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Florida’s Museums in the Sea

Florida's Museums in the Sea

History Underwater!

Most people know Florida has museums throughout the state. In fact, the Florida Association of Museums lists over 400 museums around Florida. Did you know there are 12 underwater museums in the sea?

Florida was perhaps the most popular destination for exploration by the British, French, Spanish and several other countries starting in the 1500s. Exploration was the way for governments to expand their territory and wealth from lands they claimed in the new world. 

Many monarchies financed ventures to Florida and the Caribbean in hopes of finding gold, silver and other commodities to enrich their throne.

The rush to find wealth was despite the dangerous waters and shallow reefs around the coastline of Florida. As a result, hundreds of ships were lost on these exploration trips to the uncharted or poorly documented waters around Florida’s coast.

Many of the wrecked ships will never be found.

Navigation and Uncharted Waters Created Florida’s Museums in the Sea

As Florida grew in importance, navigating around Florida was a major route to New Orleans and other ports. Again, storms and shallow waters claimed many cargo vessels until improved navigational charts and weather data lessened the threat to shipping.

The lost ships became living underwater museums and reefs that harbor marine life. Florida has a continuing program devoted to preserving our history. Part of these preservation initiatives resulted in Florida’s Museums in the Sea.

Today there are 12 sites where divers and snorkelers can view our seafaring past and the dangers that caused ships of all types to end up in our coastal waters.

The subjects of the underwater Florida museums in the sea include:

  • USS Massachusetts – Spanish-American War era battleship. Near Pensacola.

  • SS Tarpon – steam vessel that went down in a storm in 1937 – near Panama City Beach.

  • Vamar – sunken ship off Mexico Beach for unknown reasons.

  • City of Hawkinsville – built in 1896, sunk in fresh water in Suwannee River.

  • USS Narcissus – sunk in 1864 by a mine at the end of the Civil War – Egmont Key near Clearwater Beach.

  • Regina – a barge that sunk in 1940. Bradenton Beach.

  • San Pedro – part of the Spanish fleet that sunk in 1733. Islamorada, Florida

  • Half Moon – Sank in the 1930s, the vessel was seized during wartime in 1914. Miami.

  • SS Copenhagen – steamship that crashed on a reef in 1900. Pompano Beach, Florida.

  • Loftus – merchant ship that wrecked in 1898. Manalapan (Boynto Beach).

  • Georges Valentine – iron steamer built in 1869. Stuart, Florida

  • Urca de Lima – part of the Spanish fleet and sunk in 1715. Ft. Pierce, Florida

Visit Florida’s Museums of the Sea Website for more details.

If you explore the website for Museums in the Sea, each of the above ships is described in detail along with the history relating to each. The locations of each “Museum” underwater is listed. Each individual ship has a video describing the scenes at the site.

Some of the ships above are in very shallow water suitable for snorkelers or free divers. Many have the appearance of a huge reef supporting coral, fish, and other sea creatures. Underwater photography opportunities are endless.

These 12 sites are preserved by the State of Florida. However, there are hundreds of shipwrecks around the state. One fishing site lists several hundred shipwrecks with GPS coordinates. Fishermen know a couple hundred-year-old wreck becomes a great place to fish!

Most of these underwater museums have charters that are willing to take you to the wreck sites. Many have dive equipment for rent. Don’t miss these Florida’s Museums in the Sea. All these locations make great day trips in Florida.

For even more about Florida shipwrecks, visit the Florida Museum, 400 Years of Shipwrecks.

For more about Florida, visit –

The Ultimate Florida Road Trip

Where Are The Florida Keys

Hidden Florida Romantic Getawys

Florida's Museums in the Sea
All Dive Sites Have Memorials
Florida's Museums in the Sea
Underwater Museums Throughout Florida
Museum in the sea fleet
Many Spanish Ships Never Made It Home
museum in the sea ss copenhagen ship
SS Copenhagen Went Down Near Ft. Lauderdale in 1900
museums of the sea 3
Shipwrecks Continue To Be Found in Florida This 1800's era Hull Washed Up Near Ponte Vedra Beach Recently
museums of the sea 4
This Civil War Era Stern Wheeler Went Down in the Middle of the Suwannee River and it is A Popular Dive Site in Fresh Water