The Sunshine State is a place of natural beauty. With white-sand beaches of the Panhandle to the tropical gardens of the Keys – Florida is a feast for the eyes. For freedivers, the state’s diverse landscape offers spectacular opportunities to explore the wonders of the underwater world. If freediving in Florida is not on your bucket list yet, it should be.
Florida offers a wealth of freediving possibilities with a range of springs, reefs, caves, and shipwrecks. Experienced divers can explore crystal-clear spring waters or head to the sea for an underwater tour of historical wrecks. Newcomers to the sport can take advantage of local freediving centers, which offer instruction and equipment rentals.
In this ultimate guide to freediving in Florida, you’ll find everything you need to know about Florida freediving – meaning you get straight to discovering all that Florida has to offer!
While many tourists flood to Florida for its beaches and theme parks, there’s so much more to explore beneath the waves. The reasons you choose to freedive in Florida may differ from someone else’s, but here are some of the top reasons to go:
Florida boasts a huge network of freshwater springs that are perfect for freediving. These crystal-clear waters offer brilliant visibility and various underwater attractions, such as caverns and sinkholes.
Not to mention, if you opt for spring water freediving in Florida – you benefit from the state’s warm weather. Florida boasts a sub-tropical climate, meaning the spring water stays a suitable temperature all year round. Most springs average a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit – ideal for freediving!
If saltwater Florida freediving is more your speed, there are plenty of coasts and reefs to explore. Florida has an expansive coastline, with the opportunity to dip into the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and even the Caribbean Sea.
Thanks to Florida’s strong currents, many underwater creatures call the reefs home – offering a unique chance to spot some of the state’s most spectacular marine life.
The warm waters off the coast also make Florida an excellent place for spearfishing. Fishermen can dive deep in pursuit of snapper, grouper, and other local favorites. However, specific regulations must be followed when spearfishing in Florida, which we will touch on later in the article. But as long as you play by the rules, you can enjoy some excellent spearfishing in Florida.
In addition to its large fish population, Florida’s reefs are also home to an array of other treasures – just waiting to be discovered by intrepid freedivers. Florida’s underwater sites are filled with intrigue, from submerged Spanish galleons to ancient fossilized coral.
If you’re new to freediving or just fancy a refresher course, several dedicated Florida freediving classes are available. Many of these courses are headed by experienced instructors who can provide the tips you need to enjoy a safe and successful freedive. For instance, you may want to work on your freediving breathing techniques.
Freediving is an exciting way to explore the underwater world. But if you’ve never tried Florida freediving, there are certain considerations you should make before getting stuck in.
Let’s take a look at some things to keep in mind when freediving in Florida:
Typically, you can freedive in Florida all year round. But different seasons can bring different experiences. You can expect the beaches and springs to bustle with tourists in the summer months. While this creates a fun atmosphere, the areas can become quite crowded. If you want to avoid the rush, plan your Florida freediving session for early in the day during the summer.
Conversely, winter months are generally quieter – offering a more private and intimate experience. While the waters will be colder, the further down south you go, the warmer it tends to be. Florida also has a hurricane season from June 1st to November 30th – although the peak tends to be between August to October. Many freedivers prefer not to dive during this time, as the weather and water conditions can be unpredictable.
With the above information in mind, the best time of year for freediving in Florida is typically between November and May.
Florida is well known for its crystal-clear waters – offering excellent visibility. But there may be times when the waters are murkier than usual. This can be caused by certain factors, such as algae blooms or excessive boat traffic.
Checking water visibility before freediving is always recommended, as it will help you gauge how far down you can see. Lack of visibility can prove dangerous, so it’s best to avoid freediving until the water conditions improve.
Freediving in Florida’s oceans can be a thrilling experience – but you must always be aware of the currents. While these currents can help you to explore different parts of the reef, they can also be dangerous – pulling unsuspecting divers away from their starting point.
All divers must familiarize themselves with the ocean currents in the area. You can use a tide chart to check the conditions and plan accordingly. If you are ever unsure about the ocean currents, avoiding freediving in that area is best.
No matter where you’re freediving in Florida, it’s essential to have the right equipment. Although many people choose to bring their own freediving gear, some places offer equipment rentals – meaning you can dive without the hassle of packing your kit. If you opt to join a freediving class in Florida, they may also provide rental gear, so it’s worth double-checking before you travel.
