Panama City Beach is a paradise for divers and snorkelers, and it's no wonder National Geographic named the Emerald Coast one of the 10 best places to travel. With its crystal clear waters, abundant marine life, and dozens of artificial and natural reefs, there's plenty to explore beneath the waves. From the recently sunken pleasure cruise ship El Dorado to the historic SS Tarpon, there are plenty of underwater wonders to discover. The SS Tarpon is a particularly noteworthy wreck.
This 220-foot tugboat from World War II tragically sank in 1937, taking the lives of 18 crew members. However, one crew member, Adley Baker, miraculously survived by swimming 9 miles to shore in hurricane-force winds. The SS Tarpon is now part of the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, which consists of 12 unique shipwrecks along the coast. The city of Atlantis is another popular destination for divers. Located a little further out towards Mexico, this underwater city is home to a variety of wrecks and reefs.
The 110-foot Grey Ghost, the 160-foot Chippewa freighter, and a 441-foot Liberty ship from World War II are just a few examples. Closer to shore, there are more than 50 artificial reefs, ships, barges and hundreds of natural limestone reefs. The USS Accokeek is another popular dive site. This powerful 143-foot tugboat began its life in 1944 in Orange, Texas and served in the Pacific, crossed the Panama Canal, worked on Lake Michigan and in places as geographically diverse as Newfoundland and the South Atlantic. In 1987 it was handed over to the Navy's diving school in Panama City Beach for rescue and artillery training. The Vulcano del Golfo is another notable dive site.
Named after Bartolomé “Black Bart” de Charles, the Navy's supervising rescue captain who died while diving on the beach in Panama City in 1990, this site commemorates his memory. Other popular dive sites include the twin FAMI tugboats, the USS Strength, the USS Chippewa, and the Hathaway and Dupont Bridges. In addition to diving, Panama City Beach has white sand beaches, excellent seafood and the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the world. With so much to explore both above and below the surface, it's no surprise that Panama City Beach is one of Florida's most popular beach destinations.