Whether you want to make a documentary about a famous shipwreck, film sea creatures on their migration routes, take shots for your new adventure/thriller movie or just wish to take unique mementos from your diving trip, you will be happy to hear that you can find some of the most attractive locations for underwater filming in Florida.
Impressive sites for breathtaking video material
Underwater filming along the coast of Florida is bound to produce hours of breathtaking footage. It would be quite difficult to avoid over 3,500 artificial reefs and 500 shipwrecks off the Florida Keys. Whether the shipwrecks were sunk with the intention to build a reef or not, nowadays they attract more than sea life. The most notable reefs along the coast are also easily accessible, so pack your filming equipment safely and hit the road.
- The Florida Reef Tract. The third-largest barrier reef in the world lies a few miles seaward off the Florida Keys. It is approximately 4 miles wide and stretches for more than 330 miles along Florida's southeast coast.
- Pinellas 2 Reef. It is located near the mouth of Tampa Bay and is where divers can find the Blackthorn and the Sheridan wrecks. While the Blackthorn is broken in two and upside down, the Sheridan is fully intact and lying right side up. It’s perfect if you want to film all the sections within the ship.
- The USS Oriskany. This retired aircraft carrier can be found 22 miles south of Pensacola. It was intentionally sunk in 2006 and now makes the largest artificial reef in the world.
- Jacksonville’s reef system. Florida's east coast is home to Jacksonville’s reef system. Here, numerous boats, planes, and other objects were sunk to provide food and shelter to marine life.
- To find more historical shipwrecks, head to the southeast coast, between Miami and Jupiter. In this part of the Florida Reef, you will also find dozens of artificial reef sites.
Underwater filming in freshwater
Who said that underwater films need to be shot only in seawater? Crystal River and Santa Fe River each have their own underwater treats. Crystal River is a paradise for filmmakers who are also crazy about wildlife, especially - manatees. This protected and endangered species thrives here alongside largemouth bass, garfish, snapper, redfish, and tarpon. Freshwater springs that bubble from an underground aquifer make for a spectacular sight.
But hardly anything is as spectacular as the natural phenomenon of Ginnie Springs. Flowing into the Santa Fe River with several other springs, Ginnie Springs offers a magical diving experience. However, this experience is reserved only for certified cave divers. The enchanting sites include the Ballroom at Ginnie Springs and the Devil’s Spring System.
Maritime Heritage Trail in Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park's Maritime Heritage Trail is home to six shipwrecks, a few dating back to the 19th century. History enthusiasts will enjoy underwater filming at the following locations which are even worth the move all the way to the coast of Homestead, FL. Just south of Miami, filmmakers will find
- Arratoon Apcar that ran aground in 1878 during the building of the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse.
- Sail-assisted steam vessel Erl King that sunk in 1891.
- Alicia that sunk with a rich cargo of silverware, silks, and other fine items, causing salvage wars in the early 20th century.
- One of the largest vessels that sunk at the time, Lugano. It ran aground in 1913 and lies 25 feet underwater on Long Reef. As one of the shallow dive spots, it is perfect for underwater filming.
- Steel-hulled schooner Mandalay sank on New Years Day, 1966, in the eastern part of Biscayne National Park and it is easily accessible.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Being on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest underwater park in the country is only one of the traits of John Pennekamp Park. It protects and preserves a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. located at Key Largo. Those who choose this location for underwater filming will find clear turquoise waters, a beautiful coral reef, schools of dolphins, an abundance of fish like shark, barracuda, spotted eagle rays, and even the Christ of the Abyss Statue to spice up the diving tour.
Devil's Den and Blue Grotto: ideal spots for underwater cavern diving and filming
Even though it's underwater filming we're speaking about, you don't need a big budget for quality filmmaking. Devil's Den and Blue Grotto are locations that will return any investment in underwater filming manifold. Devil’s Den is a prehistoric spring in Williston, FL, a sinkhole that offers exciting cavern and cave diving and amazing underwater shots. The sparkling blue water appears bottomless due to its clarity but is a bit cold and asks for a thicker diving suit.
Blue Grotto is another cavern diving spot not far from Devil's Den. Not only will you find amazing geological features on the spot, but also clear water full of friendly fish accustomed to divers bringing treats. Along the top of the cavern, divers can find an air bell that is constantly supplied with breathable compressed air. Ideal for a short break and a whispered conversation with a diving partner.
Venice Beach - The Shark Tooth Capital of the World, and more
If you're sifting through the white sand just south of Sarasota, you will find fossilized sharks’ teeth in abundance. Venice Beach is a treasure trove for divers as the majority is attracted to the abundance of fossils found underwater. The main diving attraction is preserved teeth of the megalodon, a prehistoric beast that disappeared from the seas roughly 1.5 million years ago. However, much of what Florida once was is now submerged underwater and not all the fossils belong to sea creatures. Aside from shark and alligator teeth and bones, divers can find woolly mammoth teeth and saber-tooth cat fossils.
Megan Jeffords is a freelance journalist and photographer, an amateur diver, a student of economics and a green thumb. Any remaining spare time she dedicates to watching adventure movies.