When it comes to travel-destination rankings like "World's Best Beaches" and "Best Place for Family Vacations," the state of Florida often tops the list. Locals know that where Florida truly excels is in its countless waterways. Water surrounds Florida on three sides; it laps the Atlantic, Gulf and Panhandle coasts, and it gushes under the land in hidden rivers, fills lakes, bubbles up in springs and flows in rivers. And that's good news for divers.
In the Panhandle, divers can explore the world's biggest sunken aircraft carrier, the USS Oriskany, a 911-foot wreck that will take hundreds of dives to experience fully. Every day more and more marine life takes shelter on its superstructure. South of the Panhandle is one of the world's cave-diving epicenters, Central Florida, where hundreds of freshwater springs, caverns and caves await both recreational and cavern- and cave-certified divers. The springs are always crystal clear with a steady 72ºF year-round temperature. On Florida's South Atlantic coast, known as the Gold Coast, both wrecks and reefs await off Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach and Fort Lauderdale. The wrecks are covered in massive amounts of marine life, such as southern stingrays, sea turtles, moray eels and schools of spadefish.
Hanging off mainland Florida is the world-renowned Florida Keys, a string of tropical islands that beckon thousands of divers from all over the world. Here are incredible wrecks such as the famed Spiegel Grove, Benwood and Eagle, as well as protected, fish-filled reefs such as Looe Key and Lighthouse Reef. And if that isn't enough, Key West just sank the massive, 511-foot General Hoyt S. Vandenberg.
DESTINATION PRIMER AVERAGE WATER TEMP: High 70s F in summer in the Keys, Panhandle and Atlantic coast; 72ºF in the springs
WHAT TO WEAR: 3-5 mm fullsuit depending on time of year AVERAGE VIZ: 80 feet in the Keys; 60 feet off the Panhandle and Atlantic coast; 100-plus feet in the springs
WHEN TO GO: Year-round
WHAT TO EXPECT: Calm conditions in summer in the Keys, Panhandle and Atlantic coast; calm conditions year-round in the springs LANGUAGE: English CURRENCY: U.S. dollar TAXES: 6 percent sales tax ELECTRICITY: 110V, 60 cycle TIME ZONE: Eastern Standard Time
MUST KNOW AIRPORT/EXIT FEES: None KEY GIFT: An Atocha treasure coin DON'T FORGET: A Florida guidebook to other attractions THE VIBE: From a nature lover's getaway in Central Florida to fun-filled Fort Lauderdale to a party atmosphere in Key West TOPSIDE: As with the state's underwater experience, you'll find lots to do above water.
MUST DO Shop, eat and explore cultural attractions along "Florida's Most Beautiful Mile" Riverwalk in Fort Lauderdale. Join in the wild nightly sunset celebration at Key West's Mallory Square. FOR MORE INFORMATION SPORTDIVER.COM/FLORIDA