If you’re looking to spearfish in Florida, you’ll need to be aware of the state’s regulations. Different areas within the state have different rules to follow, so research is vital before diving. In general, the following spearfishing rulings apply:
- Spearfishing freshwater or marine life in a freshwater environment is prohibited.
- Certain fish are protected by law, including (but not limited to) sharks, manta rays, and pompanos.
- Speargun possession in freshwater is banned.
For an expansive list of spearfishing laws in Florida, check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.
Some springs and beaches are on private land and require the owner’s permission before freediving. To avoid trespassing, it’s always best to check whether a given spot is publicly accessible or not – as this can save you from any issues later down the line!
Freediving in Florida is unique as it offers various freediving experiences. Depending on where you’re going, you’ll need to pack the essential gear for your chosen activity. As a general rule of thumb, make sure to bring the following:
- A mask: A high-quality freediving mask will help you to see better underwater.
- Fins: For better propulsion in the water, allowing you to swim deeper and experience more.
- Dive watch: To track your dive times and depths.
- A dive skin/wetsuit: Ideal for both colder water and sun protection while freediving.
Now you know what to expect from freediving in Florida – let’s look at some Florida freediving hotspots!
Best Spots for Freediving in Florida
Florida offers a wide range of great freediving locations. Let’s have a look at some of the best spots:
Freshwater springs occur all over the state and make for a great Florida freediving experience. Some of the most popular sites include:
Blue Springs State Park is a must-visit if you’re looking for a great place to freedive in Florida. This park is a gorgeous spot for freediving, hiking, and camping in Volusia County, FL. The park has a wide range of flora and fauna, and it’s also home to a large manatee population. With an entrance fee of $6 per vehicle or $2 per pedestrian, it’s an excellent value for a day of fun activities.
The park is open 365 days of the year from 8 am to sunset – although you are best to check the website before visiting as they may restrict water activities for migrating manatees. With so many underwater caves to explore and the opportunity to see a manatee, Blue Springs State Park is an unbeatable freediving destination.
Situated in Suwannee County, Troy Spring State Park is a famous swimming hole offering varying depths. Whether you’re looking for shallow dives or deep plunges, this park has something to offer every freediver. With clear waters and plenty of fish to view, it’s a nice place to spend the day.
This 72-degree, 70ft deep spring is not just home to majestic marine life but also a piece of history. Nestled in the shallow waters at the spring’s mouth lies ‘Madison’ – a scuttled civil war-era ship from 1863. Swimmers, snorkelers, and freedivers love visiting this area to marvel at the wreck and the many fish that have made it home. With an entrance fee of just $5 per group vehicle or $2 per pedestrian, it’s a perfect freediving spot.
Rainbow River, found in Marion County, FL, is a popular spot for snorkeling and freediving. With depths reaching up to 25ft, it’s an excellent site for beginners to get started. Plus, there is a variety of wildlife, including turtles, otters, and even alligators. Not only that, but the crystal clear waters and soft sand bed make for a beautiful diving experience. For the best place to start, head to K.P Hole (entrance fee $5) and travel a mile upstream for a peaceful dive.
The river is spring fed, meaning the water is kept at a comfortable 72 degrees throughout the year! Most divers love Rainbow River as they can comfortably drift down the river, but this means you must bring a dive flag for safety. Water taxis are also available for those who want to get upstream – just make sure to check if the water taxi is operating before you begin your dive. You also have the option to hire a dive guide if you’re looking for an experienced dive buddy.
Until recently, Buford Springs was one of the best-kept secrets for Florida freediving. Hidden in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area in Hernando County, FL, Burford Springs was notoriously tricky to find. But now, with the addition of a boardwalk, freedivers no longer have to battle through the swamp to access this glorious freediving site in Florida.
With depths of over 150ft, this ‘swamp spring’ is a great spot for experienced freedivers. Not only are the depths impressive, but the clarity of the water is something else – unless it has been raining. As Buford Springs is located in a swamp, rain can cause some runoff, so you’re best visiting on a clear, dry day. This freediving site is not a national park and features a fantastic cave system to explore.
With the adventure starting at the boardwalk, it’s a perfect place to start your freediving vacation – just remember always to bring a dive buddy wherever you go.
