By Dalia Colón
When you think about spending time on the water in Florida, you probably imagine fishing or watersports.
We don’t mean to rock the boat, but those aren’t the only options.
From yacht tours to water taxis to pedal boats, here are some outside-the-box ideas to relax, refresh and reconnect with loved ones on the water in Florida—all without getting wet.
North Florida | Central Florida | South Florida
Destin: Experiencing the Emerald Coast from the water will truly put wind in your sails. AJ’s Water Adventures offers a variety of ways to get out on the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay, including a ride on the Daniel Webster Clements—a 74-foot schooner that’s perfect for an exciting dolphin-watching excursion or a relaxing sunset cruise. With complimentary beer, wine, soda and water, all that’s left for you to do is keep your camera ready.
Fernandina Beach: Amelia Island makes an ideal couples’ getaway, with its charming B&Bs, beachfront horseback riding and world-class spas. Cap off a romantic day with a sunset cruise on the tranquil Cumberland Sound. Amelia River Cruises offers several tour options, but for an evening with your sweetheart, it’s hard to beat the Adult Twilight BYOB Cruise. Bring along your favorite beverage to enjoy as you experience nature in its golden hour, while on-board musicians provide the perfect soundtrack.
Jacksonville: If you prefer your relaxation with a side of education, then embark on an outing with St. Johns River Taxi and Tours. Not only is the water taxi a great way to get around the city’s bustling riverwalk, but each Saturday the Museum of Science and History uses the taxi to lead a boat tour full of information about the role of the St. Johns River in the city’s history.
Silver Springs: In the 1930s and ‘40s, the Tarzan movies filmed in Silver Springs. These days, you’ll go ape over the glass bottom boat tour at Silver Springs State Park. The crystal-clear waters are ideal for seeing beneath the surface to explore the flora and fauna below. Tours run 365 days a year, so there’s always a chance to check out the area’s natural surroundings, Native American artifacts and movie props from the park’s silver screen heyday.
Orlando: Visiting Central Florida? After an action-packed vacation, we’ve got the perfect swan song: a relaxing trip around Lake Eola Park in the heart of downtown Orlando. Rent a swan-shaped paddle boat and practice teamwork as you pedal around the lake’s fountain against a backdrop of the downtown Orlando skyline. After your not-so-strenuous ride, grab a meal at the park’s aptly named Relax Grill, enjoy people- and bird-watching and maybe even catch a performance in the park’s Walt Disney Amphitheater.
Lake Buena Vista: Speaking of Disney, Walt Disney World offers ample opportunities to get out on the water—and we’re not just talking about Splash Mountain. If you’re looking for something less intense than a water ride but more thrilling than a short trip on a Disney ferryboat, then take matters into your own hands by renting a boat from one of the park’s marinas. Take the wheel of a motorized boat and cruise Disney’s lagoons, lakes and inlets, or enjoy the view from a kayak or canoe.
Clearwater Beach: Arrr you ready for Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise? The bright red ship has been a fixture in the Clearwater Beach Marina for more than 40 years. Embark on a two-hour high seas adventure that includes a treasure hunt, stories, dancing, face painting and water gun games that are fun for buccaneers of all ages. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, mateys.
Tampa: If you haven’t been to downtown Tampa in a while, then you haven’t been to downtown Tampa. The area has undergone a renaissance in recent years, with the addition of the Riverwalk, waterfront parks, museums and restaurants. Enjoy the view from a different angle when you cruise the Hillsborough River on an electric boat rented from eBoats Tampa. You don’t need a boating license to operate an easy-to-drive 12-passenger eBoat that’s quiet enough for conversation and roomy enough to fit your entire squad for a unique birthday gathering, couples’ night or family outing. During the day, check out the beautiful homes on Davis Islands (Derek Jeter’s mansion is a must-see) or at night, view the downtown bridges illuminated with color.
Marco Island: You’ll feel like royalty when you embark on a Gulf of Mexico cruise aboard the Marco Island Princess. The 90-foot-long yacht offers a tour for every interest: relaxing sightseeing trip, nature and history narration, lunch, sunset dinner cruise and other options. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll enjoy spectacular scenery and warm Gulf breezes. Be sure to look out for dolphins.
Fort Lauderdale: Getting there is half the fun when you ride the Riverwalk Water Trolley. The vessel cruises the New River day and night, with eight stops convenient to the city’s popular attractions, restaurants, museums and Las Olas Boulevard. Hop on and off as many times as you’d like, or stay aboard to enjoy the tropical scenery. Best of all, it’s free.
Florida Everglades: When you think Everglades, you probably think airboat. If that’s not your speed, then slow things down with a pole boat tour. Companies like Everglades Adventure Tours and Collier Seminole Nature Tours offer private excursions on these canoes similar to what Native Americans once used. Relax on a cushioned seat as your guide steers you gondola-style through Florida’s mysterious marshes.
Key Largo: You don’t need to be scuba-certified—or even get in the water at all—to savor an underwater view of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The first undersea park in the United States, this Florida Keys gem comprises about 70 nautical square miles of turquoise waters and living coral reefs. There are countless ways to explore the park, from diving and snorkeling to kayaks and paddleboards. One of the most unique excursions is a glass-bottom boat tour. Climb aboard the Spirit of Pennekamp, a 65-foot-long high-speed catamaran that’ll take you on an exhilarating journey through the highlights of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Key Largo: Movie buffs, you’re probably familiar with The African Queen, the 1951 classic starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The film’s stars are no longer with us, but the boat made famous by that movie is still around. Head to the Keys for your opportunity to ride on the legendary vessel. Take a 90-minute cruise around Port Largo Canal, or opt for the two-hour dinner cruise, which includes a stop at Pilot House Marina Restaurant for a three-course meal before you return to the silver screen legend.
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