Florida offers some of the most enjoyable water experiences in the world. But when’s the last time you were out in your Mystic M3800, M4200, or C4000 powerboat and docked it to enjoy a landside picnic or to visit a nature site? Boats provide hours of fun and sun out on the water. Once in a while, though, it’s nice to come ashore and visit some of Florida’s beautiful destinations.
Florida: The Boating Capital of The World
There are more registered boats in Florida than any other state and literally thousands of sailing options in Florida. Every year, people come from around the world to join the locals in enjoying the Sunshine State’s many waterways. No matter which destination you choose, Florida’s waters will never disappoint.
From the Atlantic to the Florida Gulf Coast and across the Panhandle, here are some of our favorite places to boat, explore, and picnic in this beautiful state.
The southeast’s most populous city, Jacksonville has more shoreline than any other city in Florida, so there are plenty of places to explore by boat. The St. Johns River flows for over 300 miles from Blue Cypress Lake to where it exits east of Jacksonville. The Florida Intracoastal Waterway is huge and is spanned by seven bridges. Any local will tell you some of the best boating can be found here, particularly when the ocean water’s a little too rough.
You can head down the river to downtown Jacksonville and dock your boat to enjoy all types of festivals and parks. The Jupiter Sandbar, a longtime favorite of boaters, is located at the mouth of the Loxahatchee River, where it joins the Intracoastal Waterway.
2. St. Augustine
A little farther south of Jacksonville, St. Augustine is the country’s oldest European settlement and its first seaport. The city has a deep history, rich culture, and gorgeous beaches, making it a boater’s paradise. There’s plenty to see here, including numerous waterways and historical bridges and buildings.
You can access the city through the St. Augustine Inlet, and anchoring is permitted at the City Marina or Castillo de San Marcos Spanish fortress. Camachee Cove Marina is private. Before exploring the 500-year-old city, plan to stop and enjoy the Matanzas or San Sebastian River, where there are plenty of marinas. When you do make it into downtown, you’ll love strolling the historic pedestrian area that begins at the City Marina.
3. New Smyrna Beach
South of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic, you’ll find Florida’s second-oldest city, New Smyrna Beach, nestled between the Indian River and the Florida coast. Known for its miles of white sand and the Canaveral National Seashore, it’s a fabulous destination for boaters, with Disappearing Island being a favorite spot. Arrive at low tide, and the waters reveal a sand bar you can pull right up to and set anchor. You can picnic at nearby Riverside Park or any of the city’s other many parks and recreation facilities off the water.
Located just off the Northwest Gulf Coast on the Florida Panhandle, Destin, aka “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” is prized for its emerald-green waters and is a prime boating spot in the state.
Destin’s Jetties are a number one destination for locals, and the marina here is home to the largest private charter fishing fleet on the Gulf of Mexico. The protected inlet of Joe’s Bayou has no laws about wakes, and the Gulf Islands National Seashore has magnificent white beaches and plenty of shady picnic areas and trails. Henderson Beach State Park, conveniently located on the shores of Destin, is famous for its quartz sand which stays cool in the summer. Crab Island is also a popular destination but tends to be more crowded than the more slow-paced Henderson Beach.
5. Anna Maria Island, Bradenton
Travel a little south of Clearwater and you’ll come to Anna Maria Island. A quiet, quaint beach town that hasn’t been spoiled by tourism, the barrier island boasts seven miles of pure white sand and crystal clear water. You can cruise along the calm Gulf Coast waters and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle, if only for a day.
From the tip of Anna Maria Island down to Sarasota, Tampa Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico, you have your pick of incredible boating destinations along Florida’s central western coast. Jewfish Key or, as the locals call it, Beer Can Alley, is a relaxing place to stop and lower anchor. This is where you’ll also find Egmont Key State Park at the mouth of Tampa Bay northwest of Anna Maria Island (see below).
6. Clearwater Beach
Clearwater is most famous for baseball’s spring training, but Clearwater Beach is prized by boaters for its powdery white beaches and warm waters. You won’t be disappointed with Clearwater’s expansive waterfront and tucked-away gems like Sun Dollar Island for a day of relaxation and exploring.
Easily accessible by boat, Caladesi Island can feel more like the Caribbean than Florida. Located just west of Dunedin on the gulf coast, you can drop anchor virtually anywhere along the beach line and bring your beach chairs to shore to enjoy a picnic and the calm sea breezes. If you want something a little more lively, head downtown for some live entertainment, or take the kids to visit the aquarium’s famous dolphins.
