Diving in Panama City Beach
The No.2 Dive Destination in Florida
If you are seeking a unique and memorable vacation experience in Panama City Beach, diving is the perfect answer. Below the surface of our turquoise waters awaits a second world, a different kind of paradise. Sea turtles, goliath grouper, and even bottlenose dolphins frolic off the shores, and numerous historic shipwrecks are scattered throughout the region.
Check out our dive map for some of the most popular dive sites!
Historic wrecks are scattered throughout the region and include the 185-foot Black Bart, the 441-foot World War II Liberty Ship, and the 465-foot Empire Mica. Because of these and so many other artificial reefs in the area, Skin Diver Magazine dubbed Panama City Beach the "Wreck Diving Capital of the South." New in 2023 is the Deep Stem III, a former offshore supply vessel used in oil exploration. At 239-feet, it will be the second largest deployed off Florida’s Emerald Coast.
Vortex Springs, nestled in the heart of Florida's natural beauty, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. This crystal-clear spring offers a mesmerizing underwater oasis, drawing adventurers, divers, and nature enthusiasts alike.
Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail in PCB
This shipwreck trail has 20 unique diving sites from Port St. Joe to Pensacola, with the following wrecks being found in Panama City Beach:
USS Strength: A World War II minesweeper, saw action off Iwo Jima and Okinawa where she survived both a midget submarine attack and a kamikaze raid. Later in life, Strength served as a training hulk for Navy salvage divers in Washington, D.C., and then Panama City. Sunk for the last time in 1987, she lay on her side for years before being righted by a hurricane in 1995. At less than 80 feet, divers can easily swim between the two sections of Strength’s hull where her bow separated from the rest of the ship.
USS Chippewa: Launched in 1942, the U.S. Navy tugboat USS Chippewaperformed standard towing and salvage duty from the Caribbean to Newfoundland. She also laid mooring buoys in Casablanca in 1944, broke tugboat speed records, and once carried a torpedo bomber on her fantail. Sunk as a Navy training platform for the Panama City Experimental Dive Unit in 1990, Chippewanow sits upright on the bottom in 100 feet of water offering a great dive for spotting marine life.
Black Bart: Christened Vulcano del Golfo in 1977, this offshore oilfield supply vessel was sunk as an artificial reef in 1993 in memory of Navy Supervisor of Salvage Captain Charles “Black Bart” Bartholomew. Divers can swim through the intact wheelhouse at 40 feet, investigate the deck at 66 feet, and explore the open cargo holds at 80 feet. Visitors to Black Bart can also visit the ship’s head (complete with toilet) and the galley (that’s the kitchen for you landlubbers) which still has several appliances.
El Dorado: This 157-foot-long modern luxury cruise liner originally washed ashore in Panama City during Hurricane Ivan (2004). Marine salvor Lee Ingram, a Panama City native, purchased it and intended to restore the vessel and place it in service, but another hurricane, Michael in October 2018, carried it from its dock and deposited it on its side near the Florida State University Panama City property.
USS Accokeek: Before she was sunk as an artificial reef in 2000, USS Accokeek traveled the globe as a fleet tug. Built in 1944, Accokeek began her career in Orange, Texas, and then was deployed to work around the world for 26 years.
FAMI Tugs: Sunk as artificial reefs, the tugs once rested bow to bow joined by a 30-foot tether. As is often the case, Mother Nature had different plans. In an unforeseen turn of events, a storm picked one boat up and placed it directly on top of the other, allowing divers to enjoy two shipwrecks at once.
Gear Up: Scuba Dive Shops and Training
Never tried scuba diving before? No problem. Panama City Beach is the ultimate spot to get your feet (as well as the rest of you) wet. Our dive shops are ideal to get you certified and on your way to the bubbly deep. For instance, Panama City Dive Center is more than equipped to get you started on your new, aquatic lifestyle. A one-stop-shop, they have offered dive training, equipment rental and repair since 1983.
Another asset to any diver is Panama City Diving, our newest dive shop. It is also a great location to get certified through PADI, the world's largest scuba certification agency. Their expertise is sure to make you a more knowledgeable and confident diver.
If you are looking to train, seek out Red Alert Diving, a full-service dive center and aquatic training facility. Their expert instructors have over 50 years of global diving experience, parlayed to students in both their heated pool and range of open-water courses.
Dive In: Awesome Ocean Depths are Waiting
Say you are ready to embark. Now what? Turn to our year-round dive charters, of course!
For example, The Dive Locker can take you to famous watery shipwrecks, including Black Bart, or for beachside snorkeling at St. Andrews State Park. At high tide, the park's remarkable rocky jetties allow you to see ocean creatures up close, such as octopus and redfish.
Diver's Den is another exceptional charter option. Known for their personalized excursions, their US Coast Guard-certified captain can take you on the spearfishing or diving trip of your dreams. Will you descend at our natural limestone reefs, or an artificial one made from a fighter jet? Would you like to explore an underwater bridge? The choice is yours.
For dives at various levels of difficulty, look to DownTime Dive Charters. Whether you are on a family vacation, couples retreat or solo adventure, their passionate divers can craft an optimal experience. Feel the rush of descending to exciting depths in optimal, expertly-selected locations.
Or perhaps Dolphin and Snorkel Tours is the right match for you. With an emphasis on local wildlife, this charter provides unforgettable and educational day trips focused on wildlife photography, shell collecting, private island picnics and (of course) dolphins. In fact, dolphin sightings are guaranteed!
With all of these great options, it isn't hard to see why Panama City Beach is the second-most visited dive location in Florida. You too can jump fins-first into the Gulf of Mexico to experience the marine life and treasured underwater landscapes we call home.