Last Updated on November 11, 2021 by Wandering our World
Florida is considered by many divers in the United States as a local diving paradise, thanks to the fact it’s easy to reach and has excellent conditions. We tend to agree! Together with Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Texas and its Flower Garden Banks, Michigan and its awesome Lake Huron, and many, many others, the sunny state of Florida offers two fantastic diving areas: the beautiful Florida Keys, and the exciting Fort Lauderdale.
The main protagonists of these dive sites are all types of wrecks, mostly well preserved and never too deep. Electrifying encounters with sharks, goliath groupers and rays, alongside dramatic seascapes, characterize scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale, and it’s one of the reasons we continue returning to the area.
Below we show you why scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale is so special, we explain the conditions, visibility and temperature you will find, and then share our ten favorite dive spots in Fort Lauderdale. Happy diving!
Scuba Diving at Your Doorstep
Most American scuba divers wait for their vacation to get certified, or go scuba diving in some exotic destinations across the word, such as French Polynesia, the Maldives, Mexico or the Caribbean. But there’s many great options readily available within the USA too.
From the mesmerizing Alaskan seascapes to tropical Hawaiian coral reefs, passing by California kelp forests and Texan underwater gardens, the American dream continues underwater.
Florida is one of the best diving areas in the States. In particular, scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale is a special experience due its collection of warm water wrecks – the largest one in the nation.
The entire coast of Florida is home to the South East Florida Reef Tract, which goes from West Palm Beach to Miami South, and includes, of course Fort Lauderdale. The reef here runs parallel to the shore and ranges in depth between 15 and 100 feet, and there’s 76 wrecks that have been purposely sunk with the intention of creating an interesting artificial reef.
Those wrecks were thoroughly cleaned up and remediated to preserve the ecological conditions, and they now lay on the bottom of the sea waiting to be explored by adventurous divers.
Fort Lauderdale Diving Conditions
The reefs of Fort Lauderdale are located in a pretty decent depth range, which can be enjoyed by snorkelers and divers of every level, mostly within recreational limits.
The temperature of the water is warm all year round, ranging from 75 F in February to 86 F in August, for an average of about 81 F. This allows divers to venture in its waters with just a 3 or 5-millimeter wetsuit, or even a shorty or rash guard in the summer months.
The visibility is normally very good, with an average of around 50 feet, contributing to aquatic comfort, orientation and also to higher chances of shooting perfect underwater photos. The bottom composition, mainly sandy, is thick enough to sink fast and not affect visibility more than a few minutes when stirred, a huge advantage, especially for underwater photographers.
Scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale is a must for every American diver, or for anyone on a vacation in the area, particularly for shipwreck lovers. In a mere 23 mile stretch, such a massive quantity of wrecks can be seen and explored here, giving Fort Lauderdale the title of the wreck capital of the State.
Moreover, the Gulf Stream creates some special and unique conditions, such as warm waters and an exciting current that permits us to enjoy some drift dives, commonly referred to by locals as “valet dives” due to their lazy-river-paced atmosphere.
Thanks to the proximity of the reef tracts to shore – some reefs can even be reached by swimming from land – no long boat rides are required to venture out at sea, and this is another advantage for unexperienced divers, or for those that get easily seasick.
Our Top Ten Best Dive Sites in Fort Lauderdale
As the options are really numerous, and personal preferences will vary as well, here is our own list of best dive sites in Fort Lauderdale that we believe you won’t want to miss out on when scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale:
1. Hog Heaven
One of the most visited wrecks in Fort Lauderdale, the Hog Heaven, lies at a depth of about 65 feet and is therefore manageable for Open Water or Advanced Open Water divers.
This is the wreck of an old barge, approx. 180 feet long, sunk in 1986 and the protagonist of an interesting incident. During the sinking operation, the barge flipped and is now laying upside down. The view is therefore definitely unique, and it is topped by the presence of numerous marine species that find shelter and rest around the Hog Heaven, such as grunts, lionfish, hogfish, lobsters, crabs and shrimps.
