RioMar, Vero Beach vs. Pepper Park, Fort Pierce

I thought it might be interesting for my fellow shore divers who have not dove these two areas yet to see a comparison of the two shore dive locations side by side.  First, I would like to start off by saying that all divers have their own set of requirements for making locations a good dive.  I certainly love shore diving whenever I can on a day off.  I love the macro life and photography stuff right now while hubby is the hunter who loves to see the enormous things…like sharks, big grouper, rays, turtles.  Don’t get me wrong I love to spot these things as much as him but I thoroughly enjoy seeing how creatures interact with each other in the crevices of the reef.  For instance, when we saw the sharks both times the other day, I stop and hesisitate for a moment as the fear of “Oh, my god it’s a shark”  has to wear off,  and then my brain kicks in saying, “It’s just a nurse shark, you wuss”.  Meanwhile, hubby is rooting in the crevices under ledges and actively hunting with his light.  So, with that said…this is just for informational purposes and I hope it helps you when making a decision about which one to shore dive.  I will be using conch symbols to denote quality of dives.

1 conch is poor, 10 conch is fabulous.  Conch rating may change during the seasons according to the conditions.  10 is a fabulous, clear, easy entry, lots to see, no current, no wind, no waves, no issues. 5 conch is an average dive but for those of you looking at this not being a spoiled Floridian, you may rate much higher.

standard guidelines…I will give:

1 conch for easy entry and exit

1 conch for viz at least 15 feet

extra 1 conch for viz over 30 feet

1 conch for no equipment issues

1 conch for no challenging current, swell or surge

all the rest of the conch will depend on what we see, how long the dive is, water temp, and a whole slew of other factors.

RioMar, Vero Beach (4/2/12)

– This is a secluded stretch of the beach not really known by tourists.  It sits about 3 blocks south of the main strip where there is plenty of parking and lots of people.  I know a lot of divers who dive right down town off Ocean Grill.  Not really my thing.

Parking & Amenities:  About 5 spots, get here early.  If you can’t get a parking spot, hopefully you have a fabulous partner like me that will dump gear and park car.  (Love you Rich!)  We couldn’t get there till about 1pm and it was backed up with people waiting to park.  Has a shower before you hit parking.  Nice for rinsing gear.

Ease of Entry:  I thought ease of entry was fabulous on this dive for this area.  You can walk next to stairs onto beach, approx 100 feet into water.  It is about 1/3 of the walk for Pepper Park to shoreline.  No ledge, waves non existent, a little sandy sludge to push through (about 3 steps), harder coming out but if I can make it without busting my ass, you can!  It was waist high for about 25 yards.  We entered during low tide.

Visibility:  Vero beach is tough sometimes for viz.  It really chops up a bit and as we haven’t dove this area since October due to viz, you get my meaning.  But when it is good, it is great.  This dive, there was tons of sediment and algae.  Just look at my pics.  I would say 15 feet was being generous but at the farthest reef (about 500 yards)  viz was better.  Be careful, I lost Rich a few times when I stopped for pics.  No biggy, just looked for the bubbles.

Water & Air temp:  Still chilly but I am a spoiled Florida girl.  Prefer skin diving.  Water temp was about 75 degrees.  I wore a 3 mil suit, hoodie and gloves for warmth.  Air temp coming up was nice, about 80 degrees.  No chill factor getting out of wet suit.  It was colder after about 2 hours at the last reef area. Remarkable drop in temp.

Creature feature:  Tons of sea cucumbers, urchins, sheepshead, pork fish.  Nothing really big.  A few lobster, 1 huge one.  Not a lot of variety or color for this dive for fish.  The algae and seaweed is interesting here.  Plenty of variety and a different terrain to look at.  Some 4-6 foot high seaweed growth on first reef, should have looked for seahorses.  No sharks, turtles or rays on this dive.  A few grouper and anglefish.

Tank stuff:  Got about a two hour dive with the steel tanks, came up with 1000psi.  came up early due to being cold. Max depth 25 feet.

Pepper Park, Fort Pierce (4/3/12)

-This is a state Park, no fee for parking.  We use the south entry ramp.  This used to be a stair entry with wheelchair ramp.  Not really sure what they would do with the wheelchair when they hit the sand?  That has been taken out.  Now there is a shaded walkway, flat stretch to beach. Check my remarks about butthead boaters a few days ago.  I will not let this take away from the dive, but shore divers beware until FWC clamps down on them.

Parking & Amenities:  Tons of Parking, was pretty full as we left at 4pm.  There is not a shower at this entry however this is a shower and bathrooms in the middle of the park.   It was pretty hot by the time you were suited up.  Walk is about 3 times longer than Rio Mar.  Factor in no shower to cool down and rinse, it gets pretty hot by the time you hit water.

Ease of Entry:  Walk was a little far but once you got to shoreline it was smooth sailing.  No waved, no current, no ledge.  It was very shallow and you could get fins, mask and gear on no problem at waist height.  I back kicked about 200 yards once in water no problem.  Getting out, same issue as Vero just a little soft sand at shore line.  Just get a start and push through.

Visibility:  Pepper park is generally better than Vero beach, today was no exception.  I thought viz was about 20-30 feet.  There was no as much sediment and not as much algae.

Water & Air temp:  I felt the water was a bit warmer here.  Water temp was about 76 degrees.  I wore a 3 mil suit, hoodie and gloves for warmth.  Air temp coming up was nice, about 84 degrees.  No chill factor getting out of wet suit.  We sat on beach for two after after.  No real breeze, we even went swimming, no dive suit on.

Creature feature:  Tons of sea cucumbers, urchins, sheepshead, pork fish.  I enjoyed this for start of season.  Saw 3 nurse shark, one on first reef after being in less than 10 minutes.  Saw two more after an hour on middle reef.  One large, one very small under ledge.  No turtles or rays on this dive.  Saw about 6 lobster, 2 rather large ones.  Few grouper and anglefish.  Lots of damsel fish, blennies, gobies, lizardfish.  Saw a great conch fight.

Tank stuff:  Got about a two hour, 15 minutes dive with the steel tanks, came up with 1500psi.  Rich came up with 1000psi.  Max depth 15 feet.  We were ready to relax and enjoy rest of day plus my stomach was growling.

There you have it.  All in all, it was great to be back in the water.  Keeping fingers crossed for tomorrow am Pepper Park but also contemplating Blue Heron Bridge if slack tide a good time.  Hate to due the Bridge on a weekend plus holiday, it will be mobbed.

Have a fabulous Easter!  Check back tomorrow for Creature feature…sea cucumber

About daniellesdives

diving enthusiast
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3 Responses to RioMar, Vero Beach vs. Pepper Park, Fort Pierce

  1. Toby says:

    Your posting was great. I am looking for new areas to dive. Done BHB about a dozen times and twice as many at Lauderdale by the sea. I’m looking to dive spots closer to home since I live in Orlando. This will save me 2 hours from going all the way to LBTS.

    • true about the shorter drive, I love LBTS but it is 3 hours for me from my house. I work in Vero so have been doing more local dives from Wabasso to Bathtub beach.

    • thanks, I remember how frustrating it would be for me to drive and trip wasted. Let me know anytime I can help. I do post conditions often and where we are diving. little tip, if I am diving an area it generally means conditions are favorable. I am not a muddy soup diver

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