Christ of the Abyss, John Pennekamp State Park

- Peter W. Cross for VISIT FLORIDA


Boat Tours

In a state almost completely surrounded by water, what better way to explore than by boat?

Boat tours in Florida have been popular, one-of-a-kind attractions for a long time, starting with the old glass bottom boat tours in Silver Springs, Everglades airboat rides and Key Largo sunset cruises.

And it’s easy to see why visitors get hooked. Not only is boating a relaxing and serene outdoor activity but it’s also the only way to see some of Florida’s most fascinating gems, such as endangered manatees in their warm springs habitat and the backwoods home of a quirky 1930s fur trader known as Trapper Nelson.

Only by boat can you get up close and personal with wild dolphins, alligators, seabirds, egrets, turtles and other water-loving wildlife – sometimes all in one trip.

And many Florida boat tours include stops at hard-to-reach tiki bars and restaurants along the water or champagne toasts on board. Dinner cruises are a great way to catch a romantic sunset along the Gulf Coast and early morning fishing charters are known to yield the best fresh catches of grouper, tarpon, bass and other native fish in the Florida seas.

With 1,800 miles of coastline and more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams and other waterways, there are plenty of opportunities to see various diverse regions of Florida from a boat.

There are hundreds of different tours, from guided kayak tours to exciting airboats to luxurious cruises.

In Key Largo, the beautifully restored African Queen steamboat – yes, the same one that starred in the 1951 film with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn – still takes visitors on intimate canal cruises.

In St. Augustine, the Victory III still departs daily from the downtown municipal marina, giving guests a historical sightseeing tour just as it has since the early 1900s.

And in New Smyrna Beach, you can rent a water taxi for a do-it-yourself tour along the Halifax River and Ponce Inlet, with one of the stops being the picturesque Ponce de Leon Lighthouse.

For those interested in a glimpse of Florida celebrity life, there are cruises that leave downtown Miami and take guests along the backside of waterfront mansions that belong to stars such as Gloria Estefan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Whatever you’re looking for in a boat tour, Florida has a vessel waiting for you, ready to take you on an unforgettable ride through some of the most gorgeous and most fascinating corners of the state.