Florida’s Emerald Coast: Diving in the Gulf of Mexico
The Emerald Coast offers some of the finest diving in the State with numerous natural and artificial reefs and wrecks. The following sites are just a few of the dive locations from Panama City to Pensacola. Local SCUBA shops offer excursions weekly.
The Destin Jetties is a popular beach dive with depths to 55′. You can go by boat or walk about 3/8-mile from the parking lot. From US 98 in Destin, turn south on Gulf Shores Drive and follow it about 3 miles to where there is parallel parking on the right. Beach access is just across the street. Be sure to start your dive at high slack tide (one hour before high tide) for best visibility and minimal current.
St Andrews Jetties is another great beach dive with depths to 70′ and is located in Panama City Beach at the state park with a very short walk. More info here: St. Andrews State Park
Ft. Pickens near Pensacola Beach is another good shore dive with depths to 50′ and a short walk. You can also tour the ruins from the old fort.
Navarre Beach also has a snorkeling and limited diving reef.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Reef Photos and Coordinates
Emerald Coast Reef Association
Florida’s Spectacular Spring Diving
Florida offers hundreds of springs for Open Water, Cavern and Cave Divers. Some of these springs are ideal for Open Water divers while others require advanced training. Please seek appropriate training if you wish to venture into the caverns and caves.
Vortex Spring – This is a commercially operated dive site which is great for training and refreshers. It also offers cavern and cave training opportunities. It is located about 4 miles north of Ponce de Leon on Hwy. 81.
Morrison Springs – This is a beautiful spring for Open Water and Cavern divers. The area is now owned by the State and just completed extensive renovations. From I-10 in Ponce de Leon, travel about 4 miles south on Hwy 81, then turn left (east) a few miles on Hwy. 181, then follow the Morrison Springs Road on the right to the spring.
Caryville Guage Station – Note: If the river level at the Caryville gauge station is at 7 feet and rising, Morrison, Cypress and surrounding springs are likely flooded. If the river is at 6 feet and dropping, it will probably be clear. This is only a rule-of-thumb. Vortex will usually remain clear due to the long spring run.
Jackson Blue Spring – Jackson Blue, or “JB”, often boasts 200′ visibility and is available for Open Water, Cavern, and Cave divers. The area is a Jackson County park located at the head of Merrit’s Mill Pond in Marianna. There are a variety of local fish and crayfish as well as many fossils embedded in the limestone. Divers must check in at Cave Adventurers and pay an entry fee to the County.
Cypress Springs & Magnolia Springs – These are beautiful springs in a natural setting. Cypress requires a ¾-mile paddle upstream along the Holmes Creek from a county boat ramp off Hwy. 277, a few miles north of Vernon. Cypress has a cavern for those trained although the open water environment can be enjoyed by all divers and snorkelers. Magnolia is just downstream from the boat ramp on the west side of the creek and offers a good dive if the Holmes Creek is relatively low.
Other Springs and Cave Diving
Cave Diving Training
National Speleological Society – Cave Diving Section
National Association for Cave Diving
Technical Diving International
Professional Scuba Association International