Fort Lauderdale lies on the same reef system found in the Florida Keys, but the real action here happens on the more than two dozen wrecks that lie within a 50-minute boat trip from the dock. One of the most infamous is the Mercedes, a freighter that broke loose from an anchorage during a storm and was abandoned by the owners right against the sea wall of a Palm Beach socialite’s house. The ship was then sunk as part of an artificial reef program, and is now covered with corals and swarming with barracuda, jacks, parrotfish and more. The Capt. Dan, a 175-foot former Coast Guard vessel, was prepared with large access holes for easy penetration and purposely sunk. It remains intact with the deck coming into view at about 90 feet. One of the most popular sites, however, isn’t really a wreck at all, but a thriving artificial reef. Tenneco Towers, made up of four massive sections of old oil platforms –– it was originally five, but a hurricane reduced the shallowest tower to rubble –– is considered the largest artificial reef in southeast Florida. The prolific soft-coral growth and large pelagics that circle the towers –– two towers within recreational limits, two at about 190 feet –– make it a favorite of the guides at Pro Dive, where pretty much every boat is headed for wreck heaven. The shop changes its schedule every month, but some regularly offered highlights include the “Twilight Wreck/Night Reef” combination and “Five Wreck Friday,” a drift dive along five of the top wrecks — the Scutti, Tracy, Mercy Jesus, Pride and Moonshot — in the area. End your day overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway at Coconuts Bahama Grill, where a brazen Florida sunset and a Mama Chacon’s sangria complete your weekend wreck trek (with money to spare).
Make It Happen
Pro Dive’s two-tank dives are $75. Rooms at the Marriott Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach just across the street start at $99 per night when you request Pro Dive’s rates, and its guests usually get upgraded to ocean-view rooms. More Info"" www.prodiveusa.com, www.marriott.com