Boating in Northeast Florida
From Jacksonville to Ponce Inlet, there is a myriad of boating opportunities available whether you’re an angler, sailor, kayaker or just want to float in a canoe.
Of the more than 2,000 marinas across Florida, several hundred are available in the First Coast. Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, one of the largest in northeast Florida, offers 244 slips, followed closely by the Conch House Resort Marina in St. Augustine with 200 slips.
The Conch House Resort Marina is only a few blocks from The Abacos at Salt Run, a15-home development with architecture reminiscent of that found in the Hope Town Harbor area of the Abacos, Bahamas. The project, created by Cranewoods Development, includes two single-family ocean manors, five three-story townhome cottages, four two-story townhomes and four penthouse villa flats with covered parking or garages and a community pool.
St. Augustine’s coastal waters provide wonderful opportunities for any angler. Crescent Beach, only 25 minutes from downtown St. Augustine on Anastasia Island, is a great place to drop a line, as is Vilano Beach, a three-minute drive from downtown. Hire a deep-sea charter boat to catch larger fish offshore, or cast off the pier. St. Augustine is home to the annual Kingfish Challenge and billfish tournaments. Marlin, dolphin, sea trout, flounder and redfish also are abundant.
Further south in Daytona Beach and Ponce Inlet, two very popular tourist destinations on Florida’’s Northeast Coast, there are lots of possibilities for renting and riding sailboats, chartering private yachts, or finding a cruise with private and public marinas located throughout the area.
To the north lies Amelia Island with its lagoons, surrounding islands, and plethora of wildlife offering an excellent place to rent a motorboat, or bring your own, and explore the natural beauty of the area. Boaters can easily traverse the whole route of the Intracoastal Waterway, which in northern to central Florida runs between the barrier islands and the mainland.
Grouper, king mackerel, black sea bass, sheepshead, pompano, flounder, bluefish, cobia, and silver and speckled sea trout all can be found in warm waters off the coast of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach. The great amberjack is legendary in the area, as it has been known to reach five feet in length and weigh more than 150 pounds.
Going inland, boaters can try out a more urban water adventure on Jacksonville’s St. Johns River. This slow-moving and very wide river is excellent for sailing. In fact, the world”s longest sailboat race, the Annual Mug Race, takes place each year, starting in Palatka located about 45 miles south of Jacksonville, and ending at Jacksonville Beach.
Another excellent and relaxing way to experience the St. Johns River is to take a river ride on an authentic side-wheel paddleboat. You might see a sleepy alligator in the noonday sun or a family of manatees cooling under saw palmettos that overhang the brackish water of the river. Touring the slow-moving, north-flowing St. Johns River is an excellent way to connect and commune with nature.
For the angler, the bass fishing offered by the St. Johns River is legendary. The river flows north for more than 300 miles through Northeast Florida, with submerged vegetation along the banks providing great habitat for fish. Doctor Inlet, part of the St. Johns River, is a hot spot for large mouth bass and sunfish with bass found near lush eel grass beds year-round.
One of the largest freshwater lakes in the state, 16,000-acre Lake Crescent, is a prime location for bass and black crappie and offers some of the highest catch rates in the St. Johns region. Dead Lake and Haw Creek, located at the south end of Lake Crescent, are popular fishing areas.
And northeast Florida has one of the best bass lakes in Florida, the Rodman Reservoir, which yields the biggest largemouth bass in January. The reservoir, located just southwest of Palatka, is a heavily vegetated, stump-filled area perfect for fish. In spring, bass spawn in shallow areas, and by the summer months, they may wander into the Ocklawaha River channel and the Cross Florida Barge Canal, where waters can reach up to 30 feet deep.
Lake George, a 46,000-acre natural expansion of the St. Johns River, is also one of Florida’s premier bass fishing destinations. Live shiners or artificial lures should be used near eel grass beds and deeper pilings to attract fish.
So whether you are looking for exploration or casting a line, if you have a love of water, you will find yourself right at home in northeast Florida.