A bevy of coral reefs and wrecks fills the waters near Opal Florida resorts with activities, but did you know one of the best dive spots is in New York’s Lake George? We’ve found the best dive spots to swim with sharks, search for actual Spanish treasure, and get an underwater history lesson.
Photo © Amy Lesh
Spain’s Lost Ships of 1622 [Key West, FL]
In 1622, a fleet of Spanish ships laden with gold, silver, and other goods was sailing from the Caribbean back to Spain when a powerful hurricane overtook some of the vessels, including the Atocha and Santa Margarita, crushing them against the Florida Keys, never to be seen again. That is, until 1985, when legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher and his team found the main cache of the Atocha (the wreckage was scattered along a 10-mile path), including 22 chests of coins and a 20-foot-wide, five-foot-tall, 70-foot-long deposit of 1,000 silver bars. Today, you can still see coins, jewelry, and weapons scattered around the site.
Jupiter Wreck Treck [Jupiter, FL]
In close proximity to the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic, this string of wrecks – a freighter (Zion Train), a tanker (Esso Bonaire III), and a barge (Miss Jenny) – often see Atlantic reef sharks between November and April. Come during the late summer and this underwater playground becomes a breeding ground for goliath groupers weighing 350 to 450 pounds. Divers have also been known to spot sea turtles, brightly painted angelfish, and quickly moving Atlantic spadefish.
Where to Stay Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa
Veteran’s Reef [Clearwater, FL]
With dive spots from 10 to 40 miles out to sea and just 50 feet below the water, this Clearwater site – an artificial reef made of concrete structures, barges, and natural limestone – has 13 different sites to explore. Veterans’ Reef is a plethora of underwater marine life and home to many pig-snouted hogfish. This spot has become popular with grouper, barracuda, and the occasional dolphin sighting.
Where to Stay Sandpearl Resort
Black Hole [Naples, FL]
As ominous as it sounds, this advanced dive about 27 miles off the shoreline was thought to be a spring during prehistoric times and now is abundant with corals, sponges, fans, and sea turtles. One of the more difficult dives in the area, you’ll go down 65 feet just to get to the cave’s circular opening, but the colorful array of marine life will well be worth it.
Where to Stay Lido Beach Resort
Wiawaka Bateaux Cluster [Lake George, NY]
What happens when colonial troops scuttle ships during the French and Indian War and forget about them? Seven perfectly preserved boats sitting 25 to 50 feet below the surface of Lake George among an abundance of freshwater fish. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, touching the delicate ships is prohibited. Look closely and you can see fingerprints from rebel divers in the wood.
Where to Stay The Sagamore Resort