By Matt Claiborne
Northwest Florida/Jacksonville and Saint Augustine
Central Florida East Coast
Florida Gulf Coast
Up the St. Johns River has some excellent sailboat sailing, cruising, and several wonderful marinas past Jacksonville. Upriver liveaboard marinas in Florida tend to be value-priced by Florida standards. Saint Augustine is a popular cruising stopover on the way north or south, and slips there are anything but value-priced.
The central Florida marinas are almost all located along the ICW in the calm waters of the Indian River Lagoon. There are draft and height limits—bridges along this section of the ICW are only 65 feet tall.
The stretch from Stuart and Palm Beach down to Miami is the busiest part of Florida, and for boaters, it’s also the most expensive. With so many boats and a limited number of places to build marinas, simple supply and demand economics take over.
It’s a beautiful place, but there aren’t many marinas and navigating these shallow and coral reef-strewn waters is tricker than you might imagine. Since it’s one of the most popular and exclusive destinations in Florida, prices for the few marina spots are high.
The ultimate go-anywhere, do-anything vessel has got to be the saltwater fishing boat. These fiberglass boats range from 16 feet on the small end and top out in the range of mega yachts. But if you focus on only the small ones, you’ll find many options that make some of the best boats for river fishing.
The west coast of Florida is much less busy and more laid back than the east coast. As a result, you’ll find more marina options on the calm Gulf of Mexico side, and those slips that you do find will be more affordable. Tampa Bay, especially, has lots of sailing and excellent marinas in Florida.