A diver swimming near coral and a few fish

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

Map showing the location of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

Location: Off the coast of Georgia

Size: 22 square miles

Designated: 1981

Habitat: Ledges and crevices, slopes and sandy areas

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Photos: Greg McFall/NOAA

Off the coast of Georgia, a hidden treasure awaits: Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

This sanctuary is remote—19 miles east of Sapelo Island, Georgia—and it’s a trip worth taking. The scattered rocky outcroppings and ledges of Gray’s Reef provide homes for an abundance of marine life. The reef attracts more than 200 species of fish, including black sea bass, snappers, groupers, and mackerels. With a wealth of sport fish, Gray’s Reef is a popular fishing location, especially with anglers looking to catch the big ones.

While Gray’s Reef is known for fishing, the diving here is spectacular as well. In addition to the variety of fish, the reef is home to crabs, lobsters, soft corals, sponges, sea stars, and other organisms that form a dense, vibrant carpet of living creatures in every color of the rainbow. It is common to see loggerhead sea turtles, which forage and rest year-round at the reef. The reef fauna changes seasonally, ensuring that no two dives are ever alike.

No need to get your feet wet to experience Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary! The sanctuary has exhibit partnerships with the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, the South Carolina Aquarium, and more.