Best Scuba Diving Locations in Florida

Florida is the scuba diving capital of the U.S. for all the right reasons. It offers some incredible dive spots, with numerous lakes and freshwater springs to explore. If you pick up the map of Florida, you’ll see that it has 1,350 miles of coastline, chock-full of attractive sites.

Hence, Florida indeed offers endless diving opportunities. Visitors can enjoy everything from the alligators in the Everglades and the Peninsula hanging into the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. And that’s doesn’t even cover any of the various reefs, bridges, oil ridges, and wrecks that make for Instagram-worthy photos.

So, to try and list every single thing the Sunshine State has to offer would be an effort in futility. That’s why we’ve focused on the three best locations, perfect for scuba diving enthusiasts. Read on to explore some of the best scuba diving locations in Florida for beginners and experienced divers.

1.  Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are easily among the most attractive locations to dive, fish, and drink! The crystal, calm waters of the Florida Keys truly deserve their tag “the Paradise,” at least when it comes to seafarers and scuba divers. It is a 120-mile island chain, including the “Diving Capital of the World,” Key Largo. This idyllic spot features 6,000 marine species, around 1,000 shipwrecks off the trail, 3000 square nautical miles of marine sanctuary, and nine wrecks on a shipwreck trail.

The Florida Keys is located south of Miami and southwest of Florida’s southernmost point. Being the third-largest barrier reef globally, Florida Keys offers numerous spots for sightseers, divers, and snorkelers of different levels. The scuba diving spots in the Florida Keys are divided into Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys.

Upper Keys: The famous dive spots include Molasses Reef, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, and The Duane.

Middle Keys: The Middle Keys offer the Coffins Patch and Sombrero Reef as the best places for scuba diving.

Lower Keys: Lower Keys’ best scuba diving spots include Looe Key and USNS General Hoyt S. Vanderberg.

When to Visit the Florida Keys?

As for the climate of the Florida Keys, it’s mostly cool and dry from November till February. The summer months are warm, but there is a chance of a hurricane during August and September.

Therefore, all interested divers should consider which part of the Keys they aim to visit. The recommended period differs accordingly since the diving locations belong to the West, East, or Southern Coast.

Here is some relevant information regarding the three coastal areas:

West Coast (Gulf): The temperature on the Gulf Coast is warm to hot for nine months. During the three winter months, it is mildly cold.

East Coast (Atlantic): The climate of the Atlantic Coast is subtropical and humid. However, temperatures rise if you go towards the South.

South Coast: The climate of the South Coast is tropical, so there is a high chance of rainfall from May to October.

2.  Pensacola – USS Oriskany

This scuba diving site is named after the USS Oriskany, an aircraft carrier that sank in 2006. The location spreads for around 22 miles south of Pensacola. As for the titular wreckage, the USS Oriskany sits in 200 feet of water and is 900 feet long, making it the largest ship or vessel ever sunk. The vessel is also known as the “Great Barrier Reef.”

Diving in the USS Oriskany

The ship is deep down, and not meant for first-time scuba divers. Plus, diving here can be a bit difficult due to the strong currents. So, we recommend gaining some experience and attending high-level training before you decide to visit the site. In short, it’s better to know how to deal with unpredictable circumstances.

To dive at this spot, you’ll need to provide certification for the required expertise level. Technical divers can see the hull, the flight deck, and even the lower tower decks. On the other hand, rebreather divers can spend only a few minutes with the divemaster or the captain. And while technical divers could spend some more time on the ship, they must present a written dive plan to the captain beforehand.

USS Oriskany Depths

The depths of the artificial reef are subject to change over the years, so any diver should anticipate last-minute alterations. On the same note, before leaving for Oriskany, make detailed plans and triple-check everything as the date approaches. Here are the approximate depths of the main parts of the vessel:

  • Oriskany top: 26 m (84 ft)
  • Navigation bridge: 38 m (124 ft)
  • Primary flight bridge: 32 m (105 ft)
  • Flight deck: 45 m (146 ft)
  • Flag bridge: 41 m (134 ft)
  • Hangar Bay: 53 m (175 ft)

3.  Key Largo — USS Spiegel

Key Largo’s USS Spiegel is magnificent, it is called the “Grande dame” of the Key Largo wrecks. It is among the deepest dive wreck spots located in the Florida Keys.

When it comes to visuals, Key Largo offers breathtaking scenery and aesthetics. It is easily accessible and features 70 underwater sites and islands too. Plus, Key Largo offers convenient beginner-friendly spots, such as reefs and shallow waters.

The USS Spiegel was also declared an artificial reef back in 2002. However, a mere three years later, something fascinating happened. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis overturned the 510-foot long vessel upright! So nowadays, every visitor can witness this phenomenon and bask in its uniqueness.

Diving USS Spiegel

The USS Spiegel is over 80 feet wide and 500 feet long, with a total length of 510 feet from the bow to the stern. So, if you’re willing to explore it, you’ll have to dive more than once as it’s simply too large for a single breath.

Though the diving spot is declared safe for divers, it is wiser to avoid entering the hull. Unless you’ve completed advanced training and have a certification, don’t take the risk. The wreck has beautiful fish life that you can fully explore in only four back-to-back plunges. Lastly, various shops offer ‘double-dip dives,’ allowing divers to explore the wreck easily.

USS Spiegel Grove Depths

Spiegel Grove attracts different forms of marine life, including colorful tropical fish, schools of smaller fish, as well as some larger ones. The vessel is quite broad, sporting a deck view that fades into a blue-green abyss during clear days. On such occasions, you can easily view the bottom, which sits at a depth of 130 feet.

  • Maximum depth: 130 feet
  • Minimum depth: approx. 45 feet
  • Ship length: 510 feet
  • Ship height: 84 feet
  • Tonnage: 6,880

Wrap Up

Scuba diving in Florida can be an unforgettable experience. The crystal-clear waters and warm temperatures are always indicative of a good time. In general, Florida’s subtropical climate is perfect for scuba diving. For the majority of the year, you won’t have to worry about being cold. Plus, the number of diving spots on offer makes Florida incredibly convenient for divers of all experience levels.

Finally, Florida is second to none when it comes to its wrecks and artificial reefs. Anyone curious about exploring such time capsules should look no further. Upon giving Florida a fair shot, they’ll soon create a ton of unforgettable memories.

The Pensacola and Key Largo locations are some of the best and largest artificial reefs globally, offering unique underwater experiences. Plus, you will find lively marine life there, sharing the world-class diving experience with you!

Meta Description: From historic wrecks to artificial reefs, Florida has the most diverse diving sites. Here’s our list of the best scuba diving locations in Florida.