This is an easy beach dive and is especially well suited for beginners owing to ease of water entry and lack of strong currents. Depths are shallow, usually no more than 15 feet, and visibility is usually very good for this type of Gulf dive -- generally about 15 feet. Abundance of small marine life such as small reef fish, crabs, sheepshead, and snook (when they venture out from under the pier). Farther north of the pier (about a mile drive) is the "Molasses Reef" which is essentially the bowsprit of an old molasses steamer that sunk many years ago. All that is left is a small portion of the bow which sticks out of the flat surrounding sand. Not much as far as a "wreck" goes, but small reef fish seem to enjoy it.
On the north end of Bradenton Beach near the fishing pier. Take either I-75 or US19 to Bradenton and follow signs for the beach. There is free parking along the beach front as long as you get there early enough.
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06/13/2016 Aaron Kelly (Avg: 2.24 Review) - The sugar barge has been completely covered in sand due to a recent beach re-nourishment. The local dive shop told us that it's happened before and the site will recover some as the sand goes out to sea. They said maybe 6 months. When I was there, you could only see about 1 inch of a single piece of wood sticking out of the sand. It was the piece of wood that the marker was attached to. The vis was 2-3 feet. Flat seas, easy entry. Parking is available for free across the street at 'Sea Kat' divers. Until the sand erodes away some, I don't recommend bothering. Our group saw zero fish, and no boat remnants. Sea Kat does have a boat that you can buy a seat on to go to offshore sites that are worthwhile. The nearby Spanish rocks site was recommended to me as a nearby alternative; however it usually has worse visibility I am told.
07/22/2013 Chris B. (Avg: 2.45 Review) - A very DIVER UNFRIENDLY place to visit. I parked at the dive shop (right in front), spoke to the dive shop owner, and walked across the street to the beach to check out the conditions. When I return 10 minutes later my car, full of dive gear, had been towed away. After a heated discussion with the restaurant owner in the same strip mall and a threat of a lawsuit for stealing my car from an authorized parking spot and the involvement of several police officers, they returned my car. I gave up diving the Sugar Barge and moved up the beach to a public parking spot to dive the 'so called' 2 ft ledge reef. It was 'public access' parking and no signs said anything about scuba so I assumed it was OK. After suiting up, we made a 300 yard swim out only to find the visibility was ZERO. We gave up on the dive and returned to shore to find a group of OLD FARTS standing there with a cop who told us we were not supposed to be diving there and the residents were complaining. I pointed out that it was 'public access' and no signs said what we were doing was not allowed. Fortunately the cop was agreeable enough that he just asked us to pack up and leave. Based on my experience, I will never return to this pathetic place again and I would not recommend it to other divers (or tourists) as well.
03/18/2012 Bryan 2 (Avg: 2.80 Review) - This is an easy shore dive off a beautiful beach. Located right across the street from Sea Kat's Dive Shop (Jim was very helpful) it's just a short 100 yards from shore. The viz wasn't the greatest 5-6 ft but I was able to find the wreck (The Regina) in 15' of water. Just what me and the girlfriend needed to get back into the diving groove.
03/12/2009 Marc Tullis (Avg: 3.66 Review) - I used to dive the Molasses Reef site at least once monthly when I lived in Orlando and visited friends in Tampa. It's a very easy dive, and I have taken many newbies fresh from their cert' dives to this site. There are numerous soft corals on the remains of the wreck. You know you're close when you suddenly notice that the shrimp clicking is a lot louder than it was a minute ago, and the sandy bottom has become Sea Urchin City. Max depth is 17'-18' feet at a huge slack tide. Vis ranges from 10' to 25' on any given day. Heavy surf due to weather can knock vis to zero, but it's never better than about 25'. All in all, a comfortable beach dive. I think I've done this dive solo at least twelve times.
09/27/2007 Anonymous (Avg: 3.36 Review) - There is a good fossil bed off the end of the 3rd pier.
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Number of reviews for this site: 5