Florida Panhandle Coast



Located in Destin, Florida, this is a shallow site just off the beach. To get there, look for Gulf Shore Drive off of Hwy 98. Follow Gulf Shore Drive past the S curve. There you will see a sign that says O’Steen Public Beach Access.

Find a parking spot close to that. It will not be easy. Parking is on the right side of the street here along the marina. It is all parallel parking, so on busy days it is essential to arrive early. If you arrive early enough to park right near the beach access, you will still have quite a walk ahead of you. It will take about 10 minutes to get to the jetties at a normal pace without gear on. Add a few more minutes with a tank on your back. The dark horizontal line in the center of the photograph below is the jetties from about 200′ into the sand from the road.

It’s important to check the tide charts. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and choose East Pass for the Destin Jetties. Conditions can be rough outside of slack tide. During slack tide, however, you can find decent conditions and see lots of aquatic life along the rocks.

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Located in the St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, this can be a pretty decent shore diving site. Parking is available very close to the water and there is a large pavilion with tables right next to the parking lot. There are also showers available to rinse off after the dive. Oh, and let’s not forget the dive shop located on site and the restrooms/changing rooms. You couldn’t ask for better amenities!

The process is simple, park you car, change into your wet suit (you can use the changing rooms next to the dive shop), gear up at a table under the pavilion, and walk up the steps over the dune to the beach. It’s a few quick steps over the sand before you’re in the water. The area between the beach and the jetty is pretty shallow – only about 5′ at its deepest. This is a good place to do your pre-dive check. Once that’s done, inflate your BC and swim over the top of the submerged rocks of the jetty (you can see where they disappear in the 2nd photo below). Here you can drop down to a bottom at about 35′. If you head north (to the left), you’ll get shallow pretty quickly. If you head south (to your right), you’ll reach a max depth of about 70′. Heading straight out just gives you sand to look out, so we recommend just swimming along the jetty. There is a lot of aquatic life living along the rocks of the jetty. Take your time swimming around and looking in all the nooks.

Remember to bring a dive flag. It is a requirement. Also, this is a pass, so you will hear boat motors constantly. If you stay along the rocks, you should be pretty safe. The boats don’t like the rocks. However, when we were there once, we were floating on the surface talking before the dive and a boater did come over to check on us and make sure everything was okay. I guess it’s not normal for divers to hang out on the surface there! Again, remember to check the tide tables for the St. Andrew Bay channel entrance.

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We did this dive as a training dive for an open water student, so no camera or photos available. The wreck sits buried in the sand in about 70′ of water. Being that we were limited to open water standards, we went no deeper than 60′, so the depth is an estimate. What appears to be the stern of the boat is probably a few feet deeper than 70′ while the bow is in about 65′ of water. Visibility the day we were there was in the 25′ range. There was lots of life on the boat, including amber jacks, angelfish, wrasse, grouper, and even a remora! We didn’t see its host shark, though. Sand runs right up to the top of the port side of the wreck, with the starboard side having a few feet exposed. There was a slight current at this site. We will try to head back to this site sometime in the future and bring a camera with us.

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This is another dive we did during a class, this time for Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures. There are several bridge spans that were sunk as artificial reefs out in the gulf in the Panama City area. They range in size from 100 to 200 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 35 feet or so tall. Most of them lie in water 50-90 feet deep. We went out to one where we could get to about 90 feet at the sand. There’s lots of life on these artificial reefs. Many Panama City area divers use these dive sites to spear fish because of the abundance of life on them.

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