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Since l997 the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA) has been building marine habitat off the coast of Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe, Florida. Prior to that, there were some artificial reefs built, and there are a couple of historically significant sites that make for fabulous dives. Natural, hard rock bottom begins out further off shore.
You can access the MBARA website for a complete list of almost 200 artificial reefs by going to www.mbara.org. These are only the ones built by the MBARA. There are others which are compiled and sold in shops around the area. The MBARA sells a plastic booklet of all sites with range, bearing, TD's and LAT and LON for your GPS. It is only 20 dollars. Pick it up in local shops.
Dive conditions can vary. Sometimes we have visibility of 60, 70, even 80 feet, but at other times we have muddy water. Sometimes the visibility can vary as to depth. Floods, hurricanes, storms, high winds, heavy rain, water flow from the intracoastal canal all contribute to the variation in visibility. But when it is clear, it is absolutely amazing. Sometimes it is like the Bahamas, sometimes it is muddy. Check with local dive shops on visibility.
There are natural bottom sites with hard coral and lots of rock formations, there are Reef Balls, Artificial Reef Pyramids, and Reef Maker modules which are 10 feet tall. We have really huge barges up to 200 feet long, we have smaller ones, we have a shrimp boat, a tug boat, some concrete truck mixers, we have a tower, and much more.
The Empire Mica was an oil tanker that was sunk by German U Boats during WWII and is a world class dive. Look up the history on this one. Another historical site is the Lumber Ship or the Vaymar which is out in 25 feet of water on the Bell Shoal area.
We have sites 2 miles off shore, 3 miles, 5-7 miles, 10 miles, 18 miles, 23 miles, and 30 miles. We have sites in 20 feet of water, 50, feet, 60 feet, 80 feet, 100 feet and 120 feet. Case in point, we have a lot to choose from.
Dive shops are in the area, and there are charter boats available as well. Over in Parker just 12 miles away toward Panama City Beach you have Divers Den, you have Daly's Dock and Dive Shop and Seahorse Water Safaris in Port St. Joe, as well as Captain Eric Tomlinson. Blue Water Outriggers in Port St. Joe also sells dive equipment. There are charter boats in Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach that are available for divers. For starters check with Marquardt's Marina in Mexico Beach and St. Joe Marina in Port St. Joe.
Lots of charters for snorkeling around the beautiful St. Joe Bay are available also. Scallop season begins in July for some great action for snorklers.
>MORE MEXICO BEACH AREA DIVING PHOTOS<
For a beginning, we are going to list some of our favorite spots for you.
1. Empire Mica
2. Lumber Ship
3. MBARA Barge
4. OAR Big Bend Salt Water Classic Barge
5. Marquardt's Barge
6. Smurfit Stone Reefs
7. Garfield Wilson Reef
8. Big Bend Salt Water Classic Reef
9. 18 Mile Bridge
10. Air Force Tower
11. Gatewood Barge
12. Sherman Tug
13. Gene Childs Memorial Reef
14. City of Mexico Beach 2005 Grant Reef
15. Charlie Parker Memorial Reef
16. Fish America Foundation Reef
17. City of Mexico Beach 2000 Grant Reef
18. City of Mexico Beach 2002 Grant Reef
19. City of Mexico Beach 2003 Grant Reef
20. Progress Energy Reef (old shrimp boat)
Come and check us out. Go to www.mbara.org and check out the videos of many of these spots, and a description of reefs built by the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association.
Area Boat Ramps
View Area public boat ramps in a larger map
Daly's Dock & Dive Center
Port St. Joe
850 229 6330
Mexico Beach, FL
Port St. Joe Marina
Port St. Joe
850 227 9393
850 648 8900
Sea Horse Water Safaris
Port St. Joe
850 227 1099
Divers Den, Parker
850 871 6889