Scuba Diving the Graveyard of the Atlantic and North Carolina Coast
The incredible number and variety of shipwrecks along the coast of North Carolina lures many scuba divers from around the world. It’s estimated that there are thousands of wrecks, dating as far back as the Spanish fleets of the 1500s. The area truly earned the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and even boasts a museum of the same name in Hatteras.
North Carolina diving isn’t limited to shipwrecks, however. Around the Wilmington area, divers can find massive fossil shark teeth, as well as huge grouper. Abundant lobsters are also much larger off North Carolina than those typically found in the Caribbean.
Learning to dive is relatively easy and well worth the time and effort. Dive shops all along the coast and inland across the state offer varied dive certification classes, as well as snorkeling for those not yet certified. Experienced divers will also want to seek out deeper dives, drift dives, night diving and more (advanced certification sometimes required). The dive season usually lasts from May to October or November.
1 Roanoke Island Outfitters and Dive Center
1 Roanoke Island Outfitters and Dive CenterManteoSee on map
Along with several popular dives right off the beach (including the Carl Gerhard, the Kyzickes, the Huron and more), Roanoke Island Outfitters and Dive Center offers dive charters daily during the season, with dive sites including the German U-boat U-85, the Advance, the Jackson, the Bedloe, and the 65 and 102 Degree Towers. Co-owners and founders Matt and Pam Landrum are dive instructors (they offer a variety of classes), spearfishing specialists, kayakers and cyclists — and they bring their passion for the Outer Banks and all of these pursuits and more to this full-service dive center.
2 Ghost Fleet Dive Charters
2 Ghost Fleet Dive ChartersWancheseSee on map
Captain Crockett and his crew are anxious to share the Graveyard of the Atlantic aboard their recently refurbished dive boat. Highlights of dive charters can include the famed U-85, the Coast Guard Cutter Jackson, the Bedloe, another cutter, the appropriately named “Crockett’s Tug” (identity unknown) and several lesser-dived wrecks, including the Byron D. Benson oil tanker, the York freighter and many more for divers ranging in skills from beginner to advanced.
3 Discovery Diving
3 Discovery DivingBeaufortSee on map
Discovery Diving’s regular in-season weekend scuba diving charters are as popular as ever with veteran and new divers, as do half-day one-dive trips, weekday diving packages and specialty trips along the Crystal Coast. Depending on the conditions, possible dive sites (with shipwrecks, ledges and more) include: the U-352 U-boat; the Caribe Sea, “The Tugs” (two intentionally sunk wrecks that are part of ongoing artificial wreck additions for the area), the Spar, the Aeolus, the Papoose and the Naeco. As a full-service shop it’s also active with a shark identification program with the nearby North Carolina Aquarium, as well as coral reef restoration.
4 Olympus Dive Center
4 Olympus Dive CenterMorehead CitySee on map
Another long-time and equally beloved Crystal Coast dive operator, Olympus Dive Center also runs a wide range of charter trips out to the area’s numerous wrecks. Olympus is a full-service center, providing a wide range of dive boats, charters, instruction, gear rental and sales, air fills and more — including great advice on diving the Graveyard of the Atlantic, thanks to thousands of dives by their experienced crew.
5 Scuba Now
5 Scuba NowWilmingtonSee on map
Though the diving to the northeast up the North Carolina coast has gained more attention and divers over the years, the Wilmington area also features some great diving opportunities. In operation since 2009, Scuba Now runs dive trips out to sites ranging from World War II wrecks to stunning inshore rocky outcroppings and much more. Popular wrecks include the Alexander Ramsey, the Cassimer, the Normannia and the Condor (the state’s first heritage dive site, near Fort Fisher), while ledge dives, depending on conditions, can include 6 & 8 Mile Ledges, Dallas Rock, 23 Mile Ledge, Sue’s Ledge and Stacey’s Ledge.
6 Aquatic Safaris
6 Aquatic SafarisWilmingtonSee on map
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2018, Aquatic Safaris operates daily trips from spring to fall out of Wrightsville Beach onboard two custom dive boats. The company also heads to a wide variety of dive sites off the Wilmington-area coast, including all of the popular wrecks and many stunning ledge dives. The experienced team, including boat captains and crew members, makes sure everyone is safe and comfortable during trips. It’s introduced thousands of people to the underwater world through their PADI Open Water diver course, where the adventure of exploring the Graveyard of the Atlantic begins.