Great Dive Sites in Sanctuaries for History Buffs

The wreck of the Portland, Thunder Bay NMS. Photo credit: Tane Casserley/NOAA

Did you know America’s national marine sanctuaries offer incredible and unique cultural history opportunities for SCUBA divers? Here are some of our favorite dive sites in the National Marine Sanctuary System for divers who are interested in exploring shipwrecks:

Channel Islands National Marine SanctuaryOff the coast of southern California are the Channel Islands. Within this sanctuary, federally protected shipwrecks dot the sea floor and are ripe for exploration. An added bonus is the rich biodiversity, kelp forests, and caves protected by the sanctuary. 

Florida Keys National Marine SanctuaryAn internationally renowned destination for divers, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects the historic Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail. Spanning from the Upper to the Lower Keys, Shipwreck Trail contains nine historic shipwrecks and makes for an excellent dive trip. Some of the wrecks are nearshore and fully visible, others are partially buried in sandy shoals, and others are offshore. 

Stellwagen Bank National Marine SanctuaryCold waters and strong currents make Stellwagen Bank a dive site fit for advanced divers, but those who are qualified can find a number of shipwrecks at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. 

Thunder Bay National Marine SanctuaryThis Great Lakes sanctuary, protecting what is known as “Shipwreck Alley,” is the final resting place for more than 100 known shipwrecks. From small, wooden schooners to large, sidewheel steamers to modern freighters, the shipwrecks within Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary demonstrates the area’s rich maritime heritage and offers a window to the past. 


Before SCUBA diving a shipwreck be sure to have an understanding of proper shipwreck diving techniques as to not disturb or damage these historic resources. For more information about diving and safety in national marine sanctuaries, click here

Can’t make it out to a dive site in real life? No problem! Check out some of the shipwrecks in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary through 15 immersive virtual reality dives offered by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries using your desktop, mobile device, or VR headset here or click here to explore the Benwood wreck in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.