9 destinations in Florida to explore the underwater universe

Diving, snorkeling and cave exploration will take visitors deep into the Sunshine State's underwater world

(Source: VISIT FLORIDA)

Each region along the Florida coast has a unique underwater landscape. There are a multitude of dive and snorkel sites to unravel mysteries, explore shipwrecks and experience the grandeur and serenity of the waters, encouraging not only the observation of natural beauty but also providing opportunities for enthusiasts to connect and learn. the fascinating underwater waters. world. For both casual and experienced divers, Florida has some of the best freshwater and saltwater sites to discover the universe that exists underwater.

Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, Florida Panhandle
The Florida Panhandle, in the northwestern region of the state, is an ideal destination to visit year-round, with secluded beaches and waterfront restaurants serving delicious seafood. For diving enthusiasts, the Florida Panhandle offers a tour of 20 shipwrecks, starting with the "Three Coal Barges" in Pensacola, perfect for beginners, and ending with the "Destin Liberty Ship" outside of Destin, an artificial reef. established in 1977. With multiple cities to explore and more than a dozen dive sites located just off the coast, the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail offers visitors the best of both worlds, on land and sea.

Underwater Museum of Art, Santa Rosa Beach
Begin your adventure at the Underwater Museum of Art, one of the first permanent underwater sculpture parks in North America. Located in the waters of Grayton Beach State Park and less than an hour from Panama City Beach in northwest Florida, this museum combines art and preservation of the marine ecosystem, providing a unique experience. Immerse yourself among submerged sculptures as you view vibrant marine life, including dolphins, groupers, and sea turtles.

Jacksonville, Duval County
Experienced divers have discovered that Jacksonville's waters are home to numerous shipwrecks housing hundreds of fish, making it a captivating diving adventure. Jacksonville has countless hidden beauties to discover, being home to more than 100 artificial reefs with hundreds of marine species, such as groupers and sharks, that can also be observed off the coast.

Devil's Lair Prehistoric Spring, Williston
Initially, the entrance to this underground spring inside a dry cave may go unnoticed, but there is a small staircase descending to a paradise of blue waters. The prehistoric cave has a diameter of 36.5 meters on the surface and a spring with a maximum depth of 16.5 meters, with exclusive access for divers. In addition to Devil's Den Spring, the site offers camping space and cabins for rent.

Alexander Springs Recreation Area, Altoona
An hour's drive from the city of Ocala (1 hour north of Orlando), Alexander Springs Natural Pool is the only area of ​​the Ocala National Forest where diving is allowed. With crystal clear waters at 22ºC all year round, this spring is perfect for a quiet and relaxing bath with the family. In addition to diving, Alexander Springs Recreation Area offers shady picnic spots, hiking trails, and spotting local wildlife.

Crystal River, Citrus County
Known as the manatee capital of the world, the Crystal River region offers several options to meet these super-friendly giants. Accustomed to the warm waters of local springs, these mammals often fill the waters of Citrus County from November to March, allowing dozens of manatees to be seen both above and below the surface. Only diving is allowed in these springs, but it is an unforgettable outing for nature lovers.

Lake Denton and Tulane Lake, Highlands County
Located near Avon Park, 90 minutes from Orlando, Lake Denton and Tulane Lake are ideal training grounds for beginning divers. With waters ranging between 18ºC and 32ºC and perfect visibility, these lakes offer fascinating encounters with various species. History buffs will love diving in Tulane Lake, as it is the oldest documented lake in North America and is estimated to be over 50,000 years old.

Egmont Key State Park, St. Pete/Clearwater
On an island south of St. Pete is Egmont Key State Park. This secluded state park, accessible only by boat, is known for its wildlife refuge and historic sites. With crystal clear waters and white sand, the island is a true paradise for snorkelers, where you can be close to dolphins, manatees and a small population of sea turtles that gather there during the nesting season, from March to October.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
Just 90 minutes from Miami, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is an incredible destination with its natural coral reef and the famous "Christ of the Abyss" sculpture, a replica of 2 .5 meters high donated to the park in 1966. With an area of ​​almost 70 square meters nautical miles, it is the first underwater park in the United States. The park offers daily glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, and scuba diving so visitors can explore the underwater wonders with ease.


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