Florida Panhandle Shipwreck TrailBaitfish swim above the midsection of the USS Strength in Panama City. Photograph by Jennifer O'Neil.
You don’t have to get wet to see the 12 wrecks of the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, but with sunken vessels like the USS Oriskany — the world’s largest artificial reef — littering the Gulf of Mexico, why wouldn’t you?
The wreck trail stretches 140 miles from Pensacola to Port St. Joe, and landlubbers can experience it too, thanks to the interactive website that links to underwater videos and historical information about each wreck (floridapanhandledivetrail.com).
Dive “passports,” complete with a space to validate each stop, are available from participating dive operators. You can find a list of dive shops on the website.
The Florida Department of State’s Underwater Archaeology Team — with area dive operators — chose the sites based on demand, ecological diversity and historical aspects. “It’s Florida’s newest diving adventure,” said Dr. Roger Smith, Florida’s state underwater archaeologist. “It incorporates a lot of the shipwrecks that are the most exciting to dive on.”