Gainesville is situated in a great location for scuba diving! We’re surrounded by many springs, sinkholes, lakes, and rivers. Divers flock to the area from all around the world to explore our springs, and you might find yourself getting geared up next to people from around the world at one of the local dive sites.
Plus, we’re only a short car drive away from the ocean!
A quick word on cave diving. Many of the sites listed below include extensive cave systems. When properly trained, cave diving can be a safe activity. However, the skills required to safely engage in cave diving are not included in openwater training, and openwater divers should not enter into a cave. Over 600 openwater divers, including instructors, have perished in underwater caves like those found in our area.
Please take a moment and watch the following video, and if you decide you really want to try cave diving, please seek appropriate training.
Below is a list of some of our favorite dive sites that are convenient to visit from Gainesville.
|Diepolder II & III||Brooksville, FL||Diepolder III is located in between Brooksville and Weeki Wachee. It consists of a large room with depths approaching 300′. More information on the Diepolder caves can be found at The Diepolder Guides web-site. I became an associate guide in 2018 and am proud to offer guide service for Diepolder 3 to qualified divers.|
|Manatee Springs||Chiefland, FL||Great location for OW diving with two sites in the park. Manatee Springs has a maximum depth of 25′, and is filled with several local fish. Catfish Hotel has a maximum depth of 45′. There is also cavern and cave diving for certified cavern and cave divers. There are also full facilities (bathrooms, pavilions and grills). Entrance fee is $6 per car.|
|Ginnie Springs||High Springs, FL||Several springs dot this commercial park on the Santa Fe River, which help to make this one of the most popular destinations in the world for both OW and cave diving. Explore the Ballroom of Ginnie Springs, or drift down the Santa Fe River from Devil’s Ear to Ginnie Springs. Additionally, full facilities (showers, restrooms, pavilions and grills), plus camping make this a wonderful place to spend the weekend or day. Cavern/Cave diving for certified divers only. Entrance fee is $30 per person for diving.|
|Devil’s Den||Williston, FL||Devil’s Den features an underground spring inside of a dry cave, making it one of the most unusual dive sites in the area. The site has a staircase leading down through the sinkhole to a diving platform in the middle of the underground spring. Full faciliities (pavilions, grills, restrooms, even horseback riding) make this a nice get-away for the day. Entrance fee is $37 for diving.|
|Blue Grotto||Williston, FL||Blue Grotto features one of the largest clear water caverns in Florida. Dive down to Peace Rock in 55′ of water, or go for the 90′ deep tour behind the rock. Full facilities (showers, pavilions, grills) make this a great place to spend the day. Entrance fee is $38 for diving.|
|Troy Springs State Park||near Branford, FL||This spring is a great swimming hole on the Suwannee River. It features a 70′ deep spring, which is a great place for that deep dive and free-diving, as well as the remnants of a civil war era shipwreck in the spring run. There are restrooms, picnic tables, and grills at the park. The entrance fee is $5 per car for diving.|
|Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park||Lauraville, FL||Cave and cavern divers flock to Peacock Springs from all around the world. With over 33,000′ of surveyed passage, it is one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world. Openwater diving is restricted to Orange Grove Sink, which is a unique and exciting dive site, but visibility in Orange Grove is sometimes limited due to algea blooms. There are grills and port-a-potties for use in the park. The entrance fee is $4 per car.|
|Fanning Springs||Fanning Springs, FL||Fanning Springs is a large spring basin with a maximum depth of less than 20′. It’s also a very popular swimming hole in the summer. Because of the shallow depths, it’s better experienced/enjoyed for snorkeling rather than scuba diving. The park features full facilities (pavilions, grills, restrooms). The entrance fee is $6 per vehicle.|
|Blue Springs State Park||Orange City, FL||While a bit of a drive from Gainesville, Blue Springs is a popular diving and swimming site in Volusia County. The park has a large spring run, with a spring vent that goes to 120′; OW divers are restricted to 60′. In the winter months, the park is often closed to diving because of the presence of manatees. The park features full facilities (pavilions, grills, restrooms). The entrance fee is $6 per vehicle.|
|Crystal River/King’s Bay||Crystal River, FL||There are over 30 known springs that are part of King’s Bay, which feeds into Crystal River. Most of the springs are shallow, but one or two go deeper than 50′. While scuba diving is possible, the bubbles scare off the many manatees that frequent the area, so snorkeling is recommended. Cost depends on the tour operator. I highly recommend Bird’s Underwater for your manatee tours!|
|Santa Fe River||High Springs, FL||Diving in the Santa Fe River can open up a whole new world to explore. When the water level is low, such as during periods of drought, the visibility in the river tends to go upwards of 20-30′, and you can often find fossils or artifacts (or beer cans). However, unless you’ve made arrangements to be picked up and are planning on a drift dive, always start your dive against the current because the current can be strong. Dive flags are required for diving in the rivers.|
|K.P. Hole & Rainbow River||Dunnellon, FL||Enjoy a multi-hour drift dive down the Rainbow River, a natural spring fed river with great visibility, on your way back to K.P. Hole Park. The park highlights many of the features that make N. Florida truly unique. Entrance fee is $5 per person.|
|Itchetucknee State Park||Ft. White, FL||During the winter months (October through March), the Blue Spring, a.k.a. Jug Hole, at the North Entrance of the park is open for certified cavern and cave divers. Jug is one of the prettiest caverns in the area, and is well worth the 1/2 mile hike through the woods. Additionally, cool off in the summer with a tubing run down the river. The park has full facilities (pavilions, restrooms, grills). Entrance fee is $6 per vehicle, and $5 per person for tubing.|
|Little River||Branford, FL||Little River is a popular site for cavern and cave divers, which bumps up on the Suwannee River. It is also a popular swimming hole in the summer, and can be quite crowded on a weekend. When the river is low, there isn’t much in the way for open water diving, and we recommend it only for certified cavern and cave divers. There are grills and some picnic tables in the parking lot.|
|Royal Springs||O’Brien, FL||Royal is a free public park with a boat ramp on the Suwannee River. It’s a very popular swimming hole, and divers can explore the open spring. However, the cave and cavern is very dangerous and silty, and has claimed more lives than almost any other cave in Florida. Please do not go in the cave without proper training.|
|Lake Cowpen||Hawthorne, FL||While not our favorite place to dive, rumor has it this site has been used once or twice for diving. Visibiliy is usually NIL, water level is usually NIL, but the stares you might get from the local residents is priceless.|