Freediving in Florida is not just limited to springs. With 1,350 miles of coastline, the state is ideal for ocean freediving too. Here are some of the best sites for ocean freediving in Florida:
Located in the ‘Diver’s Paradise’ of Lauderdale-by-the Sea, Anglin Pier Reef is a wonderful area for ocean freediving. With beautiful coral reefs, plenty of sea life, and depths over 15ft, it’s no wonder Anglin Pier Reef attracts so many visitors. The reef can be easily accessed from the shore, or you can opt for a boat dive if you feel adventurous. Plus, it’s a great spot for photographers as the visibility is often excellent.
If Anglin Pier Reef is a little shallow for you, head further out, and you’ll discover deeper depths. The further out you go, the less likely you will be surrounded by hoards of other divers, allowing you to glide through the water undisturbed. Just always be aware of the ocean’s current, and be sure to dive with a buddy.
If checking out the coral reefs and marine life is on your list, you have to check out Key Largo. With depths ranging up 70ft, it’s excellent for freedivers of all levels to explore the abundant sea life. John Pennekamp State Park is by far one of the best Key Largo freediving sites, with a vast range of dive sites to explore.
Whether you want to check out the diverse Banana Reef or the underwater Christ of the Abyss statue – John Pennekamp State Park is the spot for you.
Another popular spot for ocean freediving in Florida is Phil Foster Park. With depths of around 25ft and a plethora of marine life, it’s no wonder this is a popular area amongst freedivers. Some marine life you can hope to see at Phil Foster Park are octopuses, spadefish, and morays. Plus, if you look closely enough, you may even spot some small shrimp hiding in the reef’s crevices.
There are three distinct areas at Phil Foster Park, each offering something unique: the snorkel trail, the bridge’s east side, and the west side. While you might not think it, each area provides a different experience and depth. For example, on the east side, you’ll find a boat wreck and other exciting fish you wouldn’t find in the other areas. Phil Foster Park has to be on your list of places to freedive in Florida!
While not a specific dive site, Jupiter is home to some of the best freediving Florida has to offer. With varying depths and some spectacular shipwrecks, it’s a great spot for experienced freedivers looking for an adrenaline-filled day. Plus, there is plenty of wildlife here, too – Jupiter is known for shark freediving (check out our guide on shark freediving)!
With various shipwrecks to discover and a vast array of marine life, freediving in Jupiter is an aquatic adventure like no other. There are many dive boat operators out of Jupiter, so you can also easily explore this area with an experienced guide.
While freediving in Florida offers plenty of incredible spots to explore, it’s crucial to dive safely. For that, we recommend taking a freediving class before you go out and explore on your own. There are lots of great freediving classes in Florida, offering both beginner and advanced options. With these classes, you’ll learn about proper technique and safety protocols so that you can dive with confidence.
Let’s look at some of the many freediving classes in Florida:
Dubbed the countries leading freediving and spearfishing educator, Florida Freedivers offer courses for all levels of divers. Whether you want to learn the basics or hone your skills, Florida Freedivers will guide you through every step – with safety being their utmost priority.
Prices start at $199.95 for entry courses or $399.99 for a full certification course. If you’re not a beginner, Florida Freedivers also offers classes for seasoned freedivers.
Offering easy-to-follow courses and experienced instructors, Bluewater Freedivers is an excellent option for those looking to get certified. With classes available all over the state, you can find one close to home – or take a road trip and explore a new area!
Prices start at $249.99 for their standard course and go up from there, with private and more advanced classes also available.
With a focus on safety and performance, Live Free Diving is a go-to for freediving classes in Florida. Courses are available for all levels of divers, focusing on mastering the basics and providing a safe environment to learn. If you prefer a small class size, you’ll be happy to know Live Free Diving works on a 4:1 student-to-instructor ratio.
Prices start at $450 for their Freediver Level 1 course. Then, you can enroll in their Level 2 or Level 3 courses to progress your skills – with each qualification providing more opportunities to explore the many Florida freediving spots.
Freediving in Florida is an exhilarating experience that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned freediver, there are plenty of exciting dive sites and freediving classes in Florida to explore.
With its clear waters and an abundance of diverse marine life, freediving in Florida can offer endless diving opportunities – it’s just up to you to take the plunge!