13 Best Places to Go Boating in South Florida

13 Best Places to Go Boating in South Florida

key west boat trip
Our very own private boat tours in Key West 🙂

The Sunshine State, Florida, is famous as the “world’s yachting and boating capital.” From the Gulf Coast to South Florida, tons of islands across the Panhandle and the Atlantic Ocean make Florida the ideal destination for your next boating vacation. Summer is the best season to take your boat out and hit the waters. The cool wind, together with clear waters, relaxes your mind completely. You will be surprised to know that Florida has the most number of registered boats than any other state in the United States. Therefore, if you want to enjoy boating in South Florida, make sure you explore the following boating destinations.

1. Florida Keys

Popularly known as The Keys, the best way to describe this place is by calling it “Variety in Paradise.” Why so? Well, this is one of the rare places where you will find world-class inshore and offshore fishing facilities, tropical sandbars, inviting gin-clear water, wrecks for diving and snorkeling, and hundreds of reefs. Additionally, it also has a list of dining options and waterfront watering holes to choose from. The diverse community makes the Florida Keys suitable both for homely and party-going tourists.

2. Palm Beach

Palm Beach Florida
Palm Beach Florida

Tourists and experts call Palm Beach or Jupiter South Florida’s nicest place. It is a mix of many things, such as crystal clear water, proximity to the Gulf Stream, quick access to the northern Bahamas, and inshore and offshore fishing. You won’t even realize how quickly time passes when you reach Palm Beach. There are so many things to see that you will want to come back here again. The relaxing sandbars and Intracoastal Waterway along Jupiter Island and Palm Beach offer the ideal place to relax under the sun. You can also take a boat and go to the Palm Beach Inlet that offers a safe passage to the east coast.

3. Tampa Bay

View of downtown Tampa, Florida from the harbor.
View of downtown Tampa, Florida from the harbor.

Tampa Bay is a boater’s paradise. It has loads of boating options, such as visit offshore, go fishing in the vast bay, or take a day cruise to Downtown Tampa or St. Pete. You can also visit some of the spectacular islands nearby and relax the entire day there. Some of the most common places tourists usually visit are Egmont Key, Caladesi Island, Beer Can Island, and Passage Key. Many tourists prefer to visit these places one day at a time. The endless miles of sandbars and secluded shorelines are ideal areas to drop the anchor and rest peacefully.

4. Miami/Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale!
Fort Lauderdale!

Miami and Fort Lauderdale are the most boating areas in South Florida. The miles of canal-front living offer various sightseeing opportunities. Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s downtown has a vibrant nightlife. But if you want to explore the aqua-blue waters, you can hire a boat and set sail immediately. These two places also have various yacht and boat servicing centers. It is helpful for those who live nearby and bring their own boats. Although both Fort Lauderdale and Miami have numerous inshore locations, the latter edges past Fort Lauderdale because of its iconic skyline. You can take your boat to some of the famous sandbars like Nixon Beach and Haulover. On the other hand, Coconut Grove and South Beach are popular for their nightlife. Fort Lauderdale’s tropical waters and proximity to Florida Keys and Bimini give it an advantage over other locations.

5. Biscayne Bay

City of Miami and Biscayne Bay
City of Miami and Biscayne Bay

Biscayne Bay is right beside Miami’s skyline. One of the reasons why boating in South Florida, especially in Biscayne Bay, is so popular because it has the Biscayne National Park on its way. This is a tranquil national park with a wilderness of coral reefs, small mangrove islands, and jewel-colored waters. From pirates to shipwrecks, this national park tells you the history of Florida that dates back to 10,000 years ago.

6. Key West

So good that we put it on this list twice! We’re a little biased though 🙂

Beautiful beach landscapes of the Dry Tortuga’s national park in Key west FL.
Beautiful beach landscapes of the Dry Tortuga’s national park in Key west FL.

You can reach Key West from Biscayne Bay within a few hours. It is only 125 miles away. Key West is also one of the most mesmerizing boating destinations in South Florida. It has various boating options for boaters, such as day-trip, full-day trip, weekend cruises, seven-day cruise, and boat tours to popular tourist destinations. Each island along Key West has its own personality. For example, scuba divers usually love shipwrecks and coral reefs.

