Whether you’re looking to earn your Wreck Diver certification, or already a certified PADI® Wreck Diver, the Florida Keys are an enticing destination. With approximately 1000 shipwrecks in and around the keys, the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail can help divers experience some of the best wreck dives in the area.
Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail
The Shipwreck Trail includes nine historic shipwrecks, all submerged within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Some are easy, shallow dives and others require deep diving experience to thoroughly enjoy.
Scuba Diving magazine describes The Thunderbolt as, “the queen of the Marathon shipwreck fleet.” The purpose-sunk wreck is one of the oldest in the Keys. After thirty plus years underwater, The Thunderbolt is covered with coral and sponges that attract numerous schools of fish.
USS Spiegel Grove
The USS Spiegel Grove was acquired from the US Navy for use as an artificial reef. Unfortunately, upon sinking, the ship landed upside down. After significant effort by salvagers, the massive, 152 metre/500 foot long vessel was moved onto its starboard side.
Then, one night, storm surge from Hurricane Dennis flipped the Spiegel Grove perfectly upright. Imagine being the first diver to drop in on this ship after the storm!
The Benwood sank after colliding with another ship at night. It was 1942, and both ships were traveling without lights to avoid being detected by submarines. The Benwood was later used for bombing practice by the Navy, but now lies peacefully at rest. Both divers and snorkelers can enjoy this wreck which sits in 7-13 metres/25-45 feet of water.
The Eagle offers divers photo ops of a coral-encrusted crows nest, schools of fish and easy access to her interior (the ship split in two during Hurricane Georges). Barracuda, Goliath groupers and even sawfish may be seen swimming near The Eagle. The max depth for this dive is 33 metres/110 feet.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Duane was donated to the Keys Association of Dive Operators for use as an artificial reef. The Duane is located in 36 metres/120 feet of water about one mile south of Molasses Reef off Key Largo.
TThe Adolphus Busch Sr.
The Adolphus Busch Sr. sailed under several different names and flags before being purchased by a non-profit group called the Florida Marine Sanctuaries, Inc. Avid diver Adolphus Busch Sr., helped provide funding for the project and the ship’s name was changed to recognize his contributions. Prior to sinking, holes were deliberately cut into the ship so divers can easily swim in and out of the wreck.
The Cayman Salvager
The wreck of The Cayman Salvage Master, also known as The Cayman Salvor or The Cayman Salvager, spent most of her life laying mines and communications cable. She sank on her portside, but Hurricane Katrina later repositioned the wreck to stand upright.
The Cayman Salvager is one of the more intact wrecks and rests at 27 meters/90 feet. That said, unpredictable Gulf stream currents and various obstructions make this a dive for those with Advanced Open Water training; exploring the wreck with a local dive guide is also recommended.
Joe’s Tug is, in fact, a 22 metre/75 foot shrimp boat, not a tugboat. The wreck is a short boat ride from The Cayman Salvage Master, and the relatively shallow depth (19 metres/65 feet) make Joe’s Tug a popular second/afternoon dive.
Clear water and abundant marine life make Joe’s Tug a popular destination for wide-angle photographers. Divers can expect to see barracudas, goliath groupers, and elaborate coral formations.
USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg
The USNS Vandenberg is a retired missile tracking ship. At 160 metres/524 feet long, it is the one of the largest purpose-sunk wrecks in the world. The Vandenberg rests in 21-30 metres/70-100 feet of water and is approximately ten storeys tall.
Divers can get up close to the radar dishes and take photos with the telescope mounted at the top of the wheelhouse. Those with wreck penetration training can explore the Vandenberg’s numerous cargo holds and passageways.
Become a Florida Keys Wreck Trekker!
Download the Official Florida Keys Wreck Trek’ dive passport and logbook to learn more about each wreck in the Shipwreck Trail. Divers may also request a copy from a participating dive retailers (listed below) and receive a souvenir collage print. U
Learn more about the top dive sites in the Florida Keys.