If you are want to enjoy all that a Florida vacation has to offer, including time on the water, then add “rent a boat in Florida” to your vacation bucket list. There’s an old saying in Florida that the best kind of friend is one with a boat. Fortunately for you, there are many friends and endless boats to rent in the Sunshine state.
Like anywhere, you can find plenty of traditional boat rental options in Florida. But keep in mind that these boats often undergo a lot of wear and tear with little ongoing maintenance or accountability for experience. There are also limited options with standard boat rental services.
Our suggestion is to look at peer-to-peer (P2P) boat rental options which work similar to AirBnB but for boats, such as Boatsetter.
Read on to learn more about the best places to rent a boat in Florida and how to use a P2P boating platform to experience all that Florida has to offer on the water.
St. Petersburg offers many different water-related experiences for boat lovers, such as fishing and cruising. There are also plenty of nature reserves where you can go birding and encounter aquatic wildlife. The below are a couple of highlights we recommend visiting while on your rental boat in St. Petersburg.
Shell Key is a barrier island at the mouth of Tampa bay that is only accessible by boat. It’s part of the Shell Key Preserve, which is a protected area important to migrating and nesting birds.
St Petersburg is famous for its sunshine and rich fishing grounds. The waters of Tampa Bay are chock-full of redfish, grouper, and snapper. You can even catch bigger sharks if you go out far enough.
Are you a fisherman longing to nab an apex predator? You can’t do that from the pier! The best way to catch a fish is to charter a boat and go out into the water. Thankfully, there are a ton of options for that in the St. Petersburg area, such as Fred Howard Park, Fort De Soto Park, and Pinellas Point.
Located right on the Caloosahatchee River, Fort Myers offers plenty to do for boating enthusiasts. Here are some spots you shouldn’t miss on your Fort Myers rental boat!
Sanibel Island And Captiva
Sanibel Island is famous for its seashells, and tourists are often seen doing the “Sanibel stoop” to reach down for these stunning specimens. But there is so much more to do in Sanibel and Captiva than just hunting for shells – participate in watersports, fishing, boating, and so much more.
Pine Island is home to art galleries and seafood restaurants, set among a lush backdrop of tropical paradise. There are mangroves to explore as well as excellent fishing grounds to try your luck at angling.
Pine Island has been named one of the best spots to fish in the US, especially if you want to catch tarpon. It is also home to the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve where you can see tons of wildlife, like playful dolphins and migratory birds.
Grab a boat and head out to the barrier islands, just west of the city in the Gulf of Mexico. These islands, such as Cayo Costa and Cabbage Key, have wildlife preserves with hundreds of birds, marine life, and more to discover.
Destin is a little smaller than the other cities on this list, but it doesn’t mean there is less to do on the water! So rent a boat in Destin for a memorable vacation experience. Here are a few places to add to your Destin itinerary:
Crab Island is a must-see if you like to party! Crab Island is full of floating bars, restaurants, and even an inflatable waterpark. The shallow waters around the little sandbar make it the perfect place to have a drink and meet new friends. The best way to get to Crab Island is by boat.
Joe’s Bayou is a protected section of water without no-wake laws, which means it’s the perfect place to go wakeboarding and do other watersports. You can jetski and waterski to your heart’s content here!
Some people call Fort Lauderdale the Venice of America. Boats in Fort Lauderdale are part of the lifestyle, and there’s nothing quite like seeing the city from the water! Check out these top-recommended experiences.
There are over 76 shipwrecks to explore all over the waters near Fort Lauderdale. There is also so much biodiversity in the water that even shore dives offer plenty of adventure.
However, the best diving can be reached by charter, like the Caves, Barracuda Reef, and the Oakland Ridges. Check out the best spots to go scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale.
Dock And Dine
One of the most fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale is to dock your boat and have excellent fresh seafood at one of the many incredible restaurants that are right on the water. Don’t miss Coconuts, a local hunt with divine crab cakes and crab claw lollipops. Make sure to also grab some seafood at 15th Street Fisheries.
West Palm Beach
There is so much to see in West Palm Beach and around Miami. While there are miles and miles of gorgeous pristine beaches to explore, there are also plenty of waterways and lakes in which to enjoy a West Palm Beach boat rental.
Lake Worth Lagoon
The lagoon is a gorgeous place to take a pleasure cruise amidst the mansions of Palm Beach. Lake Worth is also a natural refuge with tons of aquatic life to see.
Take a boat across the 95 or so miles to Grand Bahama, just off the map of West Palm Beach. Bimini, the closest spot to the US, is the sportfishing capital of the world. You might even catch a few fish while you’re there – just don’t forget to bring your passport!
Jacksonville provides excellent options for the discerning boater. From the Ft. George inlet to the Intracoastal waterways, there is just so much to do on the water in a Jacksonville rental boat!
Ft. George Inlet
The Ft. George Inlet has clear water and easy-to-navigate currents. There are also many places for you to stop and have a picnic. Don’t miss the inlet if you are thinking of renting a boat in Jacksonville – just be careful of shifting sandbars!
Mill Cove is a relatively protected area that is perfect for watersports. If you and your family want to spend a day skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding, Mill Cove is the place to do it. Some islands in the cove also make for good fishing spots.
Fishing is a big deal in this part of the state, which is why there are so many different spots for fishing in Jacksonville. Expect to catch mahi-mahi, grouper, tuna, and more!
The Intracoastal waterway is a great way to see historic Jacksonville. Start off in the quaint Mayport fishing village, and make your way south to Jacksonville beach. You will pass through marshy areas that shelter tons of wildlife.
If you don’t have your own boat, no problem! There are so many rental options open to you.
While a traditional rental is a good choice, it’s not the only way to explore Florida’s many waters – and, honestly, it’s not always the best. One major issue with traditional boat rental is wear and tear, so you may have problems with the gas gauges, fish finders, and other components of your rental.
Enter Boatsetter, which operates like an Airbnb but for boats. With peer-to-peer boating, you are borrowing someone’s prized possession for a few hours. The boats are often more well-maintained and affordable, too! Plus boat owners and boat renters are held accountable with peer-to-peer reviews so care is always top priority.
There are Boatsetter options in each of these places. Unlike local charters, Boatsetter allows you to borrow a private boat for a fun-filled day without the extra dock fees or licensing fees – guaranteed!
Boatsetter even has its own insurance policy, so you can feel secure about going out on the water with your friends and loved ones knowing that you’re well taken care of.
Plus, this P2P platform offers a variety of boats for every personality. Rent a pontoon for a slow and easy ride around Crab Island. Choose a speed boat to island hop around sandbars in the gulf. Or book a captained fishing charter to catch and cook your next meal while in Fort Lauderdale.
Florida is the place to rent a boat and spend your time out on the water. Even if you don’t own a boat, you can still have the best boating experience through boat charters and rentals.
While traditional charters are popular, P2P rentals are growing – and for good reason. Be sure to give Boatsetter a call for your next boating adventure!
**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).
Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.