The big bright sun of the Sunshine State is always reflecting on the water. The rivers, lakes, and ocean make Florida a world-class destination with endless boating opportunities.
From Pensacola Beach at the tip of the panhandle to the iconic Florida Keys, America’s gateway to the Caribbean boasts a unique and diverse range of boating experiences sure to exhilarate and impress. Grab a life jacket and fire up the motor: we’re about to explore five of the best boating destinations in Florida.
The Intracoastal Waterway
Between the North American mainland and the barrier islands off the Atlantic coast lies the Intracoastal Waterway, a system of canals, rivers, and other bodies of water. Especially in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, the Intracoastal offers a remarkable boating experience as it cuts through captivating scenery, abundant wildlife, and luxurious homes. Navigating this route allows boaters to explore picturesque coastal towns, vibrant cities, and breathtaking natural landscapes, all while enjoying the freedom and flexibility of their own vessel. Not only does the Intracoastal Waterway provide access to stunning beaches and hidden coves, but it is also dotted with marinas, dockside dining establishments, and recreational activities along the way.
The Florida Keys
Off the southern tip of Florida, the Florida Keys are a chain of islands that stretch for 120 miles. This tropical paradise is perfect for boaters who enjoy fishing, snorkeling, and diving. The crystal-clear waters of the Keys are teeming with marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and tropical fish. You can explore the famous coral reefs, enjoy a sunset cruise, or simply anchor off a quiet island and soak up the sun. The literary outdoorsmen among us will especially enjoy the Ernest Hemingway Home on Key West. However, be forewarned—reaching the Keys requires a long drive west from Miami along the Overseas Highway. Make sure to secure your outboard motor before you travel.
Everglades National Park
Advanced boaters will appreciate the inimitable scenery of this Floridian wonder. The Everglades is a unique ecosystem home to a variety of endangered species, such as the Florida panther and the American crocodile. Boating through the mangrove-lined channels of this park is a one-of-a-kind experience that provides a glimpse into a world that few people get to see. You can swerve down the winding waterways, fish, bird-watch, and explore the River of Grass.
Destin-ed for Greatness
For another one of the best boating destinations in Florida, let’s look now to the state’s Emerald Coast—the white sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to Panama City Beach. Right between those two cities lies Destin, a boater’s paradise that offers outstanding fishing and world-class beaches. The waters off the coast are home to a variety of fish species, including red snapper, grouper, and amberjack. You can also explore the shoreline and check out the town’s famously picturesque beaches.
Venture west of the Everglades, and you’ll eventually reach Florida’s great lake: Lake Okeechobee, the third-largest lake fully within the United States. Unlike many lakes, you won’t find waterfront towns and crowded beaches—this body of water is a world unto itself. Boating on Lake Okeechobee offers an exhilarating experience for boaters who appreciate the serenity of open waters. With the lake’s numerous boat ramps and marinas, boaters can easily launch their vessels and embark on an adventure filled with exploration and relaxation. Whether you’re seeking solitude or camaraderie, a day spent boating on Lake Okeechobee promises unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for Florida’s natural wonders.