Boating in Florida? What’s your favourite way to spend a day on the water in the Sunshine State? Ripping it up on a WaveRunner? Skimming across a freshwater lake on your SUP board? Catching an epic tube wipeout with your GoPro? No matter your favourite watersport activity is, if you’re visiting Florida you’ll have no trouble finding a spectacular waterway to enjoy!
So, will you be visiting Jacksonville, the gateway to the St. John River? Or the crystal blue waters of Miami and the Florida Keys? How about Fort Lauderdale, known as the ‘Venice of the Americas’, with over 300 miles of inland waterways? Or maybe you’ll be boating along Florida’s Emerald Coast to check out the beachside communities of Destin, Panama City or St. Petersburg? Truth is, it doesn’t really matter where you’ll be. There’s boating all the way around and everywhere in between when you’re boating in Florida.
Florida State Parks
There are 174 award-winning state parks, historic sites and state trails for outdoor enthusiasts to check out in Florida. These beautiful parks are there for you to use… So get out there and enjoy them! Go for a hike, drop a fishing line, or head out on a kayak trip. Or just kick back on a white sand beach and relax in the sun.
Before heading out with your boat and trailer in tow, find out which of Florida’s State Parks are equipped with boat launch ramps. Oh, and if you’re an angler, several of Florida’s State Parks offer great fishing opportunities. Don’t forget to pack your fishing gear!
Best boating lakes
So, with endless options, where should you start? To help you plan out your Florida boating trip, we’ve listed a few of our favorite places to go boating in Florida. We’ve also thrown in a couple ideas for boating activities too. But don’t let this list limit your travels! Florida has over 8,000 miles of shoreline and 7,000 lakes! Happy boating!
Lake Okeechobee, ‘Florida’s inland sea’, is the second-largest freshwater lake entirely within the USA. It is contained by the Herbert Hoover Dike which was build in 1928. The area surrounding the lake is agricultural and supports the sugarcane industry in the area as well as other sweet crops. The area is now also known for watersports including boating and fishing. The lake is part of a 150 mile boating passageway called the Okeechobee Waterway which runs through the middle of the state.
Lake George or Lake Welaka is a broad and shallow lake on the St Johns River. It is six miles wider and elevan miles wide with a depth of 8 feet. It is the second largest lake in Florica after Lake Okeechobee. To the west side of the lake is the Ocala National Forest where several springs run into the lake. Other notable springs include the Salt, Silver Glen, and Juniper springs which run into the lake from various sides. Rocky Point and Lisk Point on the lake are worth a visit and are points on Steamboat routes that use the lake.
The lake also hosts a wide variety of wildlife. It ranges from migratory water birds and alligators to Atlantic Stingray and a huge population of blue crabs. The local blue crab fisheries are one of the only fisheries of its kind in the world.
St. John’s River Cruising
St Johns is one of the few north-flowing rivers in North America. It runs from the wetlands near Vero Beach to its mouth at Mayport. The river has a very slow current with a total drop of around 30 feet making it idyllic for boaters. Unfortunately the slow moving waters means that pollutants are not easily flushed from the river. Particularly around the more urban areas, making the water a bit murky and less ideal for swimming.
St Johns offers an excellent opportunity for river cruising with three different sections. First, is the five mile trip past Mayport (offering a huge amount of maritime history). Second is the lower St Johns (often busier with commercial and fishing traffic). Third is the Jacksonville end channel (offering beautiful riverfront and Riverwalk).
Airboating in the Florida Everglades
Airboat rides are an excellent and fun way to see the Florida Everglades. People come from afar to take in the ‘glades’ by airboat and to discover a whole new world of reptiles. This includes american alligators, birds, and plant life. Marine life is the main attraction with more than 200,000 American alligators. American crocodiles also frequent the area, as well as local fish. You can also find soft shelled turtles and fish such as red teriera, large mouth bass, redfish, and catfish.
The Everglades National park is known for its vast wildlife and beauty. Large wading birds, such as the roseate spoonbill, great blue heron, white ibis and a variety of egrets, as well as the osprey, also call the Florida Everglades home. There are also large wading birds, such as the roseate spoonbill, great blue heron and a variety of egrets. Your Fort Lauderdale airboat rides will introduce you to many of the native creatures who call the Florida Everglades home home.
Other wildlife in the Everglades includes the white-tailed deer, more than 28 different snakes. Be careful because a few of these are venomous. Florida also has the endangered Florida panther.
The Everglades National Park is a one of a kind wetland ecosystem in southern Florida. It was formed over thousands of years from the overflow of heavy rainfall into Lake Okeechobee. The Everglades extend southwest from Lake Okeechobee to the shores of the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Its 5,000 square miles of slow flowing water support grasslands including prairies of sawgrass. They rise 3 to 10 feet above the surface of the water. There are also thick forests and diverse groups of animal, marine and bird life. It is called the river of grass it is classified as one of the largest rivers in the world.
Fishing Capital of the USA
Florida is considered the ‘Fishing Capital of the World‘, a title based on the diversity of recreational species found in Florida’s waters and the high number of international fishing records that have been set in Florida. If you’re an angler, this is the Mecca. The state of Florida even offers a few ‘License-Free’ Fishing Days, during which you can take a friend fishing with you, even if they don’t have a fishing license! Awesome.
So what’s the big deal? What kind of fish can you catch in Florida? Freshwater anglers have 7,700 lakes to choose from. They can reel in anything from alligator gar and sturgeon to sunfish, snook and several types of bass, carp and catfish. Saltwater anglers commonly reel in snapper, grouper and of course, the iconic sailfish.