At first glance, Bradenton Beach may not be all that remarkable, yet Bradenton Beach is home to one of the Gulf’s best beach access snorkeling and SCUBA diving locations.

First time snorkelers – as well as advanced divers – find this area to be a real pleasure. It’s one of few spots on the Gulf where saltwater beach diving is really good. And one of the great advantages of beach diving is the fact that you don’t need a boat!

Finding the dive site is easy: it stretches out perpendicular to the third of three small piers on Bradenton Beach (the southernmost pier). You simply pick a spot in the general area of the third pier, swim out about 100 yards and start looking for rock outcroppings jutting up from the sandy bottom.

You won’t find hard coral structures but, a variety of colorful sponges and soft coral! The Third Pier Reef, as it is known, also attracts a wide variety of game-fish and marine tropicals: large stingray, grouper, snapper, hogfish, gobies and blennies are plentiful. And, if you’re extremely lucky, you may have a close encounter with a barracuda or a 500 pound goliath-grouper!

Concrete was also dumped about 250-300 yards offshore – this too attracts fish and serves as an anchoring spot for soft corals and sponge. It is a little deeper, so the visibility is likely to be better, but only very strong swimmers should try to go out this far! More Info HERE

The quality of the snorkel/dive is totally dependent on the weather. Strong westerly winds can reduce visibility to about two feet–making the dive virtually useless. The best way to plan the trip is to set up a tentative date and check the weather reports for the area.

Regina Sugar Barge: This 1940 shipwreck is located at 7th Street, just north of the intersections for Gulf Drive and Cortez Road. You should be able to see the buoy marking the spot from the beach at Gulf Drive Café.

Remember, the best diving conditions include several days in a row of calm water, slack tide and full sun.