UPPER KEYS DIVING
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
No diving trip to the Keys would be complete without a day (or three) exploring the waters of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, where divers can experience the colorful, living coral reef and see the famous Christ of the Abyss, an 8.5-foot-tall replica of the bronze cast of Jesus Christ in the Mediterranean sea, submerged offshore in about 25 feet of water. Scuba diving tours and rentals are available directly through the park.
Molasses Reef, about six miles from Key Largo, is known for its abundance of living coral and tropical fish. Divers here may also come face to face with massive goliath grouper, a physically imposing yet harmless and critically endangered species. The reef’s vibrant marine life and ease of access make it one of the top dive and snorkel locations in the Keys. Several dive shops, including Sea Dwellers Dive Center, offer guided dives to Molasses Reef from Key Largo.
One mile south of Molasses Reef lie the Duane, a United States Coast Guard cutter and a top wreck dive for advanced divers. The 327-foot vessel, rich in U.S. military history in times of both war and peace, rests upright in 120 feet of water. In the 1980s, prior to its sinking in 1987, the Duane served to bring Cuban refugees numbering in the thousands to Florida. Divers can spot the mast at 60 feet, the superstructure deck at 90 feet, and the main deck at 100 feet. Trips to see the Duane are available with Sea Dwellers Dive Center.