Florida Travel And Tourism
The Great Carrier Reef
Diving The Great Carrier Reef and Other Underwater Museums in Florida
The first comment, by the first person to review this article, was about the title. They noted that it was a great title, but that I had misspelled Barrier Reef. And they had never heard of underwater museums so they wanted me to explain that to them.
I realize that there is a famous dive area called the Great Barrier Reef – actually the world’s largest coral reef. It is considered a natural wonder in Australia. From all accounts it is truly breathtakingly beautiful.
The title was not a mistake. One of the most famous dive sites in Florida is indeed our Great Carrier Reef. It is a man-made reef made by sinking a famous WWII Aircraft Carrier called the Oriskany, off the coast of Pensacola. Be sure to check out the Official Tourism Website of Pensacola, Florida for the many other fantastic things to do and see around Pensacola. Military members and veterans will want to be sure to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum. There will be more on this in another article.
Florida has many of this country’s “only” spots as well as many of the country’s “first’s”. For example, did you know Florida has the “only” living coral barrier reef in the continental United States? According to CoRIS (Coral Reef Information System) “The Florida Reef Tract is nearly 150 miles long and about 4 miles wide extending to the edge of the Florida Straits. It is the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world! All but the northern-most extent of the reef tract lies within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary”.
Part of the reef, the “South East Florida Reef Tract” goes from the SE coast of Palm Beach southward to Miami. It is said to have the “largest number of scuba dive sites on Florida’s southeast coastline with over 100 reef and wreck sites.”
Florida Keys Shipwreck Heritage Trail
Another “only” for Florida is known as the Florida Keys Shipwreck Heritage Trail located off the Florida keys. This is, as far as I know, the “only” underwater trail of historic museum sites for divers. “The Florida Keys Shipwreck Heritage Trail is a water-based line of notable wreck sites – suitable for both snorkeling and diving – that stretches from Key Largo to Key West.”
Florida is a peninsula and because of that, it has over 1,000 miles of coastlines. Great beaches, swimming, fishing snorkeling, and scuba diving are all abundant because of Florida’s coastlines. And of course, Florida sunshine makes it even better.
Only Florida gives you the opportunity to vacation and enjoy three separate bodies of water. Florida has the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Caribbean to the south, and the Gulf of Mexico on the west. Each has its own diverse ecosystem on land and underwater.
When it comes to scuba diving and snorkeling, Florida waters offer the most diverse diving and snorkeling experiences available. Whether you prefer fresh water snorkeling and diving, or saltwater snorkeling and diving, Florida has it all for everyone. So be sure to check out Florida Scuba Diving and Snorkel Information for Florida Visitors And for those with accessibility needs, be sure to read Information for Florida Keys Visitors with Disabilities Florida is one of the country’s most accessible vacation destinations.
The Great Carrier Reef Underwater Museum
Florida has some of the most famous wreck sites in the world. You can find a true one-of-a-kind dive experience only available here in Florida’s panhandle. The site is nicknamed “the Great Carrier Reef,” and it is one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. Dive Photos
It is a man-made reef made by sinking the WWII Essex Class Super Carrier called the Oriskany. The Oriskany saw considerable action in the WWII pacific area of operations. Florida has a huge selection of these underwater museums.
If you would like to know the history of this historic sunken museum, here is a great link: This Is How the Aircraft Carrier USS Oriskany Became “The Great Carrier Reef”
Other Museum Dive Sites
In addition to the famous Great Carrier Reef site and the Aquarius Reef Base, Florida has an abundance of other undersea adventures awaiting you. Many of our dive sites are underwater museums which are educational opportunities for the whole family.
For example, the Pine Island area of Lee County’s Fort Meyers has several civil war era historic wreck sites. These Civil War shipwrecks are located in the waters around Matlacha Pass and Pine Island. They were blockade runners sunk trying to ship cotton and turpentine through the pass.
Quick Note: Just as a quick aside, Elvis Presley fans may also want to visit this page “An Introduction to Matlacha Island “, about one of the Lee County Attractions of the Pine Island Community. Elvis was quite fond of the Nature Coast.
Just north of Lee Country is neighboring Charlotte County. It is close enough for tourists visiting The Beaches of Fort Meyers and Sanibel to visit the USS Annie (1862). The USS Annie was a Civil War era schooner captured by the Union Navy during the Civil War. She was also used by the Union Navy as part of the Union blockade of Confederate waterways.
We also provided a link to 3D scuba maps in the last article: Florida Travel and Tourism Part Three – Finding NEEMO.
