If you’re fortunate enough to call Florida home, spend long periods of time there, or even own a vacation home in the sunshine state, then it definitely makes sense to own a boat. Unlike other seasonal boating destinations, you can boat year round in most parts of Florida.
There are lakes, lagoons, rivers, intracoastal waterways, gulfs, oceans, canals, and dozens of other types of waterways to traverse. No matter the type of boat you want to use to explore, if you’re ready to secure financing, learn how we do boat loans at Trident Funding. We have been in business more than three decades, are a trusted marine financing company, and can pair you with the best lender and loan that fits your unique needs and your budget. We finance both used and new boats and offer loans with terms up to 20 years; making boating more affordable than ever before.
Check out our free boat loan calculator to see how much boat you can afford, then easily apply online. The faster you apply, the quicker you can get out on the water and enjoy all boating Florida has to offer.
Boating in Florida: All the Details You Need to Know
Boating in Florida is amazing! In fact, Florida has some of the most beautiful waterways in the world. You can see scenery as diverse as the Everglades, the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic Ocean, and canals lined with multi-million-dollar homes. However, before you go out on the water, you want to ensure you know what you’re doing, especially if you don’t have experience driving a boat, have passengers with you, or aren’t familiar with the waterways.
First, make sure everything on the boat is in clean and working order. Have a mechanic check everything over if the boat is used or hasn’t been taken out in awhile. Make sure your boat insurance is up to date and that you have a Sea Tow membership or a similar service in case of an emergency. Check that your GPS and radio are working and make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Also, check your fuel levels! You don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of the ocean. Safety first!
Other things to be aware of while boating in Florida include:
- No wake zones: This is an area where you should be at idle-speed and your boat shouldn’t be producing a wake. You should go as slowly as safely possible. Consider this the ‘school zone’ of the water. The no wake zone may be to protect nearby houses, docked boats, or wildlife.
- Water depths: Always know the depth of the water around you. Use your depth finder and make sure you’re not headed into water that is too shallow for your boat. Running aground can be dangerous for you, those around you, and can cause serious damage to your boat that is very expensive to fix.
- No fishing areas: Look for signs where fishing is and isn’t allowed and if permits are required or if there is a restriction on how much you can catch.
- Protected wildlife areas: Watch out for mangroves, manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles. You’re driving through their living room so be respectful.
- Docking restrictions: Know where you can dock, for how long, and if there is a charge. Also, be aware that some marinas and waterfront restaurants have size restrictions on the boats they let dock there. If you’re not sure, give them a call. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Littering: Never throw anything overboard! This includes water bottles, cigarettes, and trash. Not only is this illegal, it also pollutes the water, can kill wildlife, and can even get stuck in the engines of jet skis and jet boats.
- Boating under the influence: Don’t boat if you’ve had too much to drink or smoke. Penalties are just as severe as if you were caught driving impaired on land.
On Board Requirements When Boating in Florida
When boating in Florida, there are some things you should have onboard; some that are common sense, and others that are required by law. These items include:
- Sunscreen, fresh water, and non-perishable food for everyone on board
- Working radio
- Some kind of rain protection such as raincoats or a bimini top
- Any necessary medications
- Additional fuel: if you’re going on a long trip
- First aid kit
- Tool kit
- At least one functional United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved flotation device per person on board. If you know there will be a baby on board, the life jacket must be the appropriate size for the baby
- Working navigation lights
- Sound producing device and a backfire flame control
- Visual distress signal and a fire extinguisher
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but will help get you started on having a safe journey and being prepared for the worst, while still expecting the best. USCG regulations can change every year, so keep yourself up to date to make sure you’re in compliance.
7 Best Boating Destinations in Florida
The best boating in Florida all really depends on who you ask, the type of scenery you enjoy, and the type of boat you own. Some people love to cruise through the intracoastal waterways, admire the manatees, stop along the way at some local watering holes, and enjoy jumping off the boat and swimming over to a nearby sandbar. Others may prefer boating in one of Florida’s many lakes, including its largest, Lake Okeechobee. You can fish, relax, work on your tan, or take a turn at one of the many popular watersports including tubing, wakeboarding, and waterskiing. You may see a friendly or not so friendly alligator along the way.
More adventurous thrill seekers may want to take out their speed boat and cut through the ocean waves and then race back to shore. Or, you may prefer to bask in the lapse of luxury. Boating in Florida offers plenty of options for that. Climb aboard your yacht and cruise down to the keys, snorkel in some of the beautiful reefs there, including John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Then end your day by enjoying an onboard masseuse and an onboard chef whipping up some lemon butter to add to your fresh catch of the day.
