Best Panama City Beach Dive Sites
Panama City Beach features some of the most amazing dive sites on the Gulf Coast. From the freshly sunk pleasure cruiser El Dorado to the historic SS Tarpon, there’s plenty to see under the sea down in PCB. Without further ado, here’s our list of the best Panama City Beach dive sites (aka featured sites) from shallowest to deepest.
St Andrew’s Park Jetties Dive Site – Shore Dive
Shore diving in Panama City Beach starts with the St Andrew’s Park Jetties for good reasons. It’s a short walk from the parking lot to the beach, and soon you’re in the water. The beach-side is shallow, with no boat traffic. Make sure you bring your dive flag if you cross over to the channel side. You’ll find plenty of tropical fish living in the rocks of the jetties. The visibility and current are much better during high slack tide, which is the ideal time for this dive. St Andrew’s Park jetties are also one of the best places for snorkeling in Panama City Beach.
Llcat Hovercraft Dive Site – Depth 74′
A 100′ long Navy hovercraft sank in 1985. The twin aluminum pontoons are still in good shape and rise 10′ off the ocean floor. Although the hovercraft is unusual, it probably wouldn’t be a feature dive site, except it’s so close to the Black Bart. It’s still fun to swim laps around the structure and float up and down the stairs.
USS Strength Dive Site – Depth 77′
A 184′ long Navy minesweeper tender with a 33′ beam sunk in 1987 as a dive salvage training site. Storms broke the bow, and it lays off the port side of the wreck. The rest of the boat remains intact and sits upright, rising 20′ off the bottom.
The Black Bart Dive Site- Depth 79′
The Black Bart is a 180′ vessel sunk in 1993 as an artificial reef. Christened Vulcano del Golfo in 1977, the site commemorates Charles’ Black Bart’ Bartholomew, Navy Supervisor of Salvage Captain, who died while diving off Panama City Beach in 1990. His exploits include heading up the recovery of the Space Shuttle Challenger and leading the Navy’s cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which is poetic since the Black Bart is an oil rig supply ship.
The structure of this site makes it extraordinary. At 40′ down, divers can investigate the wheelhouse. The deck is at 66′ down with entrances into the cargo holds. The ship’s head (toilet) sits outside the wreck on the sand replete with a jovial skull. There’s also plenty of sealife coming to visit from the nearby Warsaw Reef.