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6 Popular Boating Destinations on Florida’s West Coast

August 12, 2021 | Travel Destinations

When you combine white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters with endless sunshine, boating in Florida is hard to beat. If you’re new to boating in the Sunshine State, Florida’s two coasts offer uniquely different experiences for boat enthusiasts to enjoy. 

Florida’s East Coast is on the Atlantic Ocean, with colder waters, bigger waves, and rockier beaches. The Florida West Coast is on the Gulf of Mexico, where the weather is warmer, and the waters are generally calm and flat with smooth sandy beaches. 

From laid-back coastal enclaves to vibrant, beautiful beach towns, there are plenty of popular boating destinations on Florida’s west coast.

Clearwater Beach

Famous for its sugar-white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, it’s no wonder that Clearwater Beach Florida consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful beaches in America. 

The soft sand beaches make it an ideal spot for families to spend the day sunbathing playing in the warm waters. Nearby, vendors offer beach amenities like chairs and umbrellas for rent, so you don’t have to pack anything but your sunscreen and swimsuit.  

After a day of exploring on the water, check out Downtown Clearwater, a vibrant coastal community with plenty of dining, shopping, and live entertainment choices. Or take a sunset stroll along Pier 60, a 1,080-foot fishing pier featuring a small fishing shop that can set you up with everything you need to cast a line.

Boating Near Clearwater Beach 

Clearwater offers boaters an expansive waterfront for taking leisurely boat rides with friends and family. Additionally, Clearwater is famous for its year-round fishing, with options for anglers of all types and levels. 

If you don’t own a boat, there are hundreds of captains to charter boats for inshore—canals and Intercoastal Waterways close to land—and offshore, deep-sea fishing excursions.

For those looking to get up close to Florida’s wildlife or like the calm that comes with kayaking and canoeing, there’s still plenty to do and see near Clearwater Beach. Caladesi State Park is accessible only by boat and is home to armadillos, rabbits, owls, and other types of Florida wildlife. 

St. Pete Beach

Sun setting over the water on St. Pete Beach.
Photo via,_Pass-a-Grille_Beach,_St._Pete_Beach.jpg

Another great Florida west coast boating destination is St. Pete Beach. Located near its namesake town St. Petersburg, a few miles to the east, St. Pete Beach is accessible by car via three bridges: Treasure Island, South Pasadena, or the Bayway Isles. 

TripAdvisor named St. Pete Beach in Florida The World’s Best Beach for 2021. Almost 30% of the world’s top beaches are in the Sunshine State! However, no trip to St. Pete is complete until you’ve been to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Here you can dive into marine life without ever getting wet. 

Boating near St. Pete Beach

A day out on a boat can take you on many different excursions—snorkeling off Egmont Key, exploring the vast Fort De Park, or beachcombing on Shell Key Preserve. If you’re traveling with children, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater recommends renting a pontoon boat or chartering a family-friendly fishing trip. 

When it comes to fishing off St. Pete Beach, expect to find similar options as other Florida west coast boating destinations. You can readily find charter boats with captains to guide your deep-sea fishing in or near Tampa Bay. 

For the adventurous, rent and drive your speedboat on the Gulf of Mexico or enjoy a fully narrated 13-mile tour. Boat rentals are also easily found to accommodate parties of all sizes for leisurely rides closer to shore. 

Anna Maria Island 

Two boats on the water at Anna Maria Beach.
Photo via,_Florida.jpg

Anna Maria Island is a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast known for its long stretches of beautiful beaches, world-class dining, and unique boutiques. Anna Maria Island is full of Florida wildlife, and viewing excursions are available year-round. 

There are three bridges to access the island by car and boat trailer: Cortez Bridge, Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and Longboat Pass Bridge. If you don’t own a boat, don’t despair. There are several boat rental companies on the island.

Boating Near Anna Maria Island 

Popular watercraft rentals on Anna Maria Island include Deck Boats to explore, swim, tube, and more. Bowriders are also another popular choice, as are Pontoon Rentals. Fishing and sightseeing charters are also available for those looking to let someone else do the navigating. 

Siesta Key Beach 

Picturesque views and pristine waters are just a couple of things you’ll find when visiting Siesta Key. The waters on Florida’s most scenic coastlines are home to dolphins, manatees, and Barracuda.

You won’t want to miss the quartz-crystal sand that some say is as white and soft as powdered sugar on Siesta Key’s Crescent Beach. If you haven’t tried it yet, now would be the time to take up snorkeling to view the sea life at Point of Rocks or escape to Turtle Beach a little further south. 

