St. Petersburg beach offers a wide array of activities for visiting tourists. From common popular beach activities to saltwater spear fishing and snorkeling/diving there are many ways to enjoy all that the St. Pete beach has to offer.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg area is world famous for its off shore saltwater fishing as well as the diving and snorkeling opportunities. St. Petersburg Beach scuba diving and snorkeling is world renown because of the dedication to protecting natural reefs, creating artificial dive spots, and the incredible array of tropical fish, coral, and sea life you can see when snorkeling and scuba diving in the Gulf of Mexico. The concentrated building of artificial reef systems started in the 1960s to encourage the growth of the local marine environment. These reefs can be made of bridge rubble, culverts, shipwrecks, and even some army tanks. Today hundreds of thousands of visitors every year go to Tampa and St. Petersburg to enjoy what these twin Florida cities have to offer.
Aside from the many artificial reefs created and maintained under the Pinellas County artificial reef program, the waters offshore from the Tampa and St Petersburg area also boast of natural limestone ledges and deep undercuts where fish can hide in large schools. These ledges most often are between two to twelve feet and can often be found in the 35 foot to 60 foot depth range.
The waters from St. Petersburg north to the Tarpon Springs area alone boast of more than 40 different artificial reefs as close to the shore as 200 yards or as far away as 38 miles. The diving areas south of St. Pete Beach have even more to offer.
St. Petersburg Beach scuba diving and snorkeling allows locals and visitors alike to enjoy all that the Gulf of Mexico has to offer. The dive sites can be extremely beautiful as well as very diverse. Real life shipwrecks of all shapes and sizes, colorful reefs, and a huge abundance of beautiful marine life are all hallmarks of the Gulf of Mexico diving steps near St. Pete Beach. Many of the most popular diving sites around St. Petersburg Florida are easily accessible from popular marinas like the Clearwater Municipal Marina.
Two of the most popular diving sites are The Sheridan and the Blackthorn Dive Site. These are both located on the Pinellas #2 artificial reef site and can be done together in one trip although each one alone is worth a trip in and of itself. At The Sheridan the tug is upright so every section can be explored. This is a great site to find goliath grouper. The reefs are covered in both hard and soft corals and you will often be able to spot local sea life like the Florida Spiny Lobster, the always popular Angel Fish, Nudibranchs, starfish, and even the occasional shark.
The Blackthorn Dive Site is located at 27.876167 Degrees Latitude and -083.188000 Degrees Longitude. This is one of the most popular wreck dives offered to visitors interested in St. Petersburg Beach scuba diving and snorkeling. This site resulted as a collision of the ship the Blackthorn in the center of the channel just west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Three weeks later, the ship was raised but it was obvious there was too much damage to repair so the Blackthorn was towed to the Pinellas #2 Artificial Reef Site and broken into two large pieces before being sunk. Goliath grouper, mackerel, schools of spadefish, snapper and whale sharks are just some of the fish commonly spotted at these dive sites.
The Gunsmoke Diving Wreck located at 27.557550 Degrees Latitude and -083.085517 Degrees Longitude. The Gunsmoke shipwreck is an interesting dive as the old shrimper sits in 80 feet of water and is the main underwater attraction 20 miles offshore. The story behind this wreck is even more interesting as there are several stories attached to it, all of them about modern piracy, drug smuggling, and even murder. While there are two conflicting stories, there's little question that government divers were called and some major crimes went down before the ship was scuttled.
The Indian Shores Reef is located at 27.861517 Degrees Latitude and -083.030283 Degrees Longitude and is located just over 11 miles from the first entrance marker at Clearwater Pass. This is 13 miles from the John's Pass entrance marker. This artificial reef includes three shipwrecks and over 125 concrete pillboxes. One of the most popular sites at the Indian Shores Reef among scuba divers and snorkelers is the Upside-Down barge.
Two dive sites very close to shore of the St. Petersburg Beach that are worth checking out are the St. Pete Beach Reef and Tug Orange. The St. Petersburg Beach Reef is the southernmost artificial reef in Pinellas County that combines sections of old bridge, a barge, and at least 10 tanks. The entire array of tropical fish and coral can be found at this dive location just like with all the others. Tug Orange is considered by many to be the absolute highlight of the South County Artificial Reef. This area is especially renowned for the huge number of game fish in the area.
Speaking of which, the local South County Artificial Reef is located a mere 11 miles out from the Pass-A-Grille entrance marker, which also puts it only 10 miles from the St. John's Pass entrance marker. This makes it a very easy site for scuba drivers and professional diving charters to reach. This is an artificial reef of a quarter mile that has a yellow buoy which marks the center of the South County Artificial Reef. Don't forget to visit both "Site One" and "Site Two" to get the full effect of the local sea life.
Large groups of grouper and black sea bass can be found at many of the satellite rubble piles, and giant groups of baitfish will attract bonita, kingfish, jacks, and Spanish mackerel. In fact, this is one of the most popular sites in the entire United States for underwater photographers wanting beautiful pictures of fish. Around this site even the nurse sharks and barracuda seem to enjoy the company of divers.
One of the reasons St Petersburg Beach snorkeling and scuba diving is so popular is because of the wide variety of saltwater game fish. The Gulf of Mexico waters off of Tampa and St. Petersburg Florida is world famous for spear-fishing because of the abundance of hogfish, flounder, cobia, snapper, kingfish, bonito, mackerel, amber jacks, yellowfin tuna, and grouper. This list helps explain why the area is considered a spear-fishing paradise. These large fish populations also add to the underwater wonder for scuba divers and snorkelers alike.