Courtesy of the Underwater Museum of Art

Major bonus: The museum also serves as an artificial reef.

If you’re among those who prefer their beach vacations with a side of culture, here’s a trip that combines both into one perfect course. Just off the coast of Florida’s picturesque 30A, a new museum showcases art like you’ve probably never seen it before — 50 feet underwater. (The best part? You can leave your walking shoes at home.)

A collaboration between the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association, the Underwater Museum of Art is North America’s first permanent underwater sculpture exhibit. (The largest subaquatic museum in the world — with more than 500 sculptures — is located off of Cancun.) An acre of seabed three-quarters of a mile off of Grayton Beach State Park houses the exhibit, which opened on June 25 to divers and snorkelers.

Courtesy of the Underwater Museum of Art

While the novelty of the museum is certainly appealing to visitors, the artwork isn’t just for looks. According to the museum’s website, 95 percent of the seabed off of Walton County is barren sandy flats; the sculptures — in addition to boosting tourism — will also provide vital habitats for reef life to grow and thrive.

Courtesy of the Underwater Museum of Art

Seven pieces make up the inaugural installation, ranging from an oversized stainless steel pineapple to an abstract piece made with a patent-pending concrete designed to match the chemical makeup of an oyster shell. Here are a couple of the pieces on land:

Ready to strap on your goggles and fins and get out there? Currently, the only way to see the museum is on a dive or snorkel excursion. But if you book a charter (or if you have a boat yourself) admission to the Underwater Museum of Art is completely free.

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