Boating Near Siesta Key

When it comes to boating in Sarasota Bay, you’ll find fishing boats, pontoon boats, cruising boats, and even charters for parasailing. Anglers will find more than a dozen saltwater fish species to catch, including red snapper and Mahi Mahi. 

Whether you love boating, fishing, or both, don’t miss a Siesta Key sunset cruise. Let someone else do the driving while you relax and take in one of the most beautiful sunsets in Florida. 

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers is a small Florida town located on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The river, along with its meandering tributaries, offers lushly landscaped waterways ideal for kayakers and canoeists. 

Fort Myers Beach is located on a small barrier island, about seven miles long, off the southwest Florida coast. The wide shoreline gently slopes into the Gulf of Mexico, making it ideal for shelling and snorkeling and, of course, swimming. 

The top sights in Fort Myers Beach include the Matanzas Pass Preserve filled with wildlife and mangrove canopies, making it ideal for a day of exploring the natural wonders of Florida. Bowditch State Park, located on the tip of the island, offers trails with scenic views.

Boating Near Fort Myers Beach

One of the most exciting boating activities on Fort Myers Beach is parasailing, in addition to jet skiing, sailing, and windsurfing. However, many of the most pristine, natural beaches near Fort Myers on Florida’s west coast are only accessible by boat. 

Lovers Key State Park, located on the south end of Estero Island, is accessible by kayak or canoe, whereas Sanibel and Captiva Islands, accessed by a high-speed ferry.   

While boat enthusiasts will find options for offshore fishing charters, sunset cruises, and eco river tours, docking and dining are among the most popular activities on Fort Myers Beach. Popular waterfront bars and restaurants include Salty Sam’s Marina, Bayfront Bistro, Fish Tale Marina, and Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Restaurant. 

Tampa Bay 

Tampa Bay is the largest open-water estuary in Florida, located on the west coast of Florida, comprising Hillsborough Bay, McKay Bay, Old Tampa Bay, Middle Tampa Bay, and Lower Tampa Bay.

Tampa is the third-largest city in Florida, where you’ll find fun around every corner, thanks to some of the state’s most visited attractions. Thrill-seekers won’t want to miss Busch Gardens featuring nine of Florida’s fastest roller coasters. 

The Tampa Bay Zoo at Lowry Park and the Florida Aquarium in the Ybor Channel District are fun family destinations. The city offers much more too. There’s plenty to do when not on the water, from a growing food and brewery scene to biking along the 2-mile riverwalk. 

Boating near Tampa Bay 

Tampa Bay is a fantastic place for boating due to its size—nearly 400 square miles—and the myriad of boating activities and destinations available to boaters year-round. More than 200 species of fish found in Tampa Bay attract anglers of all types and experience levels.

Tampa Bay encompasses some of Florida’s west coast boating destinations we’ve mentioned already, such as Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota. This region is easily the largest and most vibrant Florida west coast boating destination. 

Practice Boat Safety

Before launching your boat on Florida waters, keep in mind the Sunshine State is the boating capital of the world. There are more registered boats here than in any other U.S. state. 

Moreover, at least 100,000 out-of-state boats utilize Florida waters on any given day. So whether you’re an experienced boater or newer to it, it’s essential to follow Florida boating safety guidelines before you head out:

  • Always wear a floatation device.
  • Consider taking a boating education course before you go out. 
  • Obey all navigational warnings, including idle-speed and slow-speed zones.
  • Learn the waterway rules, including “red, right, returning, left leaving” for channel markers, i.e., when returning from sea, the red features are on your right, and when leaving to sea, the red markers are on your left.
  • Stay sober
  • Be aware of weather conditions at all times.
  • Pay attention to what is occurring around your boat.
  • Don’t litter and properly dispose of all trash.
  • Be sure to carry proof of boat insurance on your vessel.

Find Boat Storage on Florida’s Gulf Coast 

Boating is a natural part of Florida’s west coast lifestyle—especially if you live in a waterfront property or a community with private boat docks. That’s why you’ll find great boat storage options at a Metro Self Storage facility located along Florida’s west coast.

We also have plenty of space available to store your Florida lifestyle gear. From kayaks and canoes to jet skis and RV storage, you’ll find wide drive aisles and easy access to drive-up storage units at our Florida storage locations. To get started, find your nearest west coast Florida facility and give us a call or rent your unit online today.