As it turns out, you don’t actually need a scuba suit to visit many shipwrecks around the world.
When I think of shipwrecks, my thoughts immediately drift toward images of treasure chests, jugs of rum, and the Kraken. I don’t tend to think of shipwreck sites as being particularly convenient places to visit: there are diving lessons, boat charters, and submarines that all need to be sorted out first. And I don’t even own a set of swim fins.
Then, I stumbled across a photo of the Peter Iredale. Over 100 years old, full of maritime history, and easily accessible on the beach in Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon, this wreck showed me that you can visit some famous wrecks without even getting your toes wet.
Take a look at these shipwrecks that have become a part of their surrounding landscapes.
The remains of the Peter Iredale can be found on a stretch of sand in Fort Stevens State Park. The wreck site has been a tourist attraction since the day it ran aground in 1906 after hitting windy weather coupled with strong currents. Over the last century, much of the remains have deteriorated, but a large piece of the ship is easily accessible during low tide.
Once a major fishing port, Moynaq is now 150km away from the shore of the present-day Aral Sea. The ships whose remains make up this landscape didn’t crash here. Rather, the water receded beneath them when two rivers that fed the sea were diverted for irrigation. In one of the largest ecological disasters caused by man, the once 4th-largest in-land sea shrank by 90%, leaving the fishing economy of Moynaq in ruins.
Known mostly for being the site of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Homebush Bay/Sydney Olympic Park is also home to several visible shipwrecks. Once used as a ship-breaking yard, the bay houses two main wrecks that can be easily seen and accessed, especially during low tide.
The coast of the Gower Peninsula is scattered with the remains of over 250 shipwrecks in varying stages of decay. At least three such wrecks can be found on Rhossili Beach, including the remains of the Helvetia, a Norwegian vessel that washed ashore in 1887.
Several shipwreck sites can be found in the waters off the coast of Punta Cana and are popular dive spots for tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of some Caribbean sea critters. A few of these wrecks, including the famed Astron, can be spotted from the comfort of your reclining beach chair.
Exhaustive Googling found no information about this abandoned tug boat beached near the Vila Nova de Milfontes in Odemira other than the fact that many have been pleasantly surprised by its presence on one of the area’s most attractive beaches.
Point Reyes National Seashore in California has a history of being a magnet for boats. In an attempt to reduce the high number of shipwrecks along the rocky coastline, the US Lighthouse Service built the Point Reyes Light Station in 1870. Despite their efforts, over 50 ships have been lost in this area. The SS Point Reyes, pictured here, can be found on a sandbar in nearby Inverness.
One of the most famous shipwrecks still in existence, the American Star can be found off the coast of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. After a decades-long career, the ship encountered stormy weather while being towed to Thailand in the early 1990s, where it was meant to be retired and converted into a 5-star floating hotel. Over the years, the wreck has been deteriorating slowly back into the sea. Only parts of the bow remain above water today.
Also known as Smuggler’s Cove, Navagio Beach in Zakynthos is one this area’s most popular tourist attractions. Traditional stories regarding the wreck maintain that the boat was smuggling cigarettes and alcohol while being pursued by the Greek Navy. In a storm, the boat was forced into this sandy cove, where the crew allegedly fled, evading capture.
The Eduard Bohlen ran aground on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in 1909 due to heavy fog. After attempts to tow the ship back to sea failed and a brief stint as a hotel for workers in a nearby diamond mine, the ship was finally abandoned. Its remains can now be found several hundred meters inland in the Namib Desert.
Grytviken’s whaling station closed in 1966, leaving behind the remnants of a once successful whaling industry. Today, the shipwrecks and abandoned facilities are a popular stop for tourist ships visiting Antarctica. Pictured here, the Petrel was once a key whale-catching vessel. Two sealing vessels, Albatross and Dias, are also decaying nearby.
The wreck of the Dimitrios can be seen off the shore near the town of Gythio. Rumors indicate the ship was caught carrying drugs into Europe and had been impounded before being abandoned. Others say that the boat ran into poor weather conditions and the crew fled. Until verifiable facts about the Dimitrios surface, this shipwreck remains a mystery.
Built in 1904, the Maheno had a successful shipping history — even serving as a hospital ship in WWI — before being sold for scrap in 1935. While being towed to a Japanese scrapyard, the ship hit an unusual out-of-season cyclone and ended up beached on the shore of Fraser Island. After several unsuccessful attempts to return the ship to the sea, it was ultimately abandoned.
With over 300 wrecks scattered around the harbor, the Bay of Nouadhibou is one of the largest boat graveyards in the world. No maritime tales of scallywags or sea monsters here. Just a few corrupt harbor officials who allowed ships to be discarded here for a cheap price.
The Plassey was thrown against the rocks of Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, in 1960 during a severe storm. The isolated island’s rescue team gathered to assist the crew, using a rocket-fired “breeches buoy” to haul crew members to safety. Despite treacherous conditions, no lives were lost.