Nothing says a Florida summer like prowling the ocean’s depths with a tank of explosive compressed gases strapped to your back. As the SCUBA capital of the United States, Florida offers everything from manatee-filled springs to remote finger reefs
- For beginners and experts alike, Key Largo is a great place to jump in. Just an hour south of Miami International Airport, the northernmost Key offers a range of shallow and deep-water reefs and shipwrecks.
- For starters, head to Molasses Reef, one of the most beautiful and accessible coral reefs in the continental US. Here, magnificent spur and groove coral formations plummet seaward in a kaleidoscope of color.
- For a more adventurous dive, head to the USS Spiegel Grove, a massive US naval vessel sunk in 2002. From depths of 110ft on the seafloor to a relatively shallow 40ft on the upper deck, its location offshore offers clear water and makes it a magnet for both reef-dwelling species and pelagic giants alike.
Book your dives with Island Ventures in Key Largo.
Don’t have the time to learn SCUBA? Simply slap on your favorite day-glo swim fins, don a mask and snorkel, and hop in – the water’s warm! Unlike the shallow fringing reefs of tropical islands, many of Florida’s coral treasures are at depths off limits to snorkelers. So, it takes a little Gogobot know-how to find the sweet spots.One place Florida’s reefs hit the surface in true island style is Biscayne National Park. Florida’s best-kept secret on many counts, hidden between Miami and the Florida Keys. A snorkeler’s dream, it features shallow, Caribbean-like coral reefs.
In Florida is primarily thought of as a rare phenomenon of winter swells. That’s until a hurricane passes off the Bahamas and suddenly it’s remembered that Florida can shred, hit the lip, get barreled and nose ride with the best of them. After all, 10-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater is a Florida native, and he didn’t get that way by taking summers off. When the swell charts heat up, here’s where to wax up and paddle out:
- Sebastian Inlet. Possibly the most consistent quality break in all of Florida, expect a competitive crowd along the jetty or hike up-beach to uncrowded surf that still beats most surfing in Florida.
- Reef Road. Nothing in Florida comes as close to Hawai’i in terms of wave quality, temperature and clear, turquoise waves as this Palm Beach break. When it’s working, it’s in a class of it’s own. And when the ocean is smooth and flat as a pancake, try paddleboarding – it’s a gift from the gods for surfers needing to endure a long summer lull.
- New Smyrna. Moving north along Florida’s east coast, you begin to escape the shadow of those nasty swell-blockers known as the Bahamas. New Smyrna provides the best mix of consistent year-round swells and well-placed sand bars, forming some of Florida’s best beach breaks.
WATER-SKIING and WAKE-BOARDING
Florida is home to 11,000 miles of rivers, swamps and mangrove passageways, providing a near-endless maze of watery channels for the budding explorer. There’s almost nowhere in the state that doesn’t have a good spot to paddle around in, but my favorite day trip is the Loxahatchee River. One of the best-preserved remnants of old South Florida wilderness, this winding waterway will lead you through cypress swamps and mangroves filled with wildlife.
- Rent watercraft at Canoe Outfitters of Florida, who’ll also pick you back up once you reach the landing at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
- If you have your own kayak, continue through the Jupiter Inlet and celebrate the end of your adventure with a paddle up to the Square Grouper for some sunset brews, Jimmy Buffet-style.
Prefer the power of wind to the power of waves? Florida’s got you covered. Get your air on at St. Pete Beach, home to some of Florida’s prettiest white sand beaches. The Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay may not be known for big wave surfing, but boy, can it kick up wind. Gear up or take lessons at the Best Pro-Kiteboarding Center. They’ll even come to you if you’re in a jam and need a part!