NBOA’s Guide to Boating in Florida
From a relaxing day of cruising to exploring the water with your family, or simply fishing with your best friend, there is a lot to know about boating in Florida before you pull away from the dock. Here at NBOA (National Boat Owners Association), we have created a comprehensive guide to taking your boat out into the Florida waters. With recommendations on where to set sail, how to avoid hurricane season, fun boating activities, safety tips, and why Florida is your boating paradise, complete with a little history lesson, our team has covered it all. If you are a seasoned renter considering the option of purchasing your own watercraft, NBOA has even answered some of your questions when it comes to boat financing and protecting your purchase with boat insurance. Let’s dive in!
Why Florida is a Boater’s Paradise
In 2019, over 936 thousand boats and watercraft were registered in the state of Florida, and it’s no secret as to why the sunshine state is considered to be “a boater’s paradise.” With approximately 2,000 miles of coastline and 11,000 miles of streams and rivers, not to mention the 7,700 miles of named lakes, there is no shortage of waterways when it comes to boating in Florida. In addition to some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in the world, Florida is also equipped with year-round sunshine and temperatures that average 70.7 degrees. Between the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coastline, set sail with your fishing gear, furry friends, or family as you relax and make some of your favorite memories on the glistening waters.
Noteworthy Sea Captains in Florida History
As Florida has always been seen as a boating “paradise,” there have been a few notable sea captains in history that recognized the potential and wonder of the shores on the state’s coastline. In 1513, Ponce De Leon discovered Florida, naming it “La Florida” or “land of flowers.” He also saw this land as an opportune location for transporting silver, gold, and precious gems. In turn, this attracted some of the more noteworthy pirates in history, including Black Caesar, Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack, and Jean Lafitte.
Known as Spain’s most experienced admiral of his time, Don Pedro Menendez set sail to Florida in 1565 with the task of driving out unwanted settlers and pirates. On August 28th, he arrived on Florida’s west coast and established a village known as St. Augustine, merely eleven days later. His success is shared among his 600 soldiers as well as a hurricane that assisted in defeating the French fleet.
Drawn to its wealthy fish population and high-quality deep-sea fishing, Captain Leonard Destin made his way to the Gulf Coast in the 1840s. He settled west of the Panhandle, just east of Pensacola, on an island-like peninsula. Years after his death, his best mate, Captain Billy Marler, continued building the village with fishing camps and tourist cottages. In 1896, Marler officially established “the luckiest fishing village in the world,” and named it “Destin.”
Best Boating Locations in Florida
While cruising 50 miles from Miami to Bimini is on every boater’s bucket list, there are a plethora of breathtaking, jeweled-toned waters in Florida to meet all of your boating desires. Fishermen are sure to have success casting a line in Charlotte Harbor, Jupiter, Tampa Bay, Crystal River, Stuart, St. John’s River, St. Augustine, the Florida Keys/Key West, and of course, Destin. The best sandbars can be found in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale’s Haulover and Nixon Beach, Sarasota, Stuart, New Smyrna and its Disappearing Island, and Destin, home to the famous Crab Island Sandbar. Each unique location off the Florida coast is a great experience for the whole family to relax, explore, play, and soak up the sun with a fresh sea breeze.
What to Do While Boating in Florida
Keep Your Eyes Open
Cruising around the breathtaking Florida coastline is by far one of the most relaxing ways to spend your afternoon, but what makes boating in the sunshine state better than others? While you are breathing in the salty air, feeling the warm sun on your skin, and feeling the Florida wind through your hair, keep an eye out for some of our favorite marine life, like dolphins, sea turtles, and the growing population of our beloved manatees.
If you are looking for a little more adventure while in Florida, we have a few novel suggestions, such as barefoot skiing. Whether you are new to this activity or have yet to perfect the art, you can sign up for lessons in Palm Beach and maybe even learn from eight-time USA Barefoot Water Ski Champion, Zenon Bilas. Or, you can take it easy and raft up at a local sandbar, such as Whale Harbor Sandbar (Islamorada, FL), Peanut Island (Palm Beach, FL), Shell Island (Panama City Beach, FL), or Matanzas River Sandbar (St. Augustine, FL).
