Updated August 28, 2020
Florida has thousands of miles of salt water coastline, thousands of lakes, and dozens of rivers. Getting out on the water is a traditional way to enjoy the state and get to see a lot of things you can't see from the roads.
Tours and adventures are readily available to help you enjoy the water, or you can rent a boat and do it on you own.
Snorkeling, fishing, sailing are activities that Floridians enjoy all year long.
AJ’s Water Adventures
116 Harbor Boulevard, Destin, FL 32541. Tel: 850-837-2222
AJ’s Water Adventures covers almost everything you could want to do on the water.
They give you plenty of ways to enjoy the beautiful clear emerald waters surrounding this Gulf coast town. You can go on a dolphin cruise, a sunset cruise, or enjoy a leisurely sail on a 74-foot custom built schooner named “Daniel Webster Clements”.
You can also take a thrilling high-speed ride on “Sea Quest”, a 53-foot speedboat. If you want to get your body into the water, they will take you on a local snorkeling trip.
There are several different cruise and tour packages you can choose from, and every cruise comes with complimentary beer and wine (but not too much), soda, and water.
They even let the kids take the helm and be Captain now and then.
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
2001 E Southport Rd, Kissimmee, FL 34746.
No visit to Florida is complete without taking an airboat ride. These shallow draft craft are moved along by engine driven aircraft propellers.
The boats can go into places that ordinary boats can’t. Experienced Captains operate these U.S. Coast Guard approved boats, which can carry up to 17 passengers.
Boggy Creek has a fleet of 12 airboats. Tours come in a large variety of options from half hour trips to private one-hour excursions for families or groups. They even have a tour that lets you drive the airboat.
The sunset and night tours are especially interesting. All these tours will bring you up close to natural Florida wildlife including water birds and alligators. You are in the northern headwaters of the Everglades.
Other things you can do here include visiting a Seminole village, a simulated gem stone and fossil mine, and a tiki bar. There is also a barbecue restaurant on site.
148 Charles Avenue, Mount Dora, FL 32757. Tel: 352-325-1442
Mount Dora is a charming town on Lake Dora in the hill and lake country northwest of Orlando.
One of the best ways to enjoy and explore the waters up here is by small boat. Cat Boat Tours provides you with a Craig Cat. This small twin hulled boat is powered by an outboard and seats two people side by side.
The tour guides have their own boat and take their small fleet of visitors on a narrated tour of Lake Dora and the fascinating mile long Dora Canal.
This canal is one of the most beautiful in Florida and is like cruising through a jungle stream among 2,000-year old cypress trees. You may see herons, egrets, ducks, ospreys, eagles, turtles, and alligators.
The canal was the location used in 1951 to reshoot some of the river scenes from the movie “African Queen” starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.
The Cat Boat tour starts at Mount Dora Boating Center and Marina, two blocks from downtown Mount Dora.
Everglades and Keys Kayak Tours (paddlefloridakeys)
Florida Bay Outfitters,
104050 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037. Tel: 305-451-3018
This operation is run by Florida Bay Outfitters, founded in 1990. It is one of Florida’s largest retailers and renters of anything related to paddle sports.
Their location in the upper Keys is a great place to begin any kind of Florida Keys and South Florida paddling trip. You can buy or rent a large variety of kayaks, paddleboards, windsurfers, and canoes.
They also offer dozens of hourly daily, and longer tours that will let you enjoy the watercraft and location of your choice.
They can take you on full day tours in Everglades National Park, 7 Mile Bridge, Indian Key, and even longer 2 to 5-day tours of the lower Keys backcountry focusing on wildlife.
You can enjoy a full moon tour, a paddle board tour, a snorkel tour, and many other tours all led by experienced experts. Their tours are great for all levels of experience, from newbies to experts.
If you want to supplement your paddling, they even have a full day adventure on Hobie sailing kayaks among the islands of Florida Bay.
Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
5 Different Boarding Locations in Fort Lauderdale.
The water taxi is an enjoyable way to visit and explore the Fort Lauderdale area. They have a fleet of 14 vessels, some of them with on board amenities.
You can enjoy your trip as an individual, family, or even as a group by reservation. As you cruise along the waterways your captain will point out mansions of famous people, landmarks, and fill you in on the history of the area you are visiting.
You will see hundreds of mega yachts because this is the yachting capital of the world.
You can board a vessel at any one of 15 different locations and ride the taxi all day. Their website has a map showing you where these locations are.
Your ticket gives you the right to get on or off at any of these locations for a one-day period. You can also buy monthly or annual passes. It is good manners to leave your crew members a tip.
Bahia Mar Yachting Center
801 Seabreeze Blvd
Ft Lauderdale, FL 33316. Tel: 954-462-5596
This riverboat cruise will delight you as you glide along the many miles of waterways in Fort Lauderdale.
You will learn all about the history of this great town and see the homes of many rich and famous people.
The boat holds more than 500 passengers and resembles an old Florida paddlewheel steamer from the pioneer days of Florida. The cruise takes 3 hours including a stop at a small island on the New River called Jungle Queen Indian Village.
There you will see a man wrestling an alligator.
If you take the cruise in the evening, the Jungle Queen features a buffet dinner. The ride on the vessel is slow and steady.
Key West Express
1200 Main St, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931. Tel: 239-463-5733
100 Grinnell St, Key West, Florida 33040. Tel: 239-463-5733
951 Bald Eagle Dr, Marco Island, FL 34145. Tel: 239-463-5733
The Key West Express is a passenger ferry service with 2 vessels that operate between Fort Myers Beach, Marco Island, and Key West.
It is quite often faster to visit Key West this way than to drive a car for several hours.
The fleet consists of the 155 foot Big Cat Express Catamaran and the 170 foot Key West Express Catamaran. Each of these twin hulled craft has a cruising speed of more than 33 knots (about 38 miles per hour).
That’s faster than the destroyer I served on in the U.S. Navy.
Both vessels have air-conditioned interiors, several sun decks, a full-service galley and bar, satellite television, and plenty of places to sit and relax. Each boat is fully certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Travel times between Key West and the other ports (and vice versa) are usually about 3.5 hours, depending on the weather.
Boarding time from Fort Myers Beach and Marco Island is usually 7:00 am. From Key west, they leave either at 4:00 or 5:00 pm. You can also depart and return on different days.
Naples Princess Cruises
550 Port O Call Way, Naples, FL 34102. Tel: 239-649-2275
The Naples Princess is a 105-foot luxury yacht approved by the Coast Guard for up to 149 passengers. It is quite often used for private charters and parties, but also offers a daily public cruise that makes a nice experience.
The yacht has a beautiful cherry wood interior and gold-plated reflective ceilings. It’s a wonderful place to view the historical landmarks and luxury mansions of Naples, and some wildlife as well.
The daily public cruises begin from the docks at Port of Naples Marina across from Tin City near downtown Naples. The yacht cruises leisurely down Naples Bay to view the magnificent homes in Port Royal, then out Gordon Pass to the Gulf of Mexico.
If you are on the sunset tour, this is where you will watch one of the famous Gulf sunsets. You are likely to see dolphins and sea birds on your trip. The yacht has 2 full service cash bars.
10823 West Yulee Dr, Homosassa, FL 34448. Tel: 352-628-5222
River Safaris is in Old Homosassa on a waterway that leads to the Homosassa River and passes Monkey Island.
You park your car at the site and have a wide variety of things you can enjoy. They have rental boats, a gift shop and art gallery, and three alligators who live in a pen on the site.
You can spend a day in Homosassa doing a variety of things and base your adventures from here. They have airboat tours, boat rentals, pontoon boat tours, manatee tours, group tours, scalloping and fishing adventures, and more.
They have such a large variety of adventures available it is advisable to visit their website to get an idea. In addition to the various tours and manatee swims, you can even go on a 2-hour twilight dolphin watching and tiki bar tour.
111 Avenida Menendez
St. Augustine, Florida 32084. Tel: 904-810-1010
I love to sail, and this is an easy way to do it. You will enjoy seeing the sights of St. Augustine aboard the “Schooner Freedom”, a 76-foot gaff rigged topsail vessel that is well known around these waters.
Captain John and his wife, Admiral Sara, have been sailing the schooner in St. Augustine since 2001.
You will not only see the sights of the Ancient City, you will learn about its fascinating history. You can also pitch in and help sail the boat, or just sit back and relax and enjoy a complimentary drink.
If the weather is okay they might even let you take the helm. There is plenty of protected water around St. Augustine, and the schooner goes wherever the wind takes it.
You will typically see some dolphins on the trip, as well as sea birds and other wildlife. They offer day sails, sunset sails, and moonlight night sails. The day sails take about 2 hours.
St. Johns Rivership Company
433 N Palmetto Ave, Sanford, FL 32771. Tel: 321-441-3030
Any journey on the north flowing St. Johns River is a trip into Florida history. This river has been a major transportation route since prehistoric times.
Many of the state’s oldest towns are along its shores. It also has miles of pristine undeveloped shoreline.
The St. Johns Rivership Co. offers a comfortable way to enjoy this river on The Barbara Lee, a 105-foot modern ship built to resemble the sternwheelers of old.
The 5-story tall vessel features ornate wrought iron railings and a massive wooden paddle wheel. It can handle 194 passengers.
Barbara Lee departs from downtown Sanford almost every day. Several types of cruises are offered, and all narrated cruises provide you with an entree prepared by a professional chef.
There is also a well-stocked bar on board. You will cruise along the river enjoying the view of wildlife and lush vegetation in air-conditioned comfort while enjoying live musical entertainment.
Winter Park Boat Tour
312 E Morse Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32789. Tel: 407-644-4056
The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour has been entertaining visitors since 1938.
It is only an hour-long ride, but you will have plenty of fun during that hour. The pontoon boats cruise on a route between Lakes Osceola, Virginia and Maitland and go past some of the most expensive real estate in Florida.
You will see many tropical trees and plants along the route, especially in the canals that connect the lakes. You will also learn about the famous structures in Winter Park history and who lived there then and who lives there now.
The tour guides are local captains who know the lake area well and keep you interested from beginning to end.
Pirate Water Taxi
13 Locations in Downtown Tampa. Tel: 813-223-7999
Tampa is famous for its annual Gasparilla Festival celebrating the life of the mythical pirate Jose Gaspar. Modern visitors to Tampa can enjoy exploring downtown Tampa on a Pirate Water Taxi.
You can get on the taxi at any one of 13 different locations and hop on and hop off as you feel like it if you have an all day pass. You can also have a drink while you cruise, and even go into an air conditioned cabin if it's hot outside.
Among the stops on this route are The Florida Aquarium, Splitsville in Sparkman Wharf, the Columbia Cafe and the Tampa Bay History Center.
Yacht StarShip Cruises & Events
603 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33767. Tel: 813-223-7999
This yacht specializes in dinner dates. You can have an excellent dinner with champagne while you cruise down the waterways of Tampa or Clearwater.
Depending on your schedule, you may get to witness of the beautiful sunsets the Gulf coast is famous for.
You can end your evening with a drink on the open air top deck of the vessel as it cruises down the waterways.