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Add the “splash factor” to your Florida vacations.

Florida really does have something for everybody. Whether you prefer to engage in outdoor activities, or savor every minute of the diverse dining and cultural scene, Florida offers up that experience and more.

For the icing on the cake, visit four intriguing Florida destinations by water, which adds an exciting new dimension to your trips. In fact, browse many more boat-friendly Florida locales. If you don’t have your own boat, book several boat rentals and get your vacation plans in gear.


Jacksonville has become an increasingly appealing boating destination. To reach this international port, swing into the St. Johns River, which winds through much of Florida’s interior.

When you stop in Jacksonville, you’ll enjoy top-notch marinas and well-stocked ship’s stores. You can even find dockage downtown, providing access to the city’s waterfront festivals and fine-dining restaurants. And if you prefer your fun in the great outdoors, you can indulge your passions here.

Fishing: Jacksonville is essentially an angler’s candy store, with generous populations of freshwater and saltwater fish. Whether you cast your line into the river, hit the shallow-water salt marshes, or head offshore for world-class deep-sea fishing, you can do it in Jacksonville. For a bigger payoff, hire an expert fishing guide.

Outdoor Activities: Jacksonville is adjacent to beautiful state parks and nature preserves, giving you access to miles of shaded hiking and biking trails. Or, rent a kayak or paddle board, and explore the area’s quiet coves without disturbing the local residents.

Arts and Culture: Jacksonville has emerged as a regional arts and culture powerhouse. Festivals and theater performances fill the city’s events calendar. If you enjoy rock’n roll, country, jazz, or classical music, you’ll hear it in Jacksonville. If art is your passion, experience Renaissance masterworks, contemporary pieces, or emerging artists’ creations…all in the same weekend.

Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale has earned its nickname as the “Venice of America,” as the city contains over 300 miles of inland waterways. More than 40,000 yachts dock there, joined year-round by countless visiting vessels. Many watersports enthusiasts enjoy the city’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream. If you prefer landside diversions, Fort Lauderdale offers unmatched shopping and dining options.

Fishing: With the Gulf Stream enticingly close, deep-sea anglers flock to the area, using varied bait and techniques to snag those elusive fish. Although trolling the coast is popular, wreck and bottom fishing have also stocked many deck coolers. If you’d like to choose your own destinations, boat rentals are the best bet. To increase your odds of success, bring along a professional fishing guide.

SCUBA Diving: Whether you enjoy shallow-water beach diving, or want to challenge your skills with deep-water wreck dives, Fort Lauderdale’s coral reefs can satisfy your cravings.

Three natural reefs parallel the coastline, inviting you to explore underwater gardens or engage in advanced-level drift diving in the strong offshore currents. Over 90 artificial reefs, including ships and offshore oil platforms, also tempt adventurous SCUBA divers.

Las Olas Boulevard: To thoroughly experience Fort Lauderdale, spend some time on Las Olas Boulevard. This international cultural hotspot boasts three museums and 10 international art galleries, and diverse dining options abound.

If you count yourself among “shop ‘til you drop” enthusiasts, Las Olas Boulevard offers 65 tempting retail choices. If you like designer clothes and décor, you’ll find them here – complete with the exclusive price tags. Even if you don’t buy anything, soak up the south Florida ambience while you enjoy high-end window shopping.

Tampa/St. Petersburg

As Florida’s largest estuary, Tampa Bay offers an enticing menu of boating opportunities. This hospitable city also hosts many family activities and fine-dining restaurants. Just across the Bay, you’ll find neighboring St. Petersburg, which offers similar attractions along with an active arts and cultural scene.

Gunk-holing: If you enjoy poking around secluded bays and rivers, you’ll find plenty to explore here. For example, nearby Egmont Key contains the ruins of a 19th Century army fort.

If unspoiled barrier islands spark your sense of adventure, check out nearby Three Rooker Bar and Anclote Key. Finally, cruise to Caladesi Island’s beautiful state park, which offers docking facilities for visiting boaters.

The Florida Aquarium (downtown Tampa): This 250,000-square-foot aquarium appeals to the entire family, and Parents Magazine ranked it in the Top 5 “Kid-Friendly Aquariums” in the United States.

Stepping inside this expansive facility, you’ll find exhibits such as the

Wetlands Trail, Journey to Madagascar, Bays and Beaches, Coral Reef, and Ocean Commotion. As an added bonus, take a “Behind the Scenes” Tour and enjoy daily animal-focused talks throughout the exhibit areas. Other specialty events might also be on tap.

Arts & Culture (St. Petersburg): Besides a healthy collection of art and culture museums, St. Petersburg contains seven arts districts. These enclaves offer artists a place to live, work, and create before showing their finished pieces in adjacent studios and galleries. Performing arts are also alive and well here, with events held in both historic and modern buildings.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are quite a boaters’ playground. This 125-mile-long necklace of keys reaches from Biscayne National Park in the north to Key West in the state’s southwest corner. Best of all, you can enjoy the Florida Keys during any time of year. While your northern friends are shivering in parkas and gloves during the winter, the Keys are open for business.

Key Largo: Key Largo is a diver’s paradise, as the area offers many reefs and shipwrecks just perfect for convenient dive trips. Even better, the area’s strong marine conservation focus means you can dive in protected areas such as the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. In other words, the corals and fish are off limits to coral collection and spearfishing.

As an added bonus, Key Largo’s fish are notoriously friendly, giving you lots of opportunities for great underwater photographs.

Islamorada: Known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada attracts deep-sea anglers from everywhere. If you’ve been itching to try some Atlantic Ocean fishing, this is a perfect time to book some boat rentals, as you’ll find offshore-capable vessels in numerous marinas. Hiring an expert guide is also recommended.

Of course, Islamorada is also popular for its saltwater fly-fishing and Florida Bay sport fishing (also called “backcountry sport fishing”). With so many fishing opportunities, you might have to extend your visit.

Key West: This quirky island city has its own “anything goes” vibe, and you’ll meet interesting residents (and visitors) everywhere you go. Landside activities include viewing shipwrecks’ treasures, retracing the steps of American literary heroes, and browsing in a diverse collection of enticing shops.

Of course, your Key West visit wouldn’t be complete without sampling the tasty island cuisine, topped off by a slice of delectable Key Lime Pie. After that, head to Mallory Square for the pre-sunset entertainment, capped off by the Sun’s always-stellar performance. In fact, that likely merits a toast, so join other sunset watchers at the nearest watering hole.

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