At a recent luncheon that shined a spotlight on the state of the Alabama Gulf Coast tourism industry, Herb Malone, CEO of the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism Office, reported a new trend gaining traction along the Gulf Coast—scuba diving vacations.

“We are seeing dive shops and clubs bring groups together to dive our artificial reefs. It’s a terrific opportunity for visitors to explore our fascinating underwater environment.”

Alabama has created the largest artificial reef program in the United States with more than 17,000 artificial reefs. The makeup of these reefs includes tanks, barges, bridge rubble, and other material.

With a natural bottom that is predominately flat sand/mud, the vertical relief of a variety of artificial reefs has increased the species and overall number of fish in these areas.

The Biggest: The LuLu
On Sunday, May 26, 2013 (Memorial Day Weekend), the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation deployed a new reef 17 nautical miles from shore, south of Perdido Pass in Orange Beach.

The 271-foot coastal freighter, the “M.V. Yokamu,” renamed The LuLu was sunk in more than 100 feet of water.

Because The LuLu—named for Lucy Buffett, proprietor of Lulu’s at Homeport Marina restaurant in Gulf Shores—is sitting straight up on the bottom and the uppermost parts of the ship are 55 feet above the bottom, recreational scuba divers can dive to the shallower parts of the ship and enjoy the marine life and fish there.

More experienced divers can prowl the passageways and the nooks and crannies in the deeper area of the ship. The LuLu has become a scuba diving adventure dive site for local divers and those from across the country. Also, because of its close proximity to Perdido Pass, The LuLu is a close-to-shore fishing destination for many anglers.

A Watery Playground & Wedding Site: Poseidon’s Playground
In March 2015, a shell-covered concrete cross was deployed at the near shore reef called “Poseidon’s Playground.” The cross was installed to serve as an altar for underwater wedding ceremonies, said Vince Lucido, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation.

Weddings seem to be a big industry here, and we’re going to offer wedding venues for anybody that has a desire to do underwater weddings,” Lucido said.

Poseidon’s Playground was spearheaded by the foundation and includes many mythological statues such as Poseidon, Apollo and Venus along with a table-like grouper reef with small aquatic statues.

Poseidon’s Playground will also include memorial statues to first responders. Lucido reported to the Orange Beach City Council that the foundation is committed to expanding diving options in the area.

“I’m just letting you know that we’re working on different venues for diving and fishing. And especially the diving industry to make it more available to all facets of divers—your beginning, your intermediate and your more advanced,” he said.

Shallow Enough For Snorkelers: The Whiskey Wreck
An old Spanish Rum Runner, the Whiskey Wreck is 150 yards due south of Bahama Bob’s restaurant in Gulf Shores.

Located in 15 to 25 feet of water, the wreck covers approximately 300 yards and lies just beyond the sand bar.

USA Today reports that night diving on the Whiskey Wreck is a great way to see things that go unnoticed during daylight hours.

Get Started: Local Dive Shops

Diving vacations on the Gulf Coast need not be a mystery. Here are three dive shops that can offer assistance:

High Pressure Dive Shop, (251) 721-9111

Gary’s Gulf Diver, (251) 747-6563

Down Under Dive Shop, (251) 968-3483 (Learn more about Down Under Dive Shop in the video below.)

Reserve Your Home Base: Book Your Diving Vacation
When creating a diving vacation experience on the Gulf Coast, why not stay right on the Gulf?

Each of Meyer Vacation Rentals’ condo and house rentals is outfitted with its own kitchen, multiple bathrooms, a living and dining area and a private balcony or patio. It allows you to feel at home.

Waterfront properties are available in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key.