From popular shipwrecks, flooded mines and hidden coastal gems you may not even know of – exploring these dive sites is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. And, when you have your private pilot’s license, you can jet-off to these destinations whenever you get the itch to don your flippers, goggles and air tank, and adventure into exciting underwater seascapes.
So let’s get started! Here are 10 unreal diving destinations in the U.S. that we think you’ll love.
1) Channel Islands, California
Nearest Airport: Santa Barbara Airport (KSBA)
Located to the north of Los Angeles off the coast of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands offer some of the best places to dive on the West Coast. Rich in wildlife, divers are likely to see anything from sea lions to dolphins to giant eels and sea bass at diving spots throughout this eight-island archipelago. Five of the eight Channel Islands make up the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary, meaning divers can experience untouched underwater landscapes year round.
2) Presque Isle, Michigan
Nearest Airport: Presque Isle County Airport (KPZQ)
For advanced divers, head to Presque Isle in Lake Michigan, home to the best technical diving opportunities in the Great Lakes. Because the stretch of coastline only has a few lighthouses, the waters have claimed at least 75 ships – from almost completely in-tact schooners to massive steamers. Here, the wreck diving possibilities, many in waters with 50-feet of visibility or more, are nearly endless.
3) Wreck of the SPAR, North Carolina
Nearest Airport: Coastal Carolina Regional Airport (EWN)
The US Coast Guard SPAR ship enjoyed a long career before being decommissioned and purposefully sunk in 2004 to form an artificial reef off the coast of Morehead City. Known as a popular spot for Sand Tiger Sharks, Divers are almost guaranteed to see between five and 20 sharks. The 180 feet long and 37 feet wide Spar sits on its site at a 45-degree angle in 100 feet of water and is completely intact, allowing many opportunities for a diver to penetrate the wreck.
4) Blue Heron Bridge, Florida
Nearest Airport: Palm Beach International Airport (IPB)
The Blue Heron Bridge is widely considered one of the top all-around diving destination in the U.S., and was voted the best shore-diving experience in the country. With a wide variety of wildlife, quick and simple shore entry, and months of tropical warm water from late spring until late fall, divers are sure to have a wonderful time here. Located on the Intracoastal Waterway inside Phil Foster Park, divers will see rock formations, reef balls, mini wrecks and statues of hammerhead sharks, as well as wildlife that ranges from angelfish and octopus to manatees, spotted eagle rays, seahorses and much more.
5) Cuyana Recreation Area, Minnesota
Nearest Airport: Princeton Municipal Airport (KPNM)
Only 150 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul, you’ll find Cuyana Recreation Area, home to some of the best freshwater mine diving in the Midwest. Divers here will experience underwater forests with centuries-old trees and diverse wildlife, and with 40-feet of underwater visibility, you can witness it all. One of the most visited sites in the area is the Crosby Mines, providing fantastic visibility and a warm water temperature of around 70 degrees during the warm seasons.
7) Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Texas
Nearest Airport: Laseair Airport (8TA4)
Known for its various types of coral, the vividly colored, unspoiled landscape, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in Texas is a must-see for any diving enthusiast. Located only 100 miles south of Sabine Pass, the offshore reef at this sanctuary is perfect for an overnight stay, giving visitors plenty of time to explore all the habitats the area has to offer.
8) San Diego Wreck Alley, California
Nearest Airport: Brown Field Airport (KSDM)
One of the best wreck diving destinations in America is just off the coast of Mission Beach, San Diego, California with a series of ships intentionally sunk as artificial reefs, perfect for underwater exploring. There’s also plenty of macro marine life to be seen, especially on the wrecks, where divers will see plenty of white meridians, red strawberry anemones, wolf eels, moray eels, loads of blacksmith and baitfish, lingcod.
9) Bonne Terre Mine, Missouri
Nearest Airport: Bonne Terre Airport (1BT)
This once active mine is now a diver’s paradise, claiming the title of largest freshwater diving venue in the world. Once the resources dried up in this iron-ore mine, water slowly flooded the three square miles of tunnels, leaving behind the dive site that’s there today. Guides lead divers through 24 paths, where you’ll see the iconic elevator shaft, ore carts, and of course, picks and shovels scattered throughout the caves. Additionally, you can go through the machine shop, geology lab, offices, a movie theater that once played safety films and locker room, that were left in the same condition as when the mine was abandoned. The best part, however, may be how close the airport is to the mines – just a five-minute drive away!
10) Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine
Nearest Airport: Lubec Municipal Airport (65B)
Those with a hearty appetite for cold-water diving and a thick wetsuit can head to Passamaquoddy Bay in Maine, a hidden gem that very few people know about, and is essentially the “British Columbia of the East Coast”. Legendary 25 foot tidal ranges pack currents that reach up to 12 knots, filtering rich nutrients throughout the environment, which have created some of the most gorgeous coral reefs on the east coast.
Do You Want to Reach the Most Beautiful Diving Spots in the U.S.?
Whether you’re someone that wants to learn to fly or a certified pilot that wants to further their education, Inflight Pilot Training can help you gain the freedom to explore the amazing diving destinations on this list, and anywhere else you wish to go. We are a leading flight instruction company serving Minneapolis, St. Paul and the surrounding areas. With a reputable training program and an extensive roster of highly skilled, certified flight instructors, we can give you the freedom to fly to the greatest destinations in the country. For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.