“To help make wreck diving safer and more fun, Otto Wagner and Raymond Poudrier began developing detailed underwater maps of wrecks and dive sites. Read Mary Frances Emmons June 15, 2016, interview of ArtToMedia: Meet The Men Behind The Amazing 3-D Scuba Diving Maps”
Also mentioned in that article was an exciting dive opportunity to “Aquarius Reef Base”. This is an underwater adventure available for more than just NASA Aquanautstraining for harsh space missions. It is a prime dive location for Scuba Tourism. Located in only 63’ of usually clear water, and being the size of the International space station, it can even be seen by surface snorkelers.
DO YOU WANT TO LIVE UNDERWATER IN AQUARIUS?
For the first time, FIU (Florida International University) is offering, “Introduction to Saturation Diving.” According to FIU, who owns the underwater laboratory, “This course starts off by giving you in-depth discussion on the theory of saturation diving and finishes off with practical application of your skills in an overnight stay at Aquarius, the world’s “only” undersea saturation diving facility.” Yes, another “only” for Florida!
Scuba diving and snorkeling is a constant in Florida because our diverse coastline and inland freshwater dive sites are suitable for diving and snorkeling all year around. Here are some links for each of our most popular water types for diving and snorkeling.
Fresh Water Dive Sites
Undersea Dive Sites
Palm Beach Diving – The Scuba Club – Diving the Treasure Coast
Diving for The Disabled
Florida strives to be accessible to all people without regard to physical limitations. So it is no surprise that Florida has quite a number of dive opportunities and dive training sites for the disabled.
Diveheart Diveheart focuses on abilities not disabilities
Diving for Our Disabled Veterans
Soldiers Undertaking Disabled SCUBA (SUDS) have had fun in Florida
Scuba Tours On Florida’s Nature Coast
Florida’s Nature Coast is an extraordinary area for scuba diving, snorkeling, and other water related activities. But it is also great for the land-lubbers among us. In addition to scuba and snorkeling, it has fantastic hiking and riding trails allowing you to see a diverse amount of both underwater and above water fish and wildlife.
There are also Scuba tours offered throughout the state like Fresh Water Divingoffered by Crystal River Watersports. Crystal River Watersports is a PADI 5-Star home for Eco Tours on Florida’s Nature Coast.
About Florida’s Nature Coast
Dawn Henthorn is About.com’s Florida Travel Expert. Dawn is an editor and freelance writer who grew up in, and loves, Florida. She has written an excellent article on Florida’s Nature Coast.
World’s First Underwater Hotel
What a fantastic idea. And in exhilarating Florida style, if you are driving to the Florida Keys, you will be driving on another “only” in Florida. The Florida Keys Overseas Highway is the only All-American Road in Florida! Being named an All-American Road is a high honor. In fact, it is “the highest recognition possible under the National Scenic Byways program established by the U.S. Congress in 1991”. In the entire United States, there are only 30 other roads that have been awarded this prestigious title. So just getting to the World’s First Underwater Hotel is a one of a kind adventure.
But why is it called the overseas highway, when it is within the state of Florida? Because the Overseas Highway is quite literally over the seas – three of them! It incorporates 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, a Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. “They include the Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, which stretches 6.79 miles across open water and was referred to on its completion as “the eighth wonder of the world.””
You and your entire family will have an amazing time enjoying scuba diving, snorkeling and observing the diversity of this special ecosystem and its inhabitants. This is an amazing family vacation opportunity especially if it is part of a road trip.
Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel
After all that time in the water you will want a safe place to rest your head and body. Naturally you are going to want a great place to relax when you aren’t enjoying your underwater activities. What better place for water and scuba diving enthusiasts to relax than in an underwater hotel? Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel is the World’s “first” fully self-contained affordable mini-luxury underwater hotel. It is now being offered to resort properties around Planet Ocean.
Your Educational Moment
I always try to make my articles educational. So here is a link for your very own educational moment. What Is the Difference Between a Drysuit and A Wetsuit?
For more information on Florida Tourism – please visit our Pinterest board: Florida Tourism – Family Friendly Tourism #LoveFL
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For more information about Florida Tourism visit the State of Florida Travel Page.
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Rick Stoneking Sr, is a retired, disabled, veteran, minister and formal federal agent. He is now the Founder/Owner of International Travel Reviews (ITR) and a #DisabilityAdvocate for #AccessibleTravel.
Rick has been writing in one form or another for over forty years. He is published in multiple genres in both Christian and secular circles. He has written everything from police reports to a Christian Ebook, to a year-long daily devotional series. He has published articles and columns in well-recognized state and international magazines.