There are plenty of cruising options around Clearwater Beach, including several state parks to stop and enjoy. Along with Caladesi Island State Park, Fort De Soto and Honeymoon Island State Park offer four miles of sandy shoreline, nature trails, and a dog-friendly beach. Fort De Soto is much bigger, with five islands covering over 1100 acres. There are 11 floating docks for boaters and an 800-foot-long boating launching area. Picnic shelters, natural trails, and swim centers make this a perfect spot to enjoy the sun, sand, and tasty picnic fare.
7. Silver Glen Springs, Ocala
Want a change of scenery from coastal waters? Inland Silver Glen Springs is one of Florida’s most beautiful everglades. The natural swimming pool has clear, shallow water perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Boats are not permitted in the spring pool, but the spring run is open for recreational boating. Just follow the St. John’s river into Lake George. It’s easy to spend an entire day at Silver Glen Springs, enjoying the water and exploring the Ocala National Forest.
8. Marco Island and Naples Area
Many people equate Marco Island and Naples with high-end shopping and fine dining, but the area offers much more. Perfectly positioned in southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, you can boat to many locations far from the hustle and bustle the area’s known for.
Keewaydin Island and Rookery Island are located nearby between the two cities, and there are plenty of boat launches in the area. Keewaydin Island, a secluded and uninhabited barrier island, is accessible only by boat. It’s an ideal spot for walking, shelling, or wading along the sandbars. The largest and only developed area of the Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island’s unspoiled parks and beautiful beaches are huge lures for boaters. Just a few miles away is Collier Seminole State Park, which offers picnic grounds and a mile-long nature walk.
9. Egmont Key, St. Petersburg
Located within Tampa’s bay area you’ll find the city of St. Petersburg. Venture just a few miles south and you’ll be delighted to discover Egmont Key, which is accessible only by boat. Here you can fish, view the wildlife, hike interpretive trails, collect shells, and enjoy the open white sand beaches and bathing. Though pets and alcohol are prohibited, you can still enjoy a quiet picnic at this secret sanctuary. Nearby you’ll find Lido Key’s City Island, Longboat Key, the Riverwalk, and the Regina, a popular destination for snorkelers.
10. Anastasia State Park
Located just south of St. Augustine, Anastasia State Park is a vast, 1600-acre park where you can quickly find some solitude for collecting seashells, admiring birdlife, and enjoying a stroll on the four miles of hard-pack, pristine sands. The park has just about everything a beach lover looks for, including swimming, sunbathing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and sailboarding. Keep in mind that dogs are not permitted on the beach. There are plenty of picnic tables here as well as a picnic pavilion and playground for the kids.
There are hundreds of places up and down Florida’s coastlines where you can take your center console or catamaran to enjoy the sights and spread your picnic blanket. Many of the state’s parks and preserves offer boater access or boating facilities such as marinas, moorings, or boat ramps. You can get more information about them here.
Bonus Destination: The Florida Keys
With their laid-back vibe and Caribbean-style, the hundreds of islands in the Florida Keys offer something for everyone to enjoy. Affectionately known as the “the Keys,” the area is a true boater’s paradise. Here you can visit Key Largo, Key Colony, Islamorada, Honda Key, and so many other beautiful locations. Before heading to the Keys, be sure to educate yourself on responsible boating here so as not to disturb the reef.
Pack the Perfect Picnic for Your Mystic Boat Outing
Whether you’re packing for the boat, the dock, or the beach, picnic food just seems to taste best! The key to a successful boating picnic is keeping it simple while still making it tasty. Here are some boating picnic ideas and tips.
- Terrific choices for snacks and appetizers include trail mix, fresh avocado dip with crunchy pita chips, black bean salsa, and hummus.
- Sandwiches are an easy option but don’t settle for the same old fillings. Curried turkey or chicken or roasted veggies sandwiches and wraps offer something a little different.
- Simple pasta salads keep really well and are definitely crowd favorites!
- Fresh fruit like watermelon, frozen grapes, and strawberries are always appreciated. You can also mix them into a fruit salad.
- For dessert, try brownies, blondies, and oatmeal cookies (no melting chocolate chips).
When it comes to boating picnics, make it a goal to keep food prep on the boat or at the site to a minimum so you can just relax and enjoy the sun and surf. Now all you need to do is find the perfect spot, lay out your picnic blanket, and pass around the beverages and food.
Whatever your favorite boating activities may be, adding a picnic can make them that much more enjoyable. Mystic’s custom-designed luxury powerboats are guaranteed to include everything you, your family, and your guests need to enjoy a boat outing they’ll never forget. Ready to dive into the Mystic Lifestyle? Contact us online today to schedule a personal consultation.