Scuba Dive Location Reviews: Carysfort Reef

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Carysfort Reef at The Scuba NewsMarked by a 112 feet tall lighthouse that is over 150 years old, Carysfort Reef is notorious as one of the most treacherous reefs in the U.S. However, that’s good news for the avid scuba diver, because it means that there are various structures to duve in the area. With exciting dives ranging from shallow and easy, to challenging decompression dives, Carysfort Reef is a divers paradise!

Carysfort Reef at The Scuba News

Courtesy of by Ines Hegedus-Garcia

Located 6 miles east of Key Largo, Carysfort was named after one of the first ships that ran aground in 1770, however it did not sink.  In following years, so many ships ran aground it that it resulted in the first reef lighthouse. For wreck enthusiasts, there are remains of cannons and anchors leftover from aforementioned ships.


Carysfort Lighthouse

Marked by a majestic lighthouse, this reef is a moderately easy dive with clear sight and depth between 5 and 40 feet. The abundance of all various hard and soft corals is what makes the reef visually appealing. With everything from elkhorn and staghorn to brain coral,  and a wide variety of reef fish including Barracuda frequent the base of the lighthouse, and you will have plenty to see during your dive.

Carysfort Reef at The Scuba News

Courtesy of NOAA

A wall dive around 65-80 ft, with rapid drop down to the ocean floor is made up of two coral formations. The deeper one consists of fossilized sections with sand channels between them. The higher layer consists of live coral. There is an abundance of marine life, including pelagic species, groupers, large sponges, eels and squid to be seen.


Carysfort South Reef

The reef in this area has many canyons and other formations which makes for an exciting dive. With the clear sight, mild currents, and depths between 7 and 22 feet it is a fitting site for beginners. Aside from the coral and tropical fish, you can see grouper, yellowtail snapper and sharks during your dive.

Carysfort Reef at The Scuba News

Courtesy of NOAA

While technically not part of the Carysfort reef, I would recommend that wreck enthusiasts visit a site approximately  a mile south of the lighthouse, and very close to the south reef. The wreck is a large 900 ton “man-o-war” ship that sank in 1695. While the original salvaging lead to the identification of the ship, divers scoured the ship during the 50s and 60s, with finds as significant as a gold watch. Some remain steady in their belief that there continues to be hidden treasure among the debris, for the recreational scuba diver it is best to just enjoy the dive and the marine life. At a depth of  15-18 feet with clear sight, and being no penetration, this is an excellent beginner level wreck dive


All in all, Carysfort reef offers an excellent and versatile diving experience… and even a little fun for the  wreck diving enthusiasts…

Lighthouse by Ines Hegedus-Garcia – Carysfort reef arial and HMS Winchester byNOAA



About Author

Michael Schad has been a certified diver since 1992. In addition to SCUBA Diving, he is an avid offshore fisherman, and a United States Coast Guard Licensed Captain. A Degreed Electrical Engineer, Michael does not fail to pay attention to the minor details! On any given weekend, you can spot Michael spending time with his wife and 3 year old son. They are either camping, or exploring the beautiful freshwater springs that dot the interior of Florida. His blog, was designed to educate and entertain both new and experienced divers. Learn more at:

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