Love wreck diving, or looking for a unique way to earn your PADI® Wreck Diver Specialty? Florida’s panhandle shipwreck trail offers great wreck diving for all experience levels and the opportunity for a fun road trip.
There are more than 40 diveable wrecks along Florida’s gulf coast. The official shipwreck trail includes 12 of the best, including the USS Oriskany, the world’s largest artificial reef.
Start in Pensacola, continue through Destin and Panama City and finish in Port St. Joe. Or, explore in the opposite direction, finishing with the “Mighty O.”
USS Oriskany – aka The Great Carrier Reef
The “Mighty O,” served in the Korean and Vietnam War before venturing to its final resting place off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. When this Essex-class carrier became the world’s largest artificial reef in 2006, it made international news.
The great carrier reef begins at approximately 24 metres/80 feet. There’s plenty to see within recreational limits, but if you want to explore the flight deck or below, you’ll need special training. The bottom of the Oriskany sits in approximately 64 metres/212 feet of water.
Panhandle Shipwreck Trail Fun Facts:
- Largest ship – USS Oriskany 270m/888ft
- Oldest wreck – The Vamar, sunk in 1942
- Most mysterious – The San Pablo
San Pablo Wreck
The San Pablo’s bland beginnings belie her unusual end. The ship spent much of her career as a fruit transport ship, moving bananas from Central America to the United States.
After being sunk by a German U-Boat off Costa Rica in WWII, the wreck was salvaged and refloated. According to recently-declassified documents, the ship became part of an experimental weapons test by the U.S. military.
The Wreck of The Vamar
The Vamar once ventured as far as Antarctica, but she’s since retired to warmer water off the coast of Port St. Joe. The wreck’s shallow depth (just 8 metres/25 feet of water) makes it ideal for divers of all levels and a good spot to practice your marine animal photography skills.
Dive All 12 Wrecks, Get a Free T-Shirt
In case you need one more reason to dive the shipwreck trail, there’s a prize for visiting all 12 wrecks – a free t-shirt. Request a free passport from one of the participating dive shops below, and when you’ve logged a dive on each wreck, you can get a free t-shirt (while supplies last).
Port St. Joe
Daly’s Dock & Dive Center
The free, logbook-style passport includes information about each wreck and a place for the dive operator to validate your visit. You don’t have to dive all the wrecks in one go. You can explore a few at a time until you complete the entire passport. When you’re done, submit your passport for a free t-shirt and certification card.
- View an at-a-glance list of all 12 ships, their length, depth, year of sinking and some additional photos.
- Learn more about the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course.
Read about the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail.