Florida’s Spookiest Dive Sites
We are getting thrillingly close to the year’s scariest holiday, and we hope you’ll celebrate the spirit of Halloween with us by taking on one of these spectacularly spooky dives. Here we’ve listed the most spine-chilling, goosebump-worthy dive sites all over Florida that may just make you pee your wetsuit. Let’s dive in (and don’t forget your dive buddy!).
9. Hunting the Meg
Grab your pirate costume and suit up for a super spooky treasure hunt. Situated on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Venice is our Number Nine Spookiest Dive Site. Venice just so happens to be the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World”, but it’s not just a plethora of little sharks’ teeth you’ll find here, you could find the big one—the tooth of a megalodon. The megalodon is recorded as the largest shark that ever lived, and when you’re holding a tooth nearly twice the size of your hand, you can understand why the name megalodon means “big tooth”. We totally understand if you just watched the movie The Meg and feel a little nervous about diving in the water, but the best way to find these large teeth is by diving a little further offshore. Luckily, October is a great time to dive this location since the Gulf water tends to be clearer now than it is in summer, making it a bit easier to spot your fossilized treasure in the sand. Of course, the whole family can jump in on this adventure. You can snorkel right along the shoreline looking for teeth or even sift through the sand on the beach and find quite a few. As a tip, the morning low tide is the best time to beachcomb for teeth. It’s quite an experience to pick up a tooth out of the sand while diving and realize the enormous size of the creature that could be lurking... just... behind you!
8. Joe’s Tug
Halloween isn’t all about heart-racing scares and ghost stories, it’s about playful mischief and the “trick” part of trick-or-treat as well. Joe’s Tug’s history is all about mischief and mystery. In fact, Joe’s Tug is actually not a tug at all, but a 75-foot steel-hulled shrimper that sunk in the Key West harbor. She was refloated and was scheduled to go to Miami to serve as an artificial reef. Quite mysteriously though, the night before she was due to leave port for Miami, someone stole her (some locals still believe it was a group of pirates), though these mischievous thieves didn’t make it far when the shrimper sank in 65-feet of water off the coast of Key West. Her structure remains upright with much of her body intact, making for an eerie exploration of this mysterious wreck site. Whether this was a prankish bit of mischief or piracy gone wrong, this site has a fascinating history and can be explored by divers of all levels.
7. SS Benwood
If you’d like a good scare and you’re in the Key Largo area, then diving the SS Benwood would likely make your arm hair stand straight up. Oh, did we mention you can dive this site at night? While many of Florida’s wrecks are intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef, the SS Benwood went down after colliding with another boat, the Robert C. Tuttle, in the middle of the night. It’s actually rather mysterious how it all happened. The two boats saw each other as a “black object” nearby and signaled to each other the direction they’d go to prevent collision. For whatever reason, the signals were neither seen nor heard by either boat, causing the SS Benwood to run into the port side bow of the Robert C. Tuttle. She now sits in 25-45 feet of water off the coast of Key Largo, and divers of all levels and even snorkelers can observe the scattered skeleton of the SS Benwood. Though beware—when you’re out on a night dive at this chilling location, the sea turtles are quite mischievous here and love to sneak up and spook those who dare enter.
6. Empire Mica
If you’re closer to the Florida panhandle, then the Empire Mica is a fascinating wreck to explore with a sad and spine-chilling history. This British tanker currently sits in 105-feet of water near Cape San Blas, but when she was afloat during World War II, she carried fuel for the Royal Air Force. In late June of 1942, she was attacked by a German U-Boat, and the two torpedoes that penetrated her port side caused a series of explosions that would result in the Empire Mica drifting eerily along the sea, burning continuously for 24 hours. 33 of the 47 crew members lost their lives in the attack. The Empire Mica is a casualty of our most recent World War, so dive respectfully about her skeleton—or else!
5. Diepolder II Cave
Just approaching the Diepolder II dive site might give you the creeps since the area looks like the setting for a 1980’s horror movie… but the thrill doesn’t end there. Even those who deep dive the ocean frequently can find a bit of heart-racing fear in the Diepolder II Cave, the deepest cave in the continental U.S. The cave reaches an impressive depth of 360-feet and connects to its sister cave, the Diepolder III, which reaches 300-feet. Located just north of Tampa near Brooksville, Florida, this dive is not for everybody. In fact, it’s so dangerous and terrifying that divers who wish to enter must show proof of over 100 cave dives previously and have a cave dive certification. Oh, and even if you have all the qualifications to make this dive, divers aren’t allowed to go alone. Only a few divers can explore at a time and must be led by a trained guide through the caves. There is certainly something to be said for a dive to be so spooky, no one, not even the best divers, are allowed to make the journey alone.
4. Shark Diving… At Night?!?!
If you thought Number Nine on our Spooky Dive countdown was scary, or if the movie Jaws really messed with your head as a kid, then you’ll definitely get a thrill out of our Number Four Spookiest Dive—shark diving in Jupiter, Florida. If you’re new to the world of shark diving, we recommend you take a trip during the daytime hours to get more familiarized with these toothy critters with adequate light. But if you’ve been on quite a few shark dives and want to amp up the adrenaline, some charters will take you out for a shark dive submerged completely in the dark. Having a shark sneak up on you from total darkness may just be the Halloween thrill you’re looking for. Don’t worry, sharks don’t really like the taste of humans… though, they may make an exception for you.
3. SS Gulf America
Number Three on our list of Florida’s Spookiest Dive Spots goes to a wreck dive with some ghostly history. Just off the coast of Jacksonville Beach sits the SS Gulf America. This tanker has a similar story to our Number Six dive in that it was carrying over 100,000 barrels of furnace oil when it was attacked by a German submarine in 1942, only two months prior to the attack on the Empire Mica. The torpedo that struck the SS Gulf America set it immediately ablaze in a raging fire that could be seen for miles along the coast. Nineteen lives were lost in the attack, and the few survivors were later rescued from the water by the US Coast Guard. Many divers who explore this area report strange phenomena while on their dive. Odd lights and eerie sounds in the sea have led some to believe that this particular dive site may be haunted. Even people on shore say they’ve seen some strange things on the horizon on the anniversary of the Gulf America’s sinking. There’s only one way to find out if it really is haunted by the spirits of those who passed—go dive in and explore the site for yourself. And to offer some paranormal advice before your dive, always approach humbly and reverently, for spirits do not like visits from unruly divers.
2. Neptune Memorial Reef
If you’re easily spooked by spirits, the last place you want to be on Halloween is a cemetery… but, as a diver, there sure is something alluring about an underwater cemetery. Roughly three miles off the coast of Miami sits the largest man-made reef in the world and the first underwater cemetery and memorial park. The Neptune Memorial Reef covers 16 acres of seafloor and was made to be a final resting place for the cremated remains of over 100,000 loved ones. When you visit highly haunted cities like New Orleans and Savannah, the ghost tours always take you through the old decrepit graveyards in town, so it’s no surprise to anyone that cemeteries are abundantly alive with paranormal activity. While there are no scheduled underwater ghost tours at this time, you can tour the Neptune Memorial Reef yourself and feel the hair-raising chills of such a uniquely eerie experience.
1. Ginnie Springs
Our Number One Spookiest Dive Site is not only the scariest site on our list, having been explored by paranormal investigators, but could also paradoxically be a family-fun getaway for a Halloween celebration. With a large and inviting campground, the park is a great place to gather overnight with friends and family, telling ghost stories by the campfire and making s’mores and jack-o-lanterns. Located off the Santa Fe River in High Springs, Florida, Ginnie Springs is a group of six springs that are interconnected through a series of caves. Once you arrive at the springs, you may find that the immense beauty of the site couldn’t possibly be considered spooky—though, it’s quite deceitfully gorgeous. When looking at the surface, you see kids playing and people relaxing and having fun on floats and paddleboards, and some of the clearest water imaginable. Though her beauty can hardly hide the dark depths of her past which has claimed the lives of dozens of divers. There are conflicting reports of how many lives have been lost within the caves, though these springs hold one of the highest numbers of cave-diving deaths in Florida, and Florida is already known for having the highest cave-diving fatalities in the country by far. The main maze of creepy caves are in the Little Devil’s Eye and Devil’s Ear that make up part of the springs. The Devil’s Spring System, as it’s also called, is an intricate webbing of tiny crevices that divers have squeezed through to explore for more than 50 years, many of which took their last breaths in these caves. Some divers have said that they’ve felt disoriented on their dive due to something that feels like a vortex, and many believe that that vortex could be the spirit of a long lost diver still seeking help back to the surface. So, if you’re looking for a spooky site to dive for Halloween, Ginnie Springs is the Number One Spooky Florida Dive for a thrill that could follow you into your nightmares.
Written by Amy Baldacci