When winter puts a halt on boating in the northern parts of the country, that just might mean that it’s time to head south. Find out where to experience the best of January boating in Florida, see the most stunning sunsets on the water, and wet a line while relaxing in the Sunshine State.
While winter boating temperatures will vary depending on which part of Florida you visit, January average temperatures in Marco Island, for example, are a high of 73 Fahrenheit and low of 54 degrees Fahrenheit (Source: NOAA). Florida boating weather in January is typically dry and comfortable during the daytime hours, then cool (bring a light jacket or sweater) in the evening and early morning hours. Learn more about some of the best places in the state to take advantage of some “vitamin sea,” depending on the type of boating experience you have in mind.
1. Marco Island
Whether you want to watch a sunset on the water or go on a shelling expedition, Marco Island is one of the best places on the Gulf Coast for a family boat trip in January. Since Marco Island has more of a relaxed vibe and slower pace, it’s an ideal spot for families to unwind. You won’t find much in the way of nightlife on Marco Island, but there are sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, and plenty of places to rent a boat if you want to explore nearby Keewaydin Island, Kice Island or Cape Romano.
2. Boca Grande
Travel + Leisure Magazine named the community of Boca Grande (located on Gasparilla Island) one of Florida’s best hidden gems, and this prestigious title certainly fits from a boating standpoint. Fishing for sport in Boca Grande dates back to the 1880s when anglers would travel to Charlotte Harbor from the northern states and local guides would take them out for snook, tarpon, redfish, seatrout, and grouper. If you want to bring your own boat to Boca Grande, there are two places to launch on Gasparilla Island – at Uncle Henry’s Marina and at the Innlet on the Waterfront (hotel). Both marinas rent slips depending on seasonal availability.
Another one of the fishing-focused Florida boating destinations in January is Islamorada, a community in the upper Florida Keys. Islamorada's location, between Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, offers a wide range of boating and fishing opportunities. The Gulf Stream current flows past the Keys from about 10 to 20 miles offshore, bringing saltwater species like sailfish, wahoo, kingfish, dolphin (mahi-mahi) and tuna close enough to shore to be pursued by anglers with relatively small sportfishing boats. The inshore waters of Islamorada are one of the top spots in Florida for those who want to target tarpon, bonefish, and permit using light tackle or fly fishing gear.
4. St. Augustine
Boaters can experience an absolutely magical time in the city of St. Augustine during the month of January. From November 18th through January 30th, you can boat along the bayfront or book a boat tour to see the sparkle of over three million white lights from the water during the St. Augustine Nights of Lights Festival. Start planning early though, dock space and hotel rooms fill up quickly during this time of year. If you want to trailer your own boat to see the lights, the boat ramp at Lighthouse Park is open to the public with parking spaces for vehicles and trailers near the ramp.
5. Fort Lauderdale
More than 300 miles of canals wind through Broward County, with 165 of those miles running through downtown Fort Lauderdale. The number of waterfront restaurants, mansion canal tours, water taxi rides, and luxurious private yachts make Fort Lauderdale a January boating destination for anyone who loves action-packed adventures on the water. Visit Fort Lauderdale a month earlier (in mid-December) and you can also check out the Winterfest Boat Parade which starts at Stranahan House, travels east along the New River to the Intracoastal Waterway and continues North to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach.
If you want to skip the snow this year and experience January boating in Florida, add one or two of these destinations to your “must-do” list.