Pensacola diving is extensive, thanks largely in part to the area shipwrecks. This Florida Panhandle destination is too far north to boast coral, though the numerous ships that have sunk in the region more than pick up the slack. They serve as artificial reefs, attracting all kinds of marine creatures, such as loggerhead turtles and large pelagic fish. When you're not diving in Pensacola, you can always go snorkeling, and you might even bring your own snorkeling equipment along for the trip. There are some especially good sites off some of the more pristine area beaches.
A number of dive operators can be found in Pensacola, and they offer services for all levels. Beginners can start studying at home to cut down on the time that it will take them to get an open water license once they arrive, while certified divers can immediately take to the area waters on any number of fun adventures. Wreck diving is the most popular kind of diving in Pensacola, and it involves diving down to a submerged watercraft of some kind.
Two of the best Pensacola wreck dive sites are the USS Oriskany site and the USS Massachusetts site. The USS Oriskany is actually the largest artificial reef in the world. A former aircraft carrier, it rests more than 200 feet below the water's surface, so you'll have to be an experienced diver to visit it. You can find the USS Oriskany about 22 miles offshore from Pensacola. The USS Massachusetts, which was formerly a Navy battleship, is located just three miles offshore and sits only thirty feet deep, making it much easier to access.
There are more than 30 artificial reef sites in the Pensacola region, so you will have no shortage of good spots to explore. If you prefer to go snorkeling instead, numerous boat charter companies in the area offer fun excursions, and you are encouraged to consider protected beach areas such as those that can be found in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. You can get a map that highlights good snorkeling spots once you arrive at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Another idea when it comes to snorkeling near Pensacola is the Fort Pickens Park area. Near the historic fort on Santa Rosa Island, there are jetties that are fun to inspect.
A number of dive shops are found in Pensacola and nearby communities such as Pensacola Beach and Gulf Breeze. As such, visitors to the area should have little trouble arranging lessons or dive excursions. Equipment rentals are also offered by the area shops, and should you wish, you can inquire about scuba trips that include other activities. Most of the dive operators in the Pensacola region can also take you fishing if nothing else, and this is surely one great fishing destination.
As a side note, anyone who is doing some inshore diving in and around Pensacola can expect water visibility to be around 30 to 50 feet deep. Heading offshore, the visibility is typically around 100 feet, especially if you are at least 25 miles out. May through October, which is the peak Pensacola travel season, is the best time to go diving, though you can enjoy the pursuit year round.