Some of the best places to boat in Florida include:
- The Florida Keys: The southernmost point of the United States is a haven for boats from all over the world. There are coral reefs to explore, sunken ships to dive down and check out, and a huge boating community.
- Miami and the surrounding area: Miami is a sprawling metropolis with the second largest financial district in the country, a buzzing nightlife scene, amazing restaurants, and so much interesting culture. It’s also home to so many waterways, yacht parties, and notorious sandbars. One minute you can be relaxing on deck and the next you can spot a celebrity whizzing by in their speed boat.
- Fort Lauderdale: Known as one of the yacht capitals of the world, and nicknamed ‘The Venice of America’ boating is big here! In fact, there is a huge international boat and yacht show held here yearly. And during the holidays, there are boat parades and light shows.
- Naples: This Gulf Coast town and neighboring Marco Island is home to a large boating community and beautiful turquoise waters. The area is nicknamed ‘The Paradise Coast’ and is known for its eco tours, sandy white beaches, and waterside mansions, as well as golf courses. So you can play a round of golf and then take your boat out and dock at one of the many fine dining establishments.
- Tampa Bay: The best way to see this area is by water. There are waterfront mansions, the Tampa skyline, the Riverwalk, waterfront parks, and The Hillsborough River to check out on your boat. You can also birdwatch and check out wildlife at Pinellas Wildlife National Refuge.
- Crystal River: Located in Citrus County, you can enjoy lakes and the Gulf Coast in the area. There are plenty of places to fish and the area is known for its friendly manatees. Thermal springs are also abundant here and snorkeling is popular as well.
- Lake Okeechobee: This is the largest freshwater lake in the United States and is known as Florida’s Inland Sea. There are over 100 miles of walking trails, dozens of boat ramps, and plenty of places to cruise around and enjoy the scenery, or pull out the gear and go tubing or water skiing.
Boating in Florida: The Wrap Up
Boating in Florida is really unique. You get to see so many different ecosystems and beautiful scenery all in one state. Boating can be enjoyed year round, there’s rarely a need to winterize your boat, and various different types of boats are enjoyed in the sunshine state. Remember to have fun, be careful, and follow all of the boating safety rules. Enjoy all that Florida boating has to offer including its coastline, canals, rivers, lakes, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions: Boating Florida
Do You Need a Boating License in Florida?
The answer to whether you need a boating license in Florida isn’t cut and dry. If you’re born after January 1, 1988 and want to operate a boat with more than ten horsepower, then you need to complete an approved boating safety course. Once completed, you will receive a card, but there isn’t really a boating license in Florida.
Completing one of these courses is really recommended for anyone operating any type of vessel, regardless if they are older than the requirements.
Additionally, if you’re operating a vessel with paying customers, you will need a Captain’s license. There are various types of these licenses. For example, if you’re operating a small charter boat that holds six paying customers, you will need something called a Six Pack Captain’s License. If you’re operating something called an ‘inspected’ boat such as a ferry or a water taxi, then you will need a Master License. You will also need a different license if you carry more than six passengers and operate larger boats. These are usually 25, 50, or 100 ton Master Licenses.
How Do I Register a Boat in Florida?
To register a boat in Florida, you need to do the following:
- Register your boat within 30 days of purchase: All motorized boats are required to be registered regardless of their size or purchase price unless they meet certain exemptions such as only being used on a private lake or are non motorized and less than 16 feet long etc.
- You can apply for title and registration at a county tax collector office or at a license plate agent office
- You can register your vessel for one year or for two years
- Provide proof of boat ownership in order to register your boat in Florida. This can include an executed bill of sales, a federal marine document, or a builder’s contract. FLHSMV can provide information on exactly what is required to register your boat in the state.
- Provide the issued title
- Pay the registration fee: These fees vary by vehicle classification and length.
- Other fees to be aware of include lien fees if there is a boat loan, as well as electronic or paper titling fees, and fees if you’re not a Florida resident
When is Boating Season in Florida?
Boating season in Florida is truly year round! Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Sure, you may see the occasional cool temperature in Northern Florida, but for most of the state, boating is ideal all year round and may be more enjoyable during the fall and winter months when the sun isn’t quite so hot.
It’s so amazing being able to ring in New Year’s Eve in shorts and a tank top surrounded by friends on your boat. Or, jump off your boat on Christmas day and watch nearby dolphins splash around; all while your friends up North are wearing winter coats and scraping ice from their cars.
If you want to give boating in Florida a try, reach out to a reputable marine financing specialist, and the industry leader, Trident Funding. They can help you smoothly sail through the application process, and be out on the water in no time.