South of Miami, there is a whole string of islands called the Florida Keys, connected by a road bridges all the way to Key West. Part of the lure of the Florida Keys is that it is the only Caribbean getaway that you can drive to (from the USA). Another plus is the wide varietey of diving from Shallow Reefs to deep wrecks. The diving industry is very well developed in the Keys and you will find dive shops to take you out everywhere.
Best Diving Destinations in Florida Keys
There is very good diving all over the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Many divers think the Florida Keys begin in Key Largo and end in Key West. North of Key Largo is Biscayne National Park, which includes a big strech of reef along the ocean side of Old Rhodes Key and Elliot Key. A deep wall, shallow reefs and some nice wrecks can be visited from the park’s headquarter, located off Florida’s Turnpike between Miami and Key Largo. The Keys also have some interesting wrecks to explore.
Diving in the Keys is mainly done on the fringing reef, the reef structure that fringes the continental shelf, with some patch reef and artificial reefs closer to shore also offering some diving. The fringing reef is nourished by the currents of the Gulf Stream, which runs parallel to the Keys and the continental shelf, and this continual nourishment provides the fringing reef with a vibrant and wild variety of marine life and colorings.
The Upper Keys boasts the largest under water Marine Park in the US. It is also home to artificial reefs created by wrecks, including the steamer Tossawanda, the schooner City of Washington, and an old civil war wreck. Also of interest is the 9 foot tall statue of Christ, pointing to a giant brain coral that sits in a sand channel near Key Largo dry rocks. (Here divers come for photo shoots and even some marriage ceremonies have taken place at this underwater shrine)
The Middle Keys offers many wrecks to dive on including the RV Thunderbolt and the HMS Love.
The Lower Keys offers many wrecks to dive on including the Chet Alexanders in 10 meters of water, Joes Tug and the Santa Margaretta.
Typical marine life to be found in the Keys includes flamingo tongue shell, spotted moray, sea turtles, spade fish, barracuda, parrot fish, trump fish, southern stingrays, and the occasional great white shark.
When to Visit Florida Keys
There is diving year round. Just watch out for the occassional hurricanes. Water temperatures range from 74°F – 86°F on hot summer days when seas are typically flat. Visibility can vary day to day depending on the wind and the currents.
The Florida Keys are located at the bottom end of Florida and provide island diving that you can easily drive to. As part of the US, the Keys provide all the facilities and services that could be required. The keys are not tropical islands with white sandy beaches; they instead have mangroves fringing the shores. These mangrove beaches are what help build the keys into islands. The keys provide more options for accommodation, including resorts, motels, and camp grounds. The pace of life also tends to slow down the further south in the keys you travel.