Shipwreck snorkeling Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary

Shipwreck snorkeling in Florida Keys Marine Snorkeling offers you and your family the opportunity swimming in amazing coral gardens as well as exploring maritime heritage resources. Combine beach fun with history, visit these interesting ancient wreckage!

Shipwreck snorkeling in Florida Keys

The Sunshine State is a popular destination among travelers. Pleasant weather conditions and abundant marine life make Florida a top water sport destination in the world!

Florida’s best snorkel beaches offer activities for all types of underwater explorers: you can discover vibrant coral gardens while snorkeling in Key West or swimming with manatees, but the clear waters of Florida Keys feature not only vibrant healthy reefs but also several shipwrecks.

In total, there is an estimated 1000 wreckage around the coast of Florida Keys. Most of them are still undiscovered, rest in deeper waters or are buried in the sand. There are many wrecks that are accessible for divers only, but luckily, some of them can be found in shallow water making them perfect for shipwreck snorkeling in the Florida Keys!

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Conservationists realized early that the sensitive underwater ecosystem needs protection. Their efforts were successful and a meeting held in 1957 resulted in founding the world first underwater park, the John Pennekamp Coral State Park.

Later on, further areas were designated as ‘protected’. Finally, in 1990 Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary was established expanding the sanctuary for the waters surrounding the entire Florida Keys. The 2800 square nautical mile area includes the Florida barrier reef system, mangrove forests and seagrass fields.

The 5 best shipwreck snorkeling spots Florida Keys

In the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary there is a Shipwreck Trail with 9 wrecks altogether. 5 of the 9 wrecks are in 25 feet of water or less offering superb conditions for shipwreck snorkeling in Florida!

  • Adelaide Baker
  • The City of Washington
  • The North America
  • The San Pedro
  • Benwood

The first four shipwrecks broke up long time ago, so their areas are basically wreckage fields. The fifth, The Benwood is in a very good condition and the most intact of them.. It is a bit deeper (25-40 feet) but if the conditions are good and the water is clear, it is also visible from the surface.

Tip: should you look for more interesting spots to go snorkeling in Florida, check out our Peanut Island snorkeling and Phil Foster Park snorkel trail articles too!

Adelaide Baker shipwreck

This shallow water wreck just 4 miles southeast of Duck Key, near Marathon Florida is a popular place for shipwreck snorkeling in Florida. The Adelaide Baker sank in 1889 near Coffins Patches Reef and she rests today in 20 ft of water.

The wreck site is divided into two areas and the debris field covers more than 1440 ft area. The first location is where the Adelaide Baker wrecked, while the second area includes the material that was removed from the ship during the salvage.

Adelaide Baker wreck
Adelaide Baker wreck

Beautiful coral and sea life settled on and around the ship remain including gorgonians and different kind of tropical fish like rainbow parrotfish or angelfish.

City of Washington shipwreck

The City of Washington was a cargo ship operating between Cuba, Mexico and New York. She served as a troops carrier during the Spanish-American War, finally was used for coal transportation. In 1917, she sank on Elbow Reef near Key Largo.

Her remains lie in 16-30 ft of water (5-9 m) and are in pretty good condition. Expect to find here vibrant coral reefs and, shoals of playful young fish as well as barracudas and eels. Sometimes even nurse sharks and turtles can be spotted!

North America shipwreck

The 112 ft long wreckage of the North America lies in just 14 ft deep water north of Delta Shoals. Although the biggest part of the ship is buried beneath the sand, the North America offers one of the most interesting shipwreck snorkeling in Florida Keys and is the most popular in the Shipwreck Trail.

North America wreck
North America wreck

The shallow water and excellent visibility make the North America an enjoyable dive and snorkel site. While exploring around the wood hull, barrels and planks, you can observe a wide variety of fish such as wrasses, grunts and yellow-tails.

San Pedro shipwreck

Located near Indian Key, the oldest wreck of the Shipwreck Trail, the Spanish San Pedro sank in a hurricane in 1733. The remains of the ship including dense stones and ballast rest in 18 ft of water.

San Pedro shipwreck Florida
San Pedro shipwreck Florida

The San Pedro became an Underwater Archaeological Preserve and an anchor, cannons and bronze plaque were added to make the site more enjoyable and attract more divers and snorkelers.

Benwood shipwreck

This Norwegian marine freighter collided with another ship and wrecked between Dixie Shoals and French Reef in 1942. Although it lies in deeper water, the Benwood is considered one of the best shipwreck snorkeling in Florida thanks to the good condition of the wreck and rich marine life around.

Benwood Shipwreck snorkeling
Benwood Shipwreck snorkeling

The wreck became an excellent artificial reef that gives shelter to marine species like moray eels and turtles, but often eagle rays, manta rays and different shark species visit the site too!

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florida keys shipwreck snorkeling trail

Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!