Due to varied marine habitats and diversity of sites, Florida has historically been one of the most popular snorkel and dive destinations for vacationers.

Coral reefs and grass flats line Florida’s Gulf with almost 600 artificial reefs from the panhandle south to Key West.

With an established artificial reef program, Venice’s wrecks and reefs are worth seeing.

These locations are home to a variety of sea life that include jewfish, barracuda and grouper. Visibility is also good for fossil enthusiasts seeking the giant teeth of ancient sharks known as Carcharocles Megalodon.

Bayronto wreck: This is a 450 foot (137 meters) German freighter that sank in 1914 and became a beautiful wreck site. The wreck is intact but upside down. At a depth of about 100 feet (30 meters) you’ll find soft and hard corals covering the hull attracting amberjack, snapper, jewfish, groupers and barracuda. This is an advanced site and the visibility is generally good.

Army tanks: 5 intact army tanks were sunk in the area at a depth of 60 feet (18 meters). The visibility is great but it does require advanced certification. The site is home to plenty of sea life.

Natural Ledges: The ancient river beds make a great home for underwater creatures while one of the best beach dives is right off Venice beach in the 15-20 foot depth range. Many extremely large Megalodon teeth are found by simply using a spaghetti colander to scoop the bottom sands while others simply swim the length of the beach, searching for anything black.

Another area for shark teeth can be found at Casperson Beach where a series of ledges are at the 22 foot depth. These ledges are frequently cleared of sand by wave action, exposing teeth on the bedrock.

Just south of Venice, Stump Pass Beach, at the south end of Manasota Key, is the remotest of Manasota’s four beaches and considered the best for snorkeling and shelling.

To access the area, a boat or a 1.3 mile one-way hike, either on a nature trail or along the sloped beach is required. Once at the end of the Key there’ll be two uninhabited isles…that of Peterson Island and Whidden Key with protected channels for marine life viewing. Visitors who make this trip are rewarded with one of the most pristine, deserted stretches of sand and water in the State.

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