This 325-foot steamer ran aground on Pompano Beach in 1900 but remained intact on a relatively shallow – 30 feet – bottom, until the US Navy completed its wreckage during World War II in order to prevent German U-Boats from hiding behind it.
The main highlight of this dive is certainly its anchor, fully intact and covered in colorful fan corals, in the same position it was when the Copenhagen ran aground over 120 years ago. Parrotfish, damsels, butterfly fish, queen and French angelfish swim elegantly through what is left of the old steamer, scattered over the sea bed and covered in corals. A historic and exciting Fort Lauderdale scuba diving spot!
3. Tenneco Towers
Five huge sections of an oil-production platform were sunk in 1985 by the Tenneco Oil Company to contribute to the development of the local artificial reef.
Due to the nature of these wrecks, they were quickly outgrown by all sorts of marine encrusting creatures, including hard and soft corals, and is particularly appreciated by sea animals coming here to feed and swim through the structures, such as turtles, hogfish, barracudas and shoals of smaller fish.
The depth of the platforms is about 65 feet for the shallower one, and 110 feet for the deepest: an Advanced certification is required to dive here.
4. Lady Luck
Laying at a max depth of 126 feet, approx. 1 mile SE of Hillsboro Inlet, the Lady Luck, formerly known as the Newton Creek, is the newest addition to the Fort Lauderdale Shipwreck Park.
This 324 ft long tanker, decommissioned in 2014, was sunk in 2016 and transformed into a fully equipped underwater casino where octopuses will deal your poker cards or you can play with slot machines: an unmatched photography opportunity!
5. Jay Scutti and the Wreck Trek
Three different shipwrecks in a single dive – the Jay Scutti, the Tracey and the Merci Jesus – constitute the so-called Fort Lauderdale Wreck Trek.
Expect incredible marine biodiversity, amazing swim throughs and penetration opportunities. Goliath groupers are one of the most remarkable encounters here, together with parrotfish coming to graze on the many encrustations on this beautiful series of wrecks.
6. Hammerhead Reef
For something different, try a reef dive instead of a wreck. Hammerhead Reef is a stunning deep dive, ranging between 60 and 90 feet, with an outstanding variety of marine species.
Lobsters, lionfish, parrotfish, stingrays, sea turtles and Caribbean reef sharks can be observed along this beautifully shaped reef, whose unusual structure constitutes a great underwater photography field. This is a fantastic scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale dive site.
7. Caicos Express
A special mention for technical divers only, this 188 ft long Dutch freighter lies at a maximum depth of 240 feet.
Due to its depth and location, this is not a wreck for everyone, but at the same time it is extremely fascinating and is home to dramatic views. Large groupers, barracudas, and pelagic animals usually pass by giving additional thrills.
The absolute favorite dive of many local divers, Mercedes was a 194 ft freighter that was detonated and sank in 1985, after months of agony following a powerful storm that ripped it from its anchor and left it stranded on the fancy Palm Beach coastline.
Later on, in 1992, the destructive Hurricane Andrew split the wreck into two major pieces along with a myriad of metal fragments that are today home to a spectacular artificial reef where divers can see groupers, moray eels, sea slugs and shoals of colorful tropical fish.
9. Jim Atria
Named after local scuba diving instructor Jim Atria, this shipwreck, whose original name was Poinciana, lies today at a depth of 130 feet, at the limit of recreational diving.
This Dutch freighter was actually sunk in 1987 in much shallower waters, but hurricane Andrew pushed it to its current depth. The dive is very beautiful, with penetration opportunities, and is outgrown with soft corals, oysters and microorganisms which attract shoals of fish and occasional pelagic animals.
10. Hall of Fame
With a depth ranging from 15 to 30 feet, the Fort Lauderdale Hall of Fame is a snorkeler’s paradise, but a very popular scuba dive as well, both for novice and experienced divers.
It’s suitable for a second or third dive in the day. The shallow depth allows great bottom times, and the mild current allows for a slow pace and thorough exploration of the reef, which has a high concentration of numerous different marine species.