Classic Family Boating Activities
Afternoons spent on a boat with the family are some of the best days to look back on and remember. No matter how old or young you are, you can enjoy a number of classic activities on the water, like diving and snorkeling, pulling inflatables such as tubes and other fun towable toys, and sports like wakeboarding and waterskiing. Another way to get closer to marine life is by bringing along inflatable stand-up paddleboards to use around the Gulf.
We cannot create a list of our favorite Florida boating activities without describing the abundance of quality fishing around the Gulf Coast. Deep-sea and offshore fishing are among the best throughout Florida’s waters. There have been over 900 world records achieved by fishing in Florida, which is the most recorded in any state or country.
Best Way to End the Day
As the air begins to feel cool and golden hour approaches, this is not your cue to pull into the marina and dock your boat for the day. Now is the best time to find the perfect spot on the water to admire the most magnificent sunset on Florida’s Gulf Coast. You will not want to miss it. If you have yet to eat dinner, we suggest ordering from a favorite local restaurant and enjoying your meal on board as you soak in a beautiful and peaceful end to your sunny day on the water.
How to Stay Safe on Board
Regardless of your boating experience, it is always a good idea to give yourself a refresher when it comes to boating safety tips. Some of the more common rules of boating include making sure everyone is equipped with a proper life jacket for their height and size, not drinking while driving or taking part in watersports and cruising at the appropriate speed. In addition, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for swimmers, be mindful of other boats and watercraft, look for buoys and other signage, etc. If you plan to share a fun afternoon out on the water with your best furry friends, consider investing in a pet life jacket and ensure a lot of drinking water is accessible onboard.
Other important safety tips you want to remember are sharing your travel plans with trusted friends and family, or even with a marina if you are planning a longer voyage. Look ahead at the weather forecast to avoid getting caught in predicted storms, choppy seas, or other unfavorable conditions. A great way to always be prepared with the most up-to-date safety knowledge is to become an official sea captain and partake in continuing sea education every so often.
Best Time of Year for Florida Boating
How to decide on the best time to go boating in Florida can be an interesting task. While you want to avoid crowds, it may be more important to avoid thunderstorms and hurricanes that often hit the Florida coast through the summer and fall months. Hurricane season runs from June through November in Florida, with the majority of storms hitting in August and September. You will also see the most thunder and lightning storms in Florida from June through August, depending on your specific location. As you do not want to put yourself, your family, or your friends at risk, it is best to avoid planning a boating adventure during these months.
When looking to beat the crowds and soak up those 80- and 90-degree sunny days, April, May, and October may be your best bet. Many families enjoy taking their Florida vacations from June through September and Spring Breakers can crowd the beaches in March. It turns out, the Florida snowbirds have the right idea of inhabiting Florida from November through April.
How to Purchase a Boat
If you live near the Florida coast and enjoy spending as much free time on the water as possible, it might be time to stop renting a boat and purchasing one of your own. Find one that encompasses all of your favorite features to allow you to take part in your favorite water activities with ease. To start, you will want to establish a budget and determine if a used boat or a new boat is the best option for you. Then, have fun and take your time shopping around to ensure all of your boating needs are met with one fantastic watercraft to call your own.
Before committing to a shiny new boat, you will want to take a look at all of your boat financing options. The experts here at NBOA are seasoned professionals, and fellow boat lovers, who can help guide you on the best boat finance program for you. In addition, we can share inside knowledge on the benefits of obtaining an NBOA membership. Finally, after you have found your dream boat, you will want to protect your investment with boat insurance. Take a look at our boat insurance programs to ensure you are getting the best rates and coverage both on and off the water.
How to Stay Covered
Making sure you are covered while sailing around Florida’s coast and beyond is an important task before setting sail. The navigational guidelines should be stated in your insurance policy, although they can vary. Ensure you have read and understood your policy and the limitations you may have when it comes to cruising out into the sea. You also want to make note of the differences between nautical miles and regular miles to ensure you have a clear understanding of where exactly you are covered. As always, we encourage you to contact us here at NBOA so we can answer your questions or clarify any policy guidelines.
Learn more or start your free boat insurance quote by clicking here.