Written by Missy Johnston
Start this yacht charter itinerary in Ft. Lauderdale by boarding your charter yacht at one of the many marinas in this town that was built around its canals. Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale south to the southern tip of Miami Beach, known as “South Beach” or “SoBe” to locals. The nearby “Art Deco” district is famous for its pastel, lovingly restored landmark hotels and architecture. Stroll down Ocean Drive and dine at a beachfront café. Or head on over to Lincoln Road outdoor pedestrian mall, where an eclectic mix of shops, art galleries, restaurants and live music reflects a truly international blend of Latin, Caribbean and European cultures. Overnight.
Key Biscayne Lighthouse
After breakfast, head south of Miami Beach to Biscayne Bay for lunch. Dinner Key makes a great anchorage or tie up at one of several marinas. Coconut Grove, the most popular restaurant and shopping area in South Miami is within walking distance. Some of the country’s most creative chefs have restaurants here with food styles ranging from Floribbean and Cuban to Southwestern and Japanese. Villa Vizcaya, a coral mansion built at the turn of the century, or the Planetarium are just a short taxi ride away and well worth the trip. Opposite Coconut Grove, the island of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne offer a visit to the Miami Seaquarium and Crandon Park. The southern tip of Key Biscayne is Cape Florida Park, a welcome stopping area complete with beautiful beaches, an interesting tower and lighthouse, with a view of Stiltsville – a group of stilt homes strung out along channels in the flats off Key Biscayne. Overnight.
Coral Reef State Park
After breakfast, leave for Key Largo (51 nm) via Hawk Channel. Soak up the sun and enjoy some snorkeling or diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where you can jump right in from your anchored charter yacht. This 25-mile long preserve was established to protect the only living coral reef in the continental United States. This is the Diving Capital of the World, so be sure to explore some of the numerous dive sites including Carysfort Reef, The Elbow and Grecian Rocks with its’ 13’ bronze underwater statue “Christ of the Deep”. One of the worlds top ‘Swim with the Dolphin’ programs is offered at Dolphins Plus (arrange well in advance). Afterwards, dock at Port Largo Harbor. For those who prefer an anchorage, cruise on your charter yacht to the lee side of Rodriguez Key. Overnight.
Leave early for Long Key to head through Florida Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Overnight in the Everglades National Park near Flamingo or go around to anchor off Shark River. Try your hand at catfish fishing in the Shark River Slough or enjoy a hike on nearby Tamiami Trail. Overnight.
Marco Island Aerial View
After breakfast head up to Everglades City for lunch and continue your cruise to Marco Island. The largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, located on the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida, Marco Island has been described as magical, mystical and alluring. The attraction is tropical sun-washed white beaches and a casual easy paced life style. Sunshine, frolicking dolphins, and all of the water and sun sports that go with the beaches are available for your pleasure. Overnight.
Cruise up to Sanibel Island to anchor and have lunch on the top deck of your charter yacht and after, jump in for a refreshing swim. Keep your eyes open for playful dolphins in these waters who might swim alongside the charter yacht or play in the yacht wake off of the bow. This is also a great location to keep a line in the water trolling right from the back of the charter yacht while cruising to perhaps catch a fresh fish for lunch. After lunch take a walk on the beach on Sanibel Island looking for shells. After, cruise to Ft. Myers. (22 NM). Stay overnight in Ft Myers.
Wind along the Caloosahatchee River, through a series of locks that lower you to the level of moss-draped shores of Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake in the United States. Surrounded by tiny estuaries and land planted thick with sugarcane, Lake Okeechobee contains 467,000 acres of unique ecosystems. Lake Okeechobee was once a significant component of the River of Grass. Years of canals and redirections have drastically altered the natural flow of water through southern Florida and changed the character of south Florida ecosystems – including the Everglades. Ft Myers – Franklin Lock (13 NM) – Franklin Lock – Alva Bridge (5 NM). Alva Bridge – Labella (13 NM). Stay overnight in Labella.
After breakfast continue cruising through the locks, which include Labella – Ortona Lock (9 NM) – Ortona Lock – Moore Haven Lock (16 NM) Moore Haven Lock – Clewiston (38 NM). Clewiston calls itself the “Sweetest City in America” and is the home of the U.S. Sugar Corporation, which farms over 164,000 acres of sugarcane and produces over 800,000 tons of sugar each year. One of its refineries is in Clewiston. The company owns over 100 miles of railroad track and over 1000 railroad cars to carry its sugarcane from fields stretching over three counties to its refineries. Overnight.
Clewiston – Port Mayaca (38 Nm) Port Mayaca to St Lucie Canal/ Lock (24 nm) Exit Lake Okeechobee through another series of locks that raise you back up to the St. Lucie River. – St Lucie Lock – Stuart (15 NM) Overnight.
Leave after breakfast for your trip to West Palm Beach – (43 NM) from Stuart continuing on to Ft Lauderdale to disembark, ending your yacht charter.