Featured Dive Sites

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Panama City, Florida Dive Sites

 

Panama City, Florida is the premier wreck diving destination in the United States.

Thanks to Danny Grizzard local NAUI Instructor (3550) who spent years laying the foundation for our active, ongoing artificial reef program. Panama City has over 300 wrecks, artificial reefs and natural bottom spots. Our coastal waters are also home to six of the twelve wrecks dedicated to the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. Highlighted below are some of our most visited dive sites.

Dive site locations are described as Inshore 0-7 miles from St. Andrews Pass with depth ranges from 12- 75 feet.  These are our most booked and popular sites for both instructors with open water students and certified divers who hold open water certification cards, Offshore trips are deeper dives with depths of 80 – 110 feet typically booked by Instructors with advanced students and those divers holding Nitrox and advanced certifications. Extended Offshore trips are specialty  dive sites 20 + miles. These dives are for skilled, advanced certified divers with Nitrox certifications.  All day trips and are usually booked well in advance. Call if you have any questions about booking a trip. (850) 851-8944

Check out some of our featured dive sites below.

 

 Panama City’s newest artificial reef, the El Dorado. Sunk May 3, 2019

Photo courtesy of Danny Grizzard

 

Photo by: Rosanne Weglinski

El Dorado was beached and abandoned after Hurricane Michael in 2018 and is now at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico making her Florida’s newest artificial reef.

Local dive shops and charter boats and government offices came together to sink the 157-foot-long, 300-ton casino boat in early May 2019. This wreck is in the offshore range of dive sites and is a fun dive with easy swim throughs and a resident goliath grouper!

The boat’s owner donated the El Dorado to become an artificial reef. This move helped create new habitat and will help replace some of the artificial reefs damaged by the recent storms.

The El Dorado’s final resting place is 29°58’55.0″N 85°50’57.0″W. Top of the wreck is 63-feet deep, with the bottom at 103.

The FAMI Tugs

Dedicated to the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail.  The “Twin Tugs or Two Tugs,” as they’re often known, are a pair of tugboats that were sunk by the Florida Aquatic Marine & Institute, Inc., (FAMI) July 10-11, 2003. The tugs were surplus Navy ships and part of a fleet of four vessels abandoned by a defunct corporation in a Panama City-area bayou. The vessels – 85 and 95 feet long – rest at a depth of about 100 feet, and are 11 miles from the St. Andrew Bay pass. Location 29° 58.132’ N  085° 51.259’ W

 

The Black Bart

Originally christened as the Vulcano del Golfo in the 1970s, the Black Bart was an offshore oilfield supply ship that was one of the first vessels to be sunk in 1993 as part of the local artificial reef program. It was renamed the Black Bart in honor of Charles “Black Bart” Bartholomew, who served as the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) commanding officer from 1977-1980 and later as the director of ocean engineering and supervisor of salvage (SUPSALV) in Washington, D.C. Dedicated to the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. The ship is 185 feet long and rests upright in about 80 feet of water. The top of the ship rises to a depth of about 55 feet, which makes it a prime location for open water certification of student divers.

Location 30 03.648’ N  085 49.433’ W

 

USS Strength

The 184-foot Strength was built in a Seattle shipyard in 1943 and commissioned in 1944. She was decommissioned in the late 1960s but still was useful to the Navy, which sank and refloated her many times as a training hulk for Navy salvage divers in Panama City Beach. She was sent to the bottom for the last time in 1987 during an explosive test performed by the Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center. Now one of 6 local wrecks dedicated to the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail.  She settled on her side in 76 feet of water but was later righted by Hurricane Opal in 1995. Her average depth is 72 feet; hurricanes worked to separate her bow from the rest of the ship, allowing divers to swim between the two sections.

 

USS Accokeek

Dedicated to the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. This powerful, 143-foot tug began its service life in 1944 in Orange, Texas, and roamed the planet as a fleet tug hauling damaged ships in for maintenance. She served in the Pacific, crossed the Panama Canal, worked in Lake Michigan and in places as geographically diverse as Newfoundland and the South Atlantic. In 1987, she, too, was given over to the Navy’s diving school in Panama City Beach for salvage and ordinance training. After being repeatedly sunk and refloated, the Accokeek was stuffed with explosives and sunk for the last time in 2000 at a depth of 100 feet.

 

USS Chippewa

Built in South Carolina and launched in 1942, the 205-foot U.S. Navy tugboat USS Chippewa was once the fastest vessel of its kind. She performed towing and salvage duty from the Caribbean to Newfoundland and laid mooring buoys in Casablanca. She was retired in 1961 and handed off to the Navy’s Experimental Dive Unit for explosive tests in 1989. In 1990, the Chippewa was sunk using 37 explosive charges and today sits upright on the bottom in 100 feet of water. Dedicated to the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail.

 

VAMAR

Also known as the “Lumberboat” was built in 1919 in Middleboro England. She was 170 feet long, 30 feet wide and was powered by a steam engine. Admiral Byrd purchase this vessel in the late 1920’s and renamed the vessel Eleanor Bolling after his mother. The vessel was used to carry supplies between New Zealand and Byrd’s Antarctic base “Little America” After the expedition was terminated she was purchased by the Vamar Shipping Company. She was used as a cargo vessel to run supplies from port to port along the Gulf Coast. On March 21, 1942 she capsized in heavy weather and sank in 25 feet of water just offshore of Mexico Beach.  After all these years it still has photo opportunities with the stack and frames visible on good days. *Note Hurricane Michael recently devastated this area and we have no recent reports as to this sites condition.

GPS Coordinates for local sites listed below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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