Florida: Panhandle to Springs

Florida, for most Americans and ocean enthusiasts anyway, is a place that needs no introduction. It’s indoctrinated in the American psyche that Disney World is the most magical place on Earth, Miami is the city in which to party, and that when you get to the Keys, relaxation is surely afoot. That said, I won’t keep you with a long intro, let’s do a brief rundown of where you might want to dive.

Key Largo

America flies its colors often, even under the surface. Photo: Deepblu user Sael 

Just off of the southeastern tip of Florida, Key Largo, far north of Montego, is a popular dive spot for multiple reasons. Its wrecks, reefs, and much dives attract not only a slew of divers, but a large number of thriving businesses that support their underwater habits. Turtles and sharks about at French Reef, Duane Wreck offers some spectacular wreck diving, and Jules’ Undersea Lodge offers the opportunity to spend a three hour tour or an overnight underwater, complete with pizza delivery.

 

Key West

Key West has long been known for pirates and retirees. Photo: Deepblu user Eduardo Sahueza

Key West was the home of the great American writer Ernest Hemingway, and his house at 907 Whitehead Street draws admirers to this day as the Hemingway Museum. Himself an avid ocean lover, he drew people of a similar mindset to his rum drinking, boating, skinny dipping, gun shooting lifestyle. That sense of freedom attracts many, and so do the dives. The area is home to a number of wrecks, perfect for the pirate within, the most famous of which is the USS Vandenberg, with another small yet fun wreck dive being Joe’s Tug. Both host an array of colorful wildlife. Sand Key is a good place to explore corals, and 9 Foot Stake is a lesser known spot, but particularly interesting for underwater photography if you’re looking for jacks, turtles, barracudas, or a nine foot long telephone pole that is underwater for some reason.

Islamorada and Tavernier

Blue waters, whale shark, this place sells itself. Photo: Deepblu user DIVERDC

When people come to Islamorada and Tavernier, it’s typically for the clear waters that allow for high visibility when checking out the micro and macro life of the sea. Its most famous spot, the Wreck of the Eagle, offers mystery and exploration for the curious, but strong currents make it advisable to have a lot of experience or a strong local guide. For reef diving, check out the interestingly named Hens and Chickens, where you’re likely to meet a shark or two. Alligator Reef is another colorful destination with an equally interesting lighthouse atop.

Florida Springs

Clear waters, clear minds. Photo: Deepblu user zeb

Shout out to Northern Florida! We know you have good dives as well. Lake Denton, Devil’s Den, and Vortex Springs to name a few. Florida Springs isn’t to be overlooked when planning a dive vacation, and it’s easier to access for those who might just be touring the country and can’t make it deep into the panhandle. Catfish Hotel Sink offers a stunning, calm water dive with sunbursts and great visibility. It’s a great cave dive with deep levels of exploration. Blue Grotto is a place where many go to get certified, and they have lodging and campfires for after the dive. Manatee Springs is a great place to see its namesake marine mammal as well as several other animals which call the springs home.

Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor

Looking to learn more about diving in the United States? Check out the U.S. on Planet Deepblu