribbean while still being a domestic destination. International divers also find the different destinations within Florida very inviting. Add in the many other attractions and activities, and you can see why it is so attractive.

Travel Guide

Now that you know all about the underwater world, you might want to start planning your scuba holiday! Check out our Florida Travel Review for information about how to get there, activities and excursions, where to stay, and more.

Diving Reviews for this region

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Dive spots reviews in Florida & USA

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Liveaboard Reviews in Florida & USA

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Diving centers in Florida & USA

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One Dive Log in “Florida

  1. My new bride and I brought our son (he doesn’t feel like a step son to me) on our one year anniversary vacation to the Florida Keys. We stayed at a hotel in Marathon (Hilton) and were very happy (except they don’t have a microwave in the room) and with our son and I both being Open water certified (my bride is not there…yet)we wanted to have our first ocean dive while we were there. We went through Rainbow Reef dive center in Key Largo and, well I don’t know what I did in a former life to deserve it but, everything was perfect. The weather, the water, the boat, the crew, the captain, the dive(s) were incredible-the scenery, fish, reef, everything!-on our first dive we saw spiny lobster, parrot fish, a nurse shark, and as we were coming up a school of spotted Eagle rays swam over us! The second dive was just as incredible with a shrimp, eel, more sharks and tons of parrot fish! If you see pictures in magazines or imagine the clear waters of the Caribbean, that’s Key Largo. It was so incredible that as soon as we got back to Minnesota (land of 10,000 lakes and 20,000 puddles and quarry’s) my son and I signed up for AOW, Nitrox and Rescue diver courses!

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Have you dived in Florida?

Have you been diving or snorkelling in Florida? Consider sharing your experience with the diving community by leaving a comment below!

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