Pensacola Area Beach Dives
The Pensacola area has some great places where you don’t need a boat to go diving. These sites listed below all can be done by driving to the location and doing a classic shore dive or snorkel. In general you would want to dive in the gulf side (except Ft. Pickens) as the visibility is much better than the bay side. Don’t forget to bring your dive flag and stay close to it as some site do have boat traffic.
Location: Public Beach Access #1 on Sandy Key Dr. off of Johnson’s Beach Rd, Perdido Key
The Perdido Key Reef was built in 2014 and is comprised of 24 modules of Ecosystem by Reefmaker artificial reef modules made in Gulf Shores, AL. The are constructed by attaching concrete disc covered with limestone to fiberglass pilings which are driven into the sand. The rows are 20′-25′ apart and extend about 280′. The depth is roughly 10′-15′ with the reef modules sitting approximately 6′-8′ below the surface. The artificial reef serves as a habitat for many species of tropical fish. Sea turtles are commonly spotted resting in the sand under and around the reef modules.
Location: Just before entrance to Fort Pickens Park on Fort Pickens Road. Located in Pensacola Bay, it should be easy to spot the large pylons that mark corners of the reef area.
The Park West Reef consist of various size concrete reef balls and other concrete structures which attract a wide array of small tropical marine life. The site is very easy to locate because the corners of the reef are marked by large pylons which stand well above the water line. The pylons are exactly 100′ apart and make up a square. The depth is roughly 8′-14′ with the reef balls sitting approximately 6′-8′ below the surface. Because of the location in Pensacola Bay, visibility is generally in the 5-10′ range but can be over 15-20′ when conditions are right. This site is generally not subject to strong currents because of it’s location.
Location: 5 miles east of Casino Beach on Pensacola Beach, Parking Lot H
The Park East Reef was built in 2011 and is comprised of 19 pairs (38 modules) of Ecosystem by Reefmaker artificial reef modules made in Gulf Shores, AL. The are constructed by attaching concrete disc covered with limestone to fiberglass pilings which are driven into the sand. The rows are 20-25′ apart and extend about 500′ into the gulf out to the 2nd sand bar. The depth is roughly 10-15′ with the top of reef modules sitting approximately 6-10′ below the surface.
Location: Gulf Islands National Seashore on Pensacola Beach, Fort Pickens
The Ft. Pickens Jetties are one of the most popular shore diving sites in the Florida Panhandle. This site is easily accessible from the north seawall steps west of the fishing pier. This aquatic preserve holds a great deal of marine life including Grouper, Snapper, Flounder, Guitarfish, Sheepshead, Red Drum, Stargazer, Porcupine Puffer Fish, and many more. The rocks also serve as a nursery habitat for many species of tropical fish. Gobies, Blennies, Damselfish, Jawfish, and more are prominent residents.
Location: About 100 yards north of Park West Reef near Fort Pickens
The Bob Quarles Reef consist of 270 tons of concrete material from the Gulf Breeze Fishing Pier bridge decking placed on top of BP concrete anchors creating a large artificial reef area. The reef is located about 200-250 yards from shore directly off of the Park West Reef area near the entrance to Fort Pickens.
Location: Navarre Beach
The Gulf site is located in the Gulf of Mexico 2,000ft east of the fishing pier directly south of the Sea Oat pavilion (look for the dive flag on the pavilion). This is the furthest southeast parking area of the park. Follow the boardwalk to the beach and immediately head east approximately 100ft. The site is marked (on shore only) by two large posts positioned on the sand dune. The site is 340ft south of the mean tide line and consists of 30 structures in three columns of ten spaced 20ft apart and is ideal for snorkeling and diving for any skill level. The site is immediately beyond the second sand bar. Depths range from 9-15ft with tops at 6-10ft below the surface. Visibility ranges from 5-30ft depending on sea conditions. The site is adjacent to the public swimming beach. Expect to see a wide variety of marine life to include turtles and stingrays.
Location: Ft. Pickens 30 18.710’N and 87 15.940’W
The Catherine was a three-masted ship built in Canada in 1869 and restored in 1870 under the name Eliza. She was nearly 200 feet long and over 30 feet in beam. The ship was originally named Eliza and quickly sold to the British as a merchant ship using the name Carnarvonshire for about 20 years. She was sold to a Norwegian firm in 1890 and continued as a merchant vessel, but under the new name of Cathrine.