- 1. The Florida Keys
- 2. St. Augustine
- 3. Tampa Bay
- 4. Jupiter and Palm Beach
- 5. Fort Lauderdale
- 6. Miami
- 7. Sarasota
- 8. Charlotte Harbor
- 9. Destin
- 10. Stuart
- 11. Jacksonville
- 12. St. John's River
- 13. Crystal River
- Types of Boats for Cruising and Fishing
Many people recognize Florida as the boating capital of the world. The amount of registered boats in the Sunshine State surpasses the rest of the United States, and visitors bring in even more boats from out of state.
If you're taking your boat on vacation with you, make sure to visit the best Florida boating destinations:
1. The Florida Keys
Known for world-class fishing ventures, the Keys are a chain of islands over 100 miles in length. They stretch from Biscayne National Park to Key West, offering both offshore and inshore fishing opportunities. You can view the coral reefs and shipwrecks in the clear shallow waters up close on snorkeling or diving expeditions.
As you pass between islands, stop for recreation on the water, local shopping, food culture and nightlife. The Keys are a hub of activity, making this stretch of islands one of the best places to go boating in Florida. The island of Islamorada is considered the "Sportfishing Capital of the World."
2. St. Augustine
St. Augustine was the U.S.'s first seaport city. You can see its rich history in the European architecture, from the buildings and bridges to the waterways. The city has the main marina and the private Camachee Cove Marina.
Attractions include the Castillo de San Marcos Spanish fortress, charter boat tours, and the historic downtown district. If you want to fish in freshwater, the San Sebastian River and the Matanzas River are both popular inshore locations.
3. Tampa Bay
This is the largest estuary in Florida, making it one of the best places to take your boat in Florida. Boaters can fish in the bay or go on a cruise to St. Petersburg or Downtown Tampa. The secluded beaches and sandbars on Tampa's islands draw many adventurous boaters, including Caladesi Island, Passage Key, Egmont Key and Beer Can Island.
Other places like Egmont Key and its 19th-century ruins are worth visiting for their history. You can also dock at Caladesi Island, a state park with docking facilities. This region has an active culture and fun traditions, including the mock pirate invasion held on Gasparilla Weekend.
4. Jupiter and Palm Beach
This area near the Gulf Stream has clear waters, offshore and inshore fishing and provides access to the Bahamas. You can see the Intracoastal Waterway from the sandbars along Palm Beach and Jupiter Island.
5. Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is a popular area for boating adventures, including canal-front sightseeing, and the downtown area has excellent shopping and food venues. It has been nicknamed the "Venice of America" for its waterways and has also been called the "Yachting Capital of the World."
A big event that draws a lot of guests is the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. If you want to go scuba diving or snorkeling, this is also a good place to access the coral reefs.
Miami has inshore locations to relax on the beach and a beautiful city skyline. You can go to the Haulover sandbar or Nixon Beach to fish and soak in the sun, or if you want to enjoy the nightlife, the South Beach and Coconut Grove are both very active locations.
The water is warm, and both inshore and offshore fishing are available. Bimini and the Florida Keys are nearby. Miami is also a good launching point to cross into the Bahamas.
Sarasota is south of Tampa Bay and is known for its fishing and boating opportunities. It has plenty of sandbars and secluded beaches. Downtown Sarasota is a good place for sailors to rent a slip or mooring ball. In Sarasota, you can sail along the Siesta Key, Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.
8. Charlotte Harbor
Charlotte Harbor has a chain of islands like the Keys, but the major appeal is how uncrowded the beaches are. Here, boaters can enjoy both inshore and offshore fishing. Iconic locations include Boca Grande, Cayo Costa, North Captiva Island, Useppa Island, Cabbage Key and Sanibel Island. The area is so attractive that popular fishing TV shows film here.
With emerald green waters and white sand beaches, Destin has been called the “World's Luckiest Fishing Village." The Crab Island sandbar makes it one of the best boating and fishing destinations in Florida. Many restaurants offer boat-friendly dining options here.
East Pass is a good place to fish for red snappers in the artificial coral reefs. Panama City Beach is also nearby.
Stuart is close to the Northern Bahamas and has been called the "Sailfish Capital of the World." Its offshore fishing opportunities are excellent, but it also has good inshore fishing with a healthy snook population.
Here you can find the St. Lucie Inlet and the Stuart Sandbar, both great places to go boating in Florida.
Jacksonville is a large city on the Intercoastal Highway with the greatest population in the southeast and has an expansive shoreline. This boating destination in Florida has several attractions, including festivals that run all year long, weather permitting. The restaurants and shops are also worth visiting for boating enthusiasts.
The Metropolitan Marina has a number of slips for docking. If you want to scuba dive, artificial reefs are also easy to find. This city is an access point for St. John's River, where you will find abundant fishing and may spot wildlife like alligators, egrets, herons and more.
12. St. John's River
The 310 miles of St. John’s River runs from Jacksonville to Orlando and is considered “Old Florida." It is the major interior waterway and one of the best boating rivers in Florida. The Jacksonville area has fishing opportunities in both saltwater and freshwater, with game-day boating available. You can also pick from many waterfront dining locations.
The country towns along the way offer a blend of cultures. Along with the first-class marinas, you can find freshwater springs here such as Silver Glen Run, Salt Springs, Juniper Springs and the Blue Spring.
13. Crystal River
Crystal River is a lesser-known destination with a pleasant family-friendly environment and many offshore and inshore fishing options. You can also go to one of three freshwater springs here, which also make great swimming holes. Many visitors also go snorkeling for a closer view of the biodiverse aquatic flora and fauna.
Types of Boats for Cruising and Fishing
Whether you want to cruise on a river, fish near the coral reefs or go swimming in a lake, there are many different types of boats that you can use to enhance your boating experience. Here are some popular types of boats for various activities.
- Bowrider: Great for fishing and other water sports, bowriders have ample seating room and are a suitable option for those new to boating. Bowriders are a good choice if you want to take your family out on the water.
- Cruiser: If you ever want to spend a night out on the water after a long day of boating, cruisers have a cabin with enough space for a small kitchen area and a few sleeping bunks — depending on their size.
- Deck boat: You can take your family and friends out on a deck boat for a day of swimming with plenty of seating room. This wide beam boat offers an open deck space to comfortably move around and more performance than some smaller cruising boats.
- Fish ‘n Ski boat: As suggested in the name, Fish ’n Ski boats are designed with family water sports and adventure in mind. These boats have comfortable seating and accessories and features like livewells and tie-down systems for fishing and ski lockers and removable tow bars for water skiing.
- Pontoon: A pontoon boat is a good choice for fishing, cruising or swimming in lakes or rivers. These boats are more flat and wide and have a shallow draft for more stability. Most pontoon boats come equipped with shade extensions for added comfort.
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Additional Resources on Boating:
- Best Places to Go Boating
- Best Boating Destinations in Alabama
- Best Boating Destinations in California