With 4,000 miles of Atlantic coast, North Carolina is a treasure trove of unexpected discoveries. More than two dozen wrecks offshore have become a haven for a surprising diversity of marine life, especially fierce-looking (but usually docile) sand tiger sharks and, because of the proximity to the Gulf Stream, many species typically found in tropical waters.
Papoose, Cape Lookout
This WWII-era tanker is a good spot for sighting sand tigers, plus a host of tropical visitors that have hitched a ride north on the Gulf Stream; on a good day you’ll enjoy visibility up to 100 feet. The Papoose was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1942 and now lies in chunks 120 feet down, so there’s plenty of wreckage to explore.
USCG Spar, Cape Lookout
Thanks to its star turn on the Discovery Channel during Shark Week, this Crystal Coast wreck, which was sunk intentionally in 2004, has become known for the many sand tiger sharks that prowl its 180-foot length. In fact, says Bobby Purifoy, son of the founder of Olympus Dive Center, "You'll see sharks nearly 100 percent of the time.”