It’s the middle of winter and few places are more enticing right now than sunny Florida. What could be better than basking in the sun, lounging on warm beaches, and exploring crystal-clear boating spots? Here are seven boating locations that are must-see destinations on a visit to the Sunshine State. So, load up your Crownline or Finseeker and head south. It’s time to escape the cold and ring in the new year with some sunshine on the water.
With hundreds of miles of inland waterways, the Atlantic Ocean, and its close proximity to the Bahamas, Fort Lauderdale is a boater’s paradise. Sometimes referred to as the yachting capital of the world, the city is home to nearly 50,000 yachts and several clubs you can join to better immerse yourself in the scene. Additionally, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is one of the best boat shows in the world. You’ll definitely want to explore this haven and immerse yourself in a culture that places boating front and center.
Just 25 miles south is Miami, a city so internationally beloved that celebrities, artists and billionaires flock there in droves. One of the best hot spots is Miami Beach, an island city and legendary historic district connected by bridges to mainland Miami. Inland, there are loads of restaurants and entertainment options along the Miami River. Explore the Nixon Sandbar for socializing and a dynamic party scene, and the Dry Tortugas National Park, a nineteenth-century fort, for wildlife watching, snorkeling and sightseeing. Miami has all the ingredients for a great city: fun parties, vibrant culture, tasty food, and beautiful blue waters.
Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg
Cruise the islands and experience a quieter waterfront in and around Tampa Bay. Compared to Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Tampa Bay and Saint Petersburg are calmer escapes with an incredible range of places to explore. The two cities are full of unique waterfront shops, restaurants and galleries, but the hidden bays, islands and waterways are where the true magic of the area lives. Beer Can Island, Egmont Key and Shell Key promise a range of activities from exploring historic sites to partying with an easygoing community of boaters.
Jacksonville is host to a large number of water-based entertainment activities from huge music festivals to small fishing competitions and everything in between. The area is famous for its fishing, and each year the city hosts fishing tournaments that draw some of the best anglers and deep-sea fishers from around the world. Try tailgating in your Crownline before a Jaguars football game or take in one of the city’s festivals and get to know a spirited community.
The Keys is one of the finest boating locations in the world. Time runs a little differently here; days can feel like moments and weeks can feel like days. There’s deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, lively port towns, festivals, and an array of cultures that’s simply unparalleled. From coral reefs to Margaritaville, the Keys is a destination never short on entertainment.
Great for dolphin watching, on-the-water concerts, and enjoying the emerald waters, Destin is a recommended trip for everything from quick weekend getaways to three-month winter escapes. Henderson Beach State Park is the place to go to explore sparkling sandy beaches and enjoy camping, hiking and wildlife watching. For serious fishers, you’ll want to head far offshore. Destin is often referred to as the luckiest fishing village in the world, as many record catches are pulled from the city’s dazzling green waters.
Siesta Key and Sarasota
World-class beaches, delicious food, exceptional scuba diving and snorkeling, and plenty of lively marinas make the Sarasota area the perfect way to experience everything Florida has to offer. Siesta Key Beach has picturesque shallow waters and a good collection of shops and cafés. On Crescent Beach you’ll find white sand and limestone outcroppings surrounded by coral reefs and tidal pools. Watch extreme-watersports athletes display amazing skills in parasailing, wake surfing, waterskiing, and more. The Sarasota area is able to cast a spell on visitors that’s almost impossible to break. You should visit but be warned: you may never want to leave.
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