Diving a shipwreck is a once-in-a-lifetime experience on vacation for some people. Travelers who are fascinated by underwater worlds are often enamored with what they can find within them as well - including sunken treasure or historical wrecks. One of the latter can be easily reached off of Florida's west coast - and it has quite an interesting story, to boot.
The SS Regina, also known as the 'Molasses Barge' or 'Sugar Wreck' sunk back in 1940. The barge now sits at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and has become a popular tourist site for those taking a scuba tour or heading out on their own excursions.
Luckily, those who wish to see the wreck also have the option of a great resort to book nearby - and tours to the wreck are located just across the street.
What Happened To The SS Regina, AKA The Bradenton Beach 'Sugar Wreck' Shipwreck?
The SS Regina was built in 1904 in Ireland was built to carry molasses. This was commonly used by distilleries and the ship's route took it to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. These U.S. ports also included the major port of New Orleans, which is where the ship happened to be heading when it was on its last voyage.
As with many shipwrecks, the weather was a determining factor in the ship's fate. After nearly 40 years of problem-free routes, the ship departed from Havana, Cuba on March 5th, 1940. Onboard were 350,000 gallons of molasses destined for New Orleans, pulled along with the help of a tugboat, Minima, at the front of the ship. Unfortunately, the SS Regina wasn't the only thing trailing after the tugboat - a nasty cold front was also making its way through the Gulf.
Two days into the journey, both ships encountered waves that reached heights of eight to ten feet and gale-force winds. This was enough to tear the line from the tugboat and the SS Regina began to drift toward the shore, before ultimately wrecking on a sandbar 200 yards from Bradenton Beach. The ship also sank in only 20 feet of water but, luckily, a yacht was able to reach most of the crew before it did so. Tragically, one man and his dog, who attempted to swim to shore in the tumultuous waters, did not make it.
Where To Stay In Bradenton Beach & Take Shipwreck Dive Tours
The Anna Maria Beach Resort is the closest resort to the SS Regina shipwreck. Furthermore, it's also right across the street from a dive shop - more about that later. The resort itself offers incredible views of the Gulf and features luxe accommodations that will make any guest feel right at home on Florida's west coast.
The 4-star resort offers 31 rooms in total, all of which feature views of the resort's private beach or the resort grounds. Each of the rooms has been remodeled and features and amenities include modern appliances, an oversized pool, poolside cabanas, complimentary beach set-ups, and private patios and balconies.
The room options at the Anna Maria Beach Resort are as follows:
- Queen Island Rooms: Sleeps 4, features two queen-sized beds, has a kitchenette
- King Island Rooms: Sleeps 4, features a king bed and two convertible ottomans, has a kitchenette
- Oceanfront King & Queen Suites: Sleeps 4, features a king bed and a queen sleeper sofa, has a full kitchen
- Anna Maria Luxury Suite: The premiere suite at the resort is laid out like a one-bedroom condo featuring two full bathrooms, an open living area, a king bed with a queen sleeper sofa, an oversized balcony, and a full kitchen
*Prices for rooms range from ~ $345/night on a weekday (Queen or King Island room) to ~$1,785 on weekends for luxury suite rooms.
Sea Kat Dive Shop
Across the street from the resort, guests can find the Sea Kat Dive Shop, which offers tours of the SS Regina. This locally-owned, licensed dive store offers brochures and other information for visitors looking to snorkel the site on their own. For anyone who doesn't scuba dive, this is the best and easiest option and will still give visitors a decent view of the wreck from a snorkel depth. Included is a map of the wreck, which is fairly easy to follow!
For anyone who wishes to get a truly up-close and personal view of the SS Regina, Sea Kat Dive Shop charters two-tank scuba diving trips around the Gulf, which include the wreck itself. On one of these charter tours, visitors have the chance to observe other dive sites in addition to Florida's famous 'Sugar Wreck.'
- Cost: Call for exact costs, as each trip is customized and there are only two daily
- Trip Length: Approximately 4 hours
Blue Water Explorers
This is another option for those who want to book a simple tour at an all-included price. They also charter two-tank dive charters to reef and wrecks in the area, and visitors can call for specifics on visiting the SS Regina.
- Cost: $95, includes the cost of the charter, dive tanks, and weights