Every year, thousands of boaters and aquatic enthusiasts flock to South Florida for an annual look at the newest models and gadgets the industry has to offer… all in the midst of a wintertime boating paradise. The Progressive Miami International Boat Show takes place from February 12th through the 16th, and has enough exhibits, workshops and demonstrations to span across three locations in the Miami area.
While organizers are expecting a big turnout for this year’s show—and more than 2000 exhibitors!—the show itself is just the tip of the bow when it comes to satisfying your need for boating fun and industry insight. Miami and the surrounding South Florida area offers a wealth of coasts to explore, from white sandy beaches to oceanfront cities and plenty of spots from which to launch your boat on your trip.
Start off your trip to South Florida by Lake Okeechobee, then head about as far down south as you can go without island-hopping: Key Largo is the first island of the keys and the originating point of the Overseas Highway. A quick drive (or cruise) will reveal more beautiful seascapes and stops for leisurely refueling, in places like Biscayne Bay or the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway.
Whichever way you want to start your wintertime Florida trip, be sure to stop by this year’s show and make plenty of stops along the way!
So here it is: our north-to-south guide for your South Florida boating adventure
Lake Okeechobee: Lake Okeechobee is the northernmost leg of our South Florida journey. Florida’s largest lake, the name Okeechobee comes from the Hitchiti words for “big water”—and that’s a name well-earned! This lake is known for its sheer size, scenic horizon views and abundance of bass fishing to be had. If you’re coming in from the north, Lake Okeechobee is definitely worth a stop on your way down south.
Lake Okeechobee Waterway: If you’re looking for a more protected route for your Florida boating trip—one that saves you time, fuel and the risk of choppy seas—use the Lake Okeechobee Waterway to cruise east or west from the state’s largest lake. The east leg runs from the lake to Florida’s east coast, at Stuart, Florida, from where you can cruise down to Fort Lauderdale, Miami and other coastal hubs.
Palm Beach: Palm Beach County is a trove of both tranquil Atlantic boating and city life that’s not quite as bustling as that of its southern counterparts. Any day spent off the waters in Jupiter (at the northernmost part of the county), Boca Raton or West Palm Beach can be capped off with a dinner at one of these cities’ prime dining and shopping centers. Singer Island is off of Riviera Beach, and offers a relaxing break from the crowds of often-busier waterways. Incidentally, the southeastern quarter of Lake Okeechobee is located in Palm Beach County, so you won’t have to travel far in any direction for a day of boating or fishing!
Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway: You’ve heard it plenty of times before: Fort Lauderdale is often dubbed the Venice of America for its yacht-loving culture. Soak in that culture firsthand and experience Fort Lauderdale’s local leg of the United States’ 3000-mile Intracoastal Waterway. Take a look at some of the state’s most exclusive real estate while you navigate through the sunny waters and take stops by the beach or for a bite to eat.The Intracoastal Waterway is a social place—wave at the other boaters you’ll be sure to see while out on your excursion!
Fort Lauderdale on the Ocean: Is the lure of the open waters more your style? Fort Lauderdale has more to offer than city-side boat trips; head out to the Atlantic for an open-sea adventure, or the chance to cruise down the coast to Miami.
South Beach: This part of Miami Dade County may be known for its glamour and the lux style of the people that live here—but its locale makes it just a great of a boating spot as it is an entertainment destination. Head off the coast of South Beach to join in on the yacht scene, and enjoy scenic cityscape views of Miami while you do it.
Biscayne National Park: Located south of the greater Miami area, Biscayne National Park is known for its stunning, vibrantly-colored coral reefs and ample opportunities for boaters and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a fun-filled day trip. Hiking, snorkeling, camping and, of course, boating are chances to get away from the hustle and bustle of South Florida cities… but not for too long!
The Everglades: The Everglades is one of South Florida’s greatest natural treasures. Extending throughout much of this portion of the state, the Florida Everglades is an important resource as well as an out-of-the-way destination for boaters and nature-lovers alike. With access points in multiple counties, it’s easy enough to get to; if you’re in the Miami area, head to the Everglades National Park. Cruise through varied landscapes of swampland and estuaries for a one-of-a-kind excursion unlike anything else in the country.
Key Largo: Key Largo is the uppermost island of the Florida Keys, so if you want to get a taste of the island experience without having to head too far south, this is the place to be. Experience the laidback resort lifestyle, lie down in shallow sparkling waters, and cruise your way through the scenic channels and unique landscapes only Key Largo can offer.
Dry Tortugas National Park: It just wouldn’t be a guide to South Florida boating if we didn’t cover one of the southernmost points in all of the United States. Dry Tortugas National Park is located about 70 miles west of Key West, so it will take a bit of a drive—by land or sea—to get to, but the boaters who have been can agree: it’s worth the trip! The park is made up mostly of open water and is only accessible by boat or seaplane, so it’s definitely off the beaten path. Visit the scenic and historic Fort Jefferson, go snorkeling at the park’s colorful coral reefs, and boat through characteristically clear blue waters. This is truly a stunning and exciting spot with which to cap off your South Florida vacation.