Follow the Shipwreck Trail and Dive Through World History

The Florida Keys are home to a variety of popular tourist attractions, including everything from beaches to bars. Lesser known to those visiting, the Florida Keys also house a number of shipwrecks, preserved underwater for years. Scattered along the coral reefs and buried in the sandy shallows a few miles off shore, a trail of nine shipwrecks make up Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Shipwreck Trail.

Explore the rich history of some of the most famous shipwrecks in Florida.

The San Pedro

Found off the coast of Indian Key, find The San Pedro below the surface. This ship was a part of the 1733 Spanish treasure fleet and was caught by a hurricane in the Straits of Florida. The damage was too much and the ship sank 18 feet into the water one mile south of Indian Key.

The Bentwood

On a voyage from Tampa, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia, the Bentwood sank between the French Reef and Dixie Shoals in 1942. The Bentwood was 360 feet long and sank after colliding with another ship. It is among the most popular shipwreck dives in the Keys.

The Thunderbolt

A military ship used during World War II, the Thunderbolt was intentionally sunk in 1986 as part of a project with the Florida Keys Artificial Reef Association. The Thunderbolt now offers divers a breathtaking experience, as it lies fully intact and upright, 120 feet below the surface. Divers can find the ship about four miles south of Marathon, Florida and Key Colony Beach.

Go on your own diving adventure during your stay with us in Islamorada. Get in touch with our team plan your visit and for tips on getting to the Shipwreck Trail.

The Beginner’s Guide to SCUBA Diving

For SCUBA diving beginners, there’s perhaps no better place to take the first plunge than the Florida Keys, home to the only living coral barrier reef in North America. Our 120-mile island chain offers access to some of the most renowned diving sites in the world with diverse marine life, awe-inspiring shipwrecks, and other ocean oddities.

Practice makes perfect: Before embarking on your first dive, sign up for an introductory pool course with a certified instructor. It takes time and patience to get used to breathing through a regulator and wearing the necessary gear. Cheeca offers hour-long SCUBA classes on Friday and Saturday mornings; check our Calendar of Events for more information. Once you’ve completed the course, it’s time to take to the open water!

Many popular dive sites can be found right off the coast of Islamorada. Located close to shore, Cheeca Rocks is great for novice divers and an ideal option for family outings in particular. Davis Reef is another easy-to-navigate site, complete with a photogenic underwater buddha. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can head to Alligator Reef Lighthouse and say hello to the locals (e.g., spiny lobsters, barracuda, et al.). Meanwhile, shipwrecks like the Eagle or El Capitan tend to attract more experienced divers.

If you want to ease your way into the world of underwater exploration, we recommend snorkeling. You’ll still be able to admire our beautiful reefs—but a bit closer to the water’s surface. Cheeca offers daily two-hour excursions with snorkel gear, wetsuits, and nonalcoholic beverages included.

Learn more about the watersports and aquatic activities offered at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.