Did you know that Florida has the most registered boats out of all states? It is not very surprising, though, when it is called the Sunshine State and has so many great boating destinations, especially in the south. Out of our top 7 boating destinations in the US, we dedicated two to South Florida. Of course, it definitely has more! In this article, we will look at the best boating destinations in South Florida.
The boating capital in South Florida: Fort Lauderdale
Let us start with the Venice of America and one of the greatest boating cities: Fort Lauderdale. Some even call it the boating capital of the world! One of the reasons is because the city hosts the International Boat Show every year at the end of October. Also, you can boat both in the ocean – it has 24 miles of beach on the Atlantic coasts – and in the Intracoastal waterways, which last for 165 miles in Fort Lauderdale and 3,000 miles in total.
Just 28 miles south of Fort Lauderdale is the well-known Miami. Miami is known for its long, white beaches and also as the cultural capital of Florida. So if you are planning to boat in Fort Lauderdale, definitely consider visiting Miami too!
Quieter boating in Biscayne Bay
Biscayne National Park is quite close to Miami but much, much quieter. Here, you can relax from all the hustle and bustle of the cities. There are also many things to do here. Biscayne Bay is known for its biodiversity: there are four ecosystems here. You can explore it on land, by hiking and camping. And, of course, on water, by boating, snorkeling, and other water activities.
Two of the most popular islands in Biscayne National Park are Boca Chita and Elliot Key. On Boca Chita, there is a historic 65-foot lighthouse. Elliot Key is the largest island in this park, perfect for swimming, camping, picnicking, and barbecuing.
A hidden South Florida gem: Everglades National Park
This park is not just a Florida treasure and the largest subtropical wilderness in the US: it is also a World Heritage Site, a Wetland of International Importance, and an International Biosphere Reserve. You can find both unique landscapes and rare species here. And you can observe it all from your boat! Of course, you must be responsible and protect this unique natural reserve. Boaters cannot harass wildlife, collect plants and animals, even snail shells, and must also complete Boater’s Education Program. Learn more about the boating requirements in Everglades National Park on their site.
No need to go to Bahamas: go boating in Florida Keys
From Miami and Fort Lauderdale, it is easy to reach the Florida Keys. Florida Keys is a coral cay archipelago and the southernmost part of mainland US. And it’s very, very beautiful! As well as rewarding for anyone with so many activities you can do. Try snorkeling, diving, water sports, fishing, swimming, exploring the reefs, and more.
The closest location to reach is Key Largo, the uppermost island. Some of the most famous places here are John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In the Middle Keys, there is Long Key, a quaint place but great for birdwatching. Duck Key with Hawks Cay Resort and Sugarloaf Key in the Lower Keys are also very popular. Finally, Key West on the very end of the archipelago is a must-visit for many. Many famous personalities, such as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, spent quite some time here. There is even an Ernest Hemingway Museum.
The remote Dry Tortugas National Park
Want even more remoteness? Sail for a hundred miles west of Key West and find Dry Tortugas National Park: a group of fascinating islands in the middle of nowhere. They are only accessible by boats and seaplanes. If you prefer not to boat there yourself, you could also take a ferry from Key West. The main attraction here is Fort Jefferson, one of the biggest 19th-century forts in the US, which takes up almost the whole island. You can also observe tropical birds, swim on sandy beaches with pristine water, and, of course, explore the islands by boat.
Tired of seas? Try Lake Okeechobee
When people go boating in South Florida, they usually don’t plan to go to a lake. But if you are coming down from the north, we recommend you stop by Lake Okeechobee. This lake is the largest freshwater lake in Florida, and it literally means “big water”. The lake has very scenic views and is very popular for bass fishing. If you want to boat in more protected waters, there is also Lake Okeechobee Waterway.
Did you know that California is a great state for boating in lakes? Check out our article about the best lakes in California.
Go north to a boater’s paradise: Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is a bit more to the north, but it features on many lists of the best boating destinations in the US and is definitely worth visiting. It is a large region, and there are many boating activities for all types of boaters – maybe that’s why it’s known as a boater’s paradise?
So, what are some things to try in Tampa Bay? First, visit many of the islands nearby. For example, there is the Beer Can Island, also known as Pine Key, and Tiki Bay Island, which is especially popular for parties and opening some beer cans, of course. Egmont Key is a natural reserve and also has a 19th-century fort and a lighthouse. Shell Key is a secluded island where you can snorkel on the Gulf side, as well as fish, swim, and sunbathe, of course. If you would like to explore urban Tampa more, go up the Hillsborough River. For watersports, like water skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding, visit Riviera Bay. Finally, go to Lake Tarpon a bit north to enjoy some bass fishing.
We did not mention all the great boating destinations in South Florida, just a few. There is also Palm Beach, South Beach, Stuart, Peanut Island, Boca Lake, Lake Sylvia, and more. Perhaps you are looking to rent a boat or a yacht? Learn how to charter yachts affodarbly.