South Florida for Boating Lovers

  • 03/5/20

From the Intercoastal to the Atlantic Ocean and the many waterways, canals, ponds, lakes, bays and reefs in between, South Florida is a boating enthusiast’s dream. With 365-day-a-year access to water, good weather, a picture-perfect backdrop, a plethora of yacht and boating clubs and homes that boast private docks, the region is nautical by nature.

Water, Water Everywhere

South Florida’s landscape is comprised of mostly waterways, said Sarah Ewald of Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty.

“Multiple international ports drawing people from all around the world for a variety of salt and freshwater experiences, such as fishing and scuba diving, just scratch the surface,” she said. “It’s also a prime location when it comes to shipping and travel outside of the country to U.S. territories. You’ll see a lot of locals jump over to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands and even Mexico and Cuba just for the weekend.”

“South Florida’s waterways are deep and wide, with many inlets for boaters to access the ocean in a relatively short period of time,” said Josh Dotoli, principal of the Josh Dotoli Group and real estate adviser for Compass Florida. “South Florida is also just 60 miles to Bimini, Bahamas, which is a favorite location for boating and yachting enthusiasts.”

Some of the best areas for boating include Lake Boca in Boca Raton, Haulover Inlet Sandbar in Miami and Fort Lauderdale Sandbar, Mr. Dotoli said.

“The yachters generally hang out in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale areas to also enjoy the city life, while there’s also a lot of sportfishing going on up and down the coasts,” Ms. Ewald said. Not to mention, both of these areas host international boat shows every year. “The Keys are great as well because you can quickly get to a reef for diving or fishing or go out into the Everglades for backcountry fly fishing.”

“You can’t beat the 365-day-a-year access to the water,” said Patrick Jackson, CEO of Lekker Boats USA, the official VIP tender for the Miami Yacht Show. “There are beautiful spots everywhere to fish, cruise or beach your boat and enjoy the sunshine. Fort Lauderdale and Miami feature waterfront restaurants everywhere that have docking for customers, which makes this area perfect for our boats.”

And homes in this area are ideal for boating enthusiasts—because of location, proximity to waterways, and easy access to inlets and the ocean. “Fort Lauderdale alone is home to over 300 miles of intracoastal waterways and navigable inland canals,” Mr. Dotoli said. Not to mention, waterfront single family homes almost always come with dockage. “Many luxury waterfront townhome communities are selling dockage which can run about $100,000 for a 45-foot slip,” he said.

​​​​​​​“Here in the Keys, it’s pretty common for homes to have some sort of access to the water,” Ms. Ewald said, “whether you’re located directly on the water or at least have a nearby boat ramp, it depends on your budget, time spent here and overall needs.”

Photo: Getty Images

Seasonal Pursuits

Boating season is generally January through March, when the average temperature is an ideal 74 degrees with just four days a month of rain, he said.

“Diving is best mostly in the summer; our winter weather tends to be a bit windy, but that’s when the sailfish bite, so it’s a big deal. Lots of big money tournaments are hosted in the winter, and the hardcore fishing teams really come out and go for it,” Ms. Ewald said. These include the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament, Ladies Sailfish Tournament, Cheeca Lodge Sailfish Tournament, Poor Girls, Sailfly Tournament, Junior Sailfish Tournament, Bartender’s Tournament, just to name a few.

Dock ‘Til You Drop

Fort Lauderdale and Miami marinas can accommodate yachts of 300-plus feet, which are some of the largest in the world, Mr. Dotoli said. There are more than 100 marinas and over 50,000 registered yachts in Fort Lauderdale alone. Just a few of the area boating yacht clubs include Coral Ridge Yacht Club, a private Marina in Fort Lauderdale; Ocean Reef Yacht Club, a private marina and hotel located In Key Largo; and Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club in Boca Raton, he said.

Most private boat and yacht clubs offer reciprocity with other boat clubs. “For example, if you are a member at Coral Ridge Yacht Club in Fort Lauderdale, you have access to 25-plus other clubs and their facilities,” Mr. Dotoli said. Yacht clubs typically offer pools, dining, dockage (including a full marina with fuel), and they are a great space to network with other boating enthusiasts. A membership to Coral Ridge Yacht Club starts at a $4,500 initiation fee and runs about $4,044 a year, Mr. Dotoli said. However, once you’re a member of this club and others, you are also a member of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs, which offers reciprocal docking privileges at 30 other clubs in South Florida.

In the Florida Keys, there are marinas on every island for wet and dry and short-term and long-term boat storage, as well as amenities and access to bridges that will get you to the other side of the island, Ms. Ewald said. Dockage can start at $30 per foot per month and go up from there. “There are small clubs scattered throughout the Keys in addition to a few sailing clubs, though the local guides have captains’ associations. The mainland holds more private boating clubs than we do here; we’re a bit more laid back and recreational,” she said.

​​​​​​​“My favorite is The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo,” Mr. Jackson said. “It’s an easy boat ride from Fort Lauderdale, and the boating there is spectacular—beautiful scenery and a number of great restaurants on the water for fun day trips.”

Photo: Getty Images

Waterfront Living

With hundreds of miles of waterfront in south Florida, whether Intercoastal or ocean, there’s so much to enjoy that complements the lifestyle buyers are seeking,” says Jeffrey Thomas Brown, Broker Associate with Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

​​​​​​​The intracoastal waterway runs parallel to the ocean along South Florida’s coast, where you can find waterfront properties ranging from $1 million to $40 million and up, which can accommodate the owner’s vessel, Mr. Dotoli said. Some of the top intracoastal neighborhoods include Seven Isles, Harbor Beach, Rio Vista and Golden Isles.

Waterfront property with boat dockage is what buyers are looking for in Fort Lauderdale. “Known as the yachting capital of the U.S. and the ‘Venice of the Americas,’ there are luxury waterfront homes at different price points—but location is always the No. 1 amenity when looking at homes for boating enthusiasts,” Mr. Dotoli said.

One of the most exclusive neighborhoods in South Florida is Las Olas Isles in Fort Lauderdale. Las Olas Isles is primarily comprised of single-family homes and offers easy access to the lively Las Olas Boulevard in the Downtown Fort Lauderdale area and Fort Lauderdale Beach.

“While there is a rise in condo living with private deeded boat dockage, we still see a hot market for luxury, single family homes in Fort Lauderdale,” Mr. Dotoli said, noting that new construction continues to be the most sought-after property type.

In the Keys, the bigger your land, the deeper your dockage, the better your views and the pricier your property, Ms. Ewald said. Bayfront homes generally offer deeper dockage; an oceanfront property is more of a beach home with shallow dockage;and then of course there’s a wide variety of canal homes everywhere to choose from, Ms. Ewald said.

“We do have a lot of dry lot homes as well—and for the avid boater we suggest finding a home in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s park with a boat ramp,” she said. These generally start in the high $400,