5 Great Boating Destinations In Florida

Florida, known as “The Sunshine State,” is the boating capital of the world. 

Not only are there more registered boats here than in any other U.S. state, but at least 100,000 out-of-state boats sail Florida’s waters on any given day. 

We compiled a short guide to excellent boating opportunities along the Emerald Coast. So if you are planning a boating vacation this year, be sure to visit these 5 great boating destinations in Florida.

Fort Lauderdale

Photo by Lance Asper on Unsplash

With its more than 300 miles of inland waterways, Greater Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America. And we can see why.

This is perhaps the most popular area for boating vacations in the world and offers the best of canal-front living and sightseeing. Sitting north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is no stranger to students on spring break, sun worshippers, or sailing enthusiasts. 

You’ll find all the supplies you need to service your boat here, or you can rent a boat to go exploring. 

It’s also the Yachting Capital of the World, with more than 40,000 yachts calling it home. The annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is one of the largest boating events in the world.

Boat rental in Fort Lauderdale includes options like sailboats, catamarans, and yachts, but motorboats are the most popular.

The Florida Keys 

Photo by Florida-Guidebook.com on Unsplash

The famous Florida Keys are a coral archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida and form the southernmost part of the United States. The surrounding waters are protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Boating in the Florida Keys can be complicated for first-time visitors unused to navigating shallow waters. Practice responsible boating to preserve the precious coral reef that parallels the Florida Keys. This is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.

This 100-mile-long stretch of islands offers world-class offshore and inshore fishing, several reefs for snorkeling and diving, and some of the best beaches in the world. 

Key Largo is a favorite destination amongst scuba divers for its reefs and shipwrecks. Deep-sea fishermen from all over the world head to Islamorada, the Sportfishing Capital of the World.


Photo by Lance Asper on Unsplash

Jacksonville is the gateway to the Emerald Coast’s major interior waterway, the St. Johns River. This city hosts numerous waterfront festivals, so there is ample dockage downtown, including the Metropolitan Park Marina.

Due to its top-notch saltwater and freshwater fishing facilities and waterfront dining, it is a popular choice for professional and college boating events. World-class marinas, boating supply stores, top hotels, and five-star restaurants are all on offer in this Atlantic Coast city. 

Jacksonville also plays host to one of the largest kingfish tournaments in Florida, thanks to its excellent shallow-water fishing opportunities.


Photo by Mason B. on Unsplash

Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and has a sailing tradition that dates to the Spanish explorers. It’s not one of the cheapest destinations for a holiday in America, but it’s worth the extra pennies. 

With beaches, bayous, and bays surrounding you, there’s plenty of fun to be had on the water in Pensacola Bay. The beautiful beaches and the best deep-sea fishing in the world make this one of Florida’s top boating destinations. 

Scuba diving and deep-sea fishing are major contributors to Pensacola’s tourism industry. And if paddling is your thing, this also marks the beginning of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.

Pensacola Bay has featured in many national sailing magazines and is considered one of the best ports for cruisers in the Gulf of Mexico. Dolphins, fishing, parasailing, snorkeling, and diving. It’s all here in Pensacola bay. 


Photo by Gary Runn on Unsplash

More than 80 percent of the Emerald Coast’s 4.5 million annual visitors visit Destin. This city is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay and is equidistant between Pensacola and Panama City. 

Unspoiled beaches, fantastic inshore and offshore fishing, and the world-famous “Crab Island” sandbar make Destin a top destination. No wonder it is home to Florida’s largest fishing fleet and popular with blue-water fishermen.

It is an excellent choice for gulf water fishing and water sports. Several charter services offer fishing excursions for everyone from beginners to experienced fishermen. And thanks to its location in the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll enjoy warmer water temperatures most of the year.