Adventure seekers and diving enthusiasts are often finding themselves wanting inspiration on where to go for their next diving trip, but they don’t have to look too far. Within the 27 miles of Panama City Beach, there are many spectacular locations to explore, which has gained the area the reputation of the “Wreck Capital of the South”. From inshore to offshore, there isn’t an artificial reef or jetty not worth “diving” into and we can't wait to welcome you back to go diving very soon!
Many of the dive sites are historic wrecks and are known for being an excellent adventure for anyone looking for an exciting diving experience. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico provide the best environment for rapid reef growth and are home to a breeding ground for all types of interesting sea life. The best times to plunge yourself into the sea and discover these underwater creatures is between the months of April and September. Here are a few of the hottest sites for both locals and visitors diving both inshore and offshore:
Located 12 miles off the shore of Panama City Beach, the El Dorado cruise liner was sunk offshore last May to serve as an artificial reef for both sea creatures and divers to enjoy. The El Dorado was damaged by Hurricane Michael, leaving it damaged and unusable. Bay County officials and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission worked together for months to prepare this ship for its new life in the Gulf!
Built during World War II, this ship was sunk in 1977 as an artificial reef and lies a little over 7 miles west of the St. Andrews Jetties. Laying 77 feet under water, this 441-foot long and 20-foot high ship is a favorite for some of the frequent divers in the area!
This wreck site is located close to shore in only 70-80 feet of water, about three miles east of the St. Andrews Bay Marina Entrance Channel. The Chickasaw was a 107-foot, twin engine steam tug built in Pensacola, FL in 1908 for the Army Corps of Engineers, and sank while at the dock in the 1970's. Now the ship serves as an artificial reef with an open framework that makes for a very exciting exploration!
About 8 miles from the St. Andrews Jetties lies the wreck of a tugboat named the Commander. Discovered in 1979 by two local captains, this artificial reef serves as a perfect spot for photographers. The 65-foot, steel-hulled tug sits upright and intact on the white sand about 96 feet deep into the Gulf and is a perfect place for spotting amberjack and groupers!
This ex-Navy tug boat lies over 20 miles from the St. Andrews Jetties and is 105-feet in length with a 20-foot beam. Sunk as an artificial reef in 1978, the steel hull and the superstructure are still mostly intact with the wheelhouse being a great spot for photography. The tug lies on its port side in 108 feet of water along the edge of a natural limestone reef with large amounts of marine life.
Spanish Shanty Barge
In 20 feet of water along the northwest corner of Shell Island inside St. Andrews Bay, lies the Spanish Shanty, a 150-foot-long old tar barge. The barge holds a good array of marine life such as, sheepshead, bandid tulip and mullet. Also known as the “Tar Barge”, this artificial reef is an excellent dive site closer to shore.
This wreck site holds several steel-hulled life boats that were salvaged from Liberty Ships scrapped at the Panama City port. The lifeboats were cabled together and sunk as an artificial reef inside of St. Andrews Bay. Lying in about 25 feet of water just north of Shell Island, this spot is a safe place for beginner divers to “get their feet wet”.
To view our dive map, visit http://www.visitpanamacitybeach.com/things-to-do/diving/dive-map/.