On the other hand, deep-sea fishermen who like snorkeling and deepwater diving may want to explore South Florida’s marine life. You can also visit the Dry Tortugas National Park from Key West. It is only 70 miles from Key West, and you can also see Fort Jefferson on your way. It is the ideal place for snorkeling.

7. Fort Walton Beach/Pensacola/Destin

Relaxing, Pensacola Beach
Relaxing, Pensacola Beach

Pensacola has a rich sailing tradition, and you will find experienced boaters here. Everyone you talk to may strike a conversation regarding their boats and their favorite boating destinations in South Florida. Most locals suggest visiting the nearby towns of Destin and Fort Walton Beach in your boat. They consider Destin as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” You will find the Emerald Coast a few miles down from Destin. It is a hub for sheltered harbors and beautiful beaches. The locals take boat trips to the Emerald Coast to go fishing because it’s the world’s best place for deep-sea fishing. Many sailing magazines also consider Pensacola Bay as the best port in the Gulf of Mexico.

8. Jacksonville

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown
Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown

Jacksonville provides the easiest getaway to the St. John’s River. It is South Florida’s major interior waterway. Jacksonville has top-notch marinas, five-star restaurants, fine hotels, and ship supply stores. It provides plenty of dockage areas where you can park your yacht or boat during waterfront festivals. Jacksonville also hosts one of the biggest kingfish tournaments in Florida, followed by an International Boat Show. Florida boating has become increasingly popular because of these waterfront festivals.

9. Crystal River

Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in the Crystal River, central Florida,Three Sisters
Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in the Crystal River, central Florida,Three Sisters

Crystal River is one of the most underrated boating destinations in South Florida. Many people may not like it at first glance because it doesn’t have the Atlantic Ocean’s turquoise-blue color. But various boating options and its family-friendly environment give Crystal River an edge over other areas for boating in South Florida. Here are some of the boating options that Crystal River offers to everyone: inshore and offshore fishing, visit three freshwater springs nearby, snorkeling, or lay down under the sun and enjoy the cool breeze with the pristine water in front.

10. St. John’s River

Captured on the St. John's River in Jacksonville Florida
Captured on the St. John’s River in Jacksonville Florida

The locals call St. John’s River “Old Florida.” It stretches from east of Orlando to Jacksonville. This 310-mile stretch has tons of boating options for avid and amateur boaters. You can find many waterfront dining options with freshwater fishes taking up most of the pages in the menu. Veteran boaters can participate in game-day boating activities. There are many coves and lakes that you can explore if you go south from St. John’s River. The boat-accessible springs, such as Blue Spring, Juniper Springs, Salt Springs, and Silver Glen Run, are a must-visit.

11. Stuart

Stuart is the “World’s Sailfish Capital.” Its offshore fishing facilities prove how and why it got its name. Many people, though, overlook Stuart’s incredible inshore fishing. It contains some of the largest snooks in South Florida. St. Lucie Inlet, the best inlet on the entire east coast, is a few miles away from Stuart. Make sure you visit St. Lucie before leaving. The Stuart Sandbar is another mesmerizing destination where you can put your anchor down and relax for hours. Stuart is also famous for deep-sea diving, snorkeling, and its proximity to the Bahamas.

12. Peanut Island

Peanut Island has everything you want as a boater – dock, anchorage, designated snorkeling and swimming areas, restrooms, showers, and sandbars. You can take a halt from boating and walk down the footpath that leads to a presidential nuclear fallout shelter and a small museum. It is the best boating spot in Palm Beach, South Florida.

13. Jupiter Sandbar

Jupiter Sandbar is just at the tip of the meeting point between the Loxahatchee River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Local boaters flock the Jupiter Sandbar during weekends. Therefore, try to avoid that period when you plan to visit Jupiter Sandbar. Experts recommend that you start your boat during low tide. It will help you reach Jupiter Sandbar from South Florida in just 3 hours.

Moreover, you will notice the soft, white sand as the tide recedes. You should visit the west side of Jupiter Sandbar if you want to relax in a calm and quiet environment. On the other hand, if you like to party, you should head over to the east side. There are snorkeling options available in various parts of this sandbar. The water clarity of this place increases as the high tide hits Jupiter.

There is no doubt that boating in South Florida is the most thrilling experience ever. Whether you go with your friends or family, don’t forget to keep the above places on your shortlist.

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