Boat enthusiasts are drawn to harbors like moths to a flame, and Florida is the nation’s capital when it comes to excellent docks. Boasting the cool Atlantic Ocean, the warm Caribbean Sea, and every bay, lake, and estuary in between, Florida has an environment perfect for any type of boater.
In fact, plenty of old salts happily label Florida as the boating capital of the world. If you’ve hit a period in your life when your landlocked location isn’t fulfilling your nautical heart, here are six places in Florida beckoning your boat.
1. St. Augustine
If you place profound importance on the deep seafaring history of your community, there is no better dock for you than St. Augustine, Florida. Not only is St. Augustine the oldest city in the country, but it boasts the first and oldest seaport in North America. Accordingly, St. Augustine takes pride in its incredibly old landmarks throughout the huge historic district, and there are hundreds of excellently preserved sites and museums filled with artifacts to explore. Meanwhile, your boat will be more than happy docked in the City Marina with old and new vessels alike.
2. The Florida Keys
Stretching over more than 125 miles of land and sea, the Florida Keys is ripe for boating every hour of every day all year long. The tropical temperatures in this veritable paradise make all sorts of maritime adventures enjoyable any time you get the itch to go out; you can explore the island chain at your leisure, finding the best places to dive, fish, or simply float. Each island offers a different atmosphere, so if your urge to sail away resurfaces, you don’t have to go far to find the vibe you crave.
3. Tampa Bay
As you might expect, Tampa Bay sits proudly on a large bay filled by several rivers, including the Hillsborough, Alafia, and Manatee. In fact, it is the state’s largest estuary, which makes Tampa absolutely rife with boating opportunities. Countless hidden bays and rivers surrounding the city are ripe for exploration, offering plentiful small islands and historic forts.
However, what makes Tampa such a desirable place to dock is its metropolitan life. At night, the city wakes up and provides visitors and residents some of the most exciting restaurants and clubs imaginable. Plus, the immense boating community here means if you get the urge to upgrade your rig, you will find ample opportunities to donate one boat and buy another.
4. Lake Okeechobee
Boaters who identify primarily as anglers might consider freshwater docks, and Lake Okeechobee is a freshwater fisher’s dream. Affectionately called “Big O” by local sailors, Lake Okeechobee boasts a fantastic 752 square acres of boating waters chock full of big fish just asking to be caught. Indeed, the lake is known for producing some of the nation’s biggest largemouth bass, so anglers from all over the world flock to the lake and drop anchor.
However, fishing isn’t the only attraction at Big O. The lake is absolutely stunning in any season, and boaters who are drawn to the area for views would be wise to approach from the town of Pahokee, which has a quaint, though, excellent marina and downtown full of local shops. The area is filled with scenic trails for hiking or biking, and it is unlikely you’ll ever run out of natural wonder to discover.
Another Florida city with deep roots in boating and fishing, Pensacola also dates back to the first Spanish explorers in the New World. Renowned as “The Emerald Coast,” the 52 miles of coastline around Pensacola border the glittering Gulf of Mexico and are spotted with rivers open for sailing. But the real lure is nearby Destin, which boasts the moniker “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” where anglers can find the best deep-sea fishing in the world. Pensacola’s waters are teeming with life, and it is exceedingly likely you’ll see at least a dolphin, if not a nesting sea turtle or endangered snowy plover.
Besides the ample boating opportunities, Pensacola is a destination for its miles of immaculate beaches and lively nightlife. Additionally, its rich culture staves off boredom for decades. This community is active on land and off, which is perfect for boating enthusiasts.
6. Mount Dora
Mount Dora is a small town in central Florida with a big personality, deeply connected to boating by its proximity to three beautiful lakes: Lake Dora, Lake Gertrude, and Lake Beauclair. The freshwater lakes are perfect for lazy days on the water with friends and family, and the surrounding countryside is filled with natural splendor and wildlife. Nearby, the Dora Canal is known for its cypress trees that shade an abundance of exciting flora and fauna. This small community is old and charming, but the simple pleasures of the people and place last a lifetime.