Big Pine Key and Ramrod Key are the closest land access to Looe Key Reef. Also a SPA, and approximately 5 nautical miles offshore, Looe Key was named for the HMS Looe who struck the reef in 1744 and burned to the waterline. This reef is called a “groove and spur” structure and forms a U that is 200 yards wide and 800 yards long. Because of the shape and range of depth, 7 feet to 30 feet, Looe Key is an excellent snorkel or SCUBA reef for all experience levels. the reef is shallower on the eastern side and gets progressively deeper. Because of the proximity to deeper water the reef tropical fish are joined by larger species like Tarpon, Goliath Grouper, sharks, and Spotted Eagle rays.
The Adolphus Busch Sr., a 210 foot long freighter, was donated and was sunk, in 1998, as an artificial reef 3 miles west of Looe Key in 110 feet of water.
Key West snorkeling & diving is most rewarding on the reefs and wrecks that exist offshore. There are beach snorkeling areas along the south side of the island in the Key West Marine Park operated by the non-profit group Reef Relief and the City of Key West.
Sand Key reef is a popular snorkel location. Marked by the same type of skeletal lighthouse used along the reef chain. 7 miles west of Key West in 5-20 feet of water this reef area is typical of the “spur and groove” reef formations. The northwest side is more shallow, with the southern section sloping down to 65 feet, then 90 feet. The shallow area often reveals artifacts and rubble, as the sands shift, left from the wreckage the original brick light house that collapsed in an 1846 storm.
Ten-Fathom Ledge 11 miles from Key West. The ocean side of this dive spot rapidly drops from 25 to 50 feet down to 130 feet. The greater depth is perfect for the experienced diver. The Gulf Stream near by creates a “drift dive” experience with the ocean on three sides. The Gulf Stream also helps the water clear, and brings larger pelagic fish within view.
Nine Foot Stake a patch reef in 10 to 25 feet of water is a great spot when your group is of mixed experience. comfortable snorkelers and divers alike.
Kedge Ledge has the encrusted “kedge” type anchors used, and lost, in the 18th century.
In May of 2009 The Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, an ex-military missile-tracking ship, was sunk as the southernmost ship in the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail. The trail starts with the former Navy landing ship The Spiegel Grove (off Key Largo). At 524 feet long, 71.5 wide, her height from the sandy bottom to the top of her stacks, masts, and antennas is 100 feet (trimmed to allow 40-45 feet clearance to the surface). More than 100 confirmed species of fish now live on the “Vandy”!
Joe’s Tug is a classic tugboat sitting upright in about 65 feet of water. Home to several larger species of fish.
The Atocha— NOT a dive site. The wreck of the Atocha was discovered off Key West by Mel Fisher and a large part of the treasure is on display in Key West.
The lure of sunken treasure pulls many divers to our waters. Beyond the range of local dive boats is a wide world of treasures… For some the beauty of preserved and protected wild life, for others the dream of finding remnants of life from the past!
Whatever your passion, there is something for everyone in the Keys!