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Looe Key Reef Makes Snorkeling or Scuba Diving Vacations Magical

Courtesy of YouTube and a1chilidog

Looe Key Reef has been named in the top 10 dive sites for 10 years and for good reason.

It's an amazing coral reef to explore, and it's extremely accessible with 3 ferries running each day.

It also accommodates all levels of diver as well as snorkelers.

This large, well formed spur and groove formation derives it's name from a British Man of War which grounded here in 1744.

The U-shaped reef is about 200 yards long and 800 yards wide and is made up of standard patch reefs and outer banks.

Much of the area is shallow, and this makes this reef one of the best snorkel and novice Florida Keys dive sites.

However, it can also accommodate the intermediate to advanced diver who ventures to the outer banks.

Aerial of Looe Key Reef

Looe Key Aerial Of Spur and Groove Fingers
State of Florida Archives, FLorida Memory, Dale M. McDonald Collection

Here you'll find water 30 - 40' deep, and at the south end it steeply descends to about 100' where the current gets stronger and makes for good drift diving.

At this greater depth you'll encounter the larger game fish such as grouper, various pelagic species, plus large barrel sponges and even rare black coral.

Looe Key Reef Map

Looe Key Map
Courtesy of

With the area being fully protected, the marine life, including the coral has had an opportunity to thrive. You'll be surprised by the diversity that surrounds you. Plus the size of some of the coral can be absolutely astounding.

This a very strict SPA area that is situated inside the Looe Key Existing Management Area. There is also the restricted Research Only Area included within the larger section. The regulations in place are the reason this reefs ecosystem has become one of the most beautiful in the world.

Looe Key Reef Restricted Area Map

Looe Key Reef Special Use Only Map
Courtesy of

A portion of this area also lies inside the edge of the Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve. The Preserve is in itself a special place to explore, and their proximity adds to the "visit" value for both locations.

This is also one of the better second Florida Keys dive sites for the advanced diver who chooses to wreck dive the Adolphus Busch Sr earlier in the day.

It also wouldn't be the Florida Keys without some unique twist here or there. It is after all, the nature of the Conch Republic to do everything with a bit of flair.

In keeping with the desire to do the unusual, every July the Underwater Music Festival takes place at Looe Key. As they like to phrase it - "subsea optimized" music is broadcast by stations through submerged speakers to the happy, floating snorkelers and divers above.

At-A-Glance Reef Dive Description
and GPS Coordinates

Looe Key Reef
6.7 miles SW of Big Pine Key
GPS Co-ordinates
24 32.939N 081 24.031W
Numerous buoys are scattered throughout the area
Novice - Advanced
5 - 100'
Reef Site Description
Named after the British Man of War that sank here. Light to moderate current. The coral reef is shallow but Looe Key diving gets deeper at the outer edge where the depth drops off to about 100'. Sea grass is found in the shallows and shark, stingrays, and sea turtle frequent these areas. The south end is the deepest at 30' to 40' depth then there is an undercut drop-off that plummets almost 100' depth.
Snorkel Site
Looe Key snorkeling is excellent

Marine Life
Parrotfish, surgeonfish, barracuda, angelfish, grunts, yellowtail, wrasses, damselfish, blue tangs, grouper, nurse shark, sea whips, sea fans, sea rods, anemones, large brain coral, star coral, elkhorn coral, fire coral, orange elephant ear sponges, brown tube sponges, mutton snapper, sea turtles, stingrays

Spectacular, magical, colorful, exciting, thrilling. These are all words that must be used in conjunction with each other to try and sum up a day of scuba diving Florida Keys or snorkeling at Looe Key Reef. This combination of words is necessary, as no single word could ever do justice to this breathtakingly beautiful dive site in the Lower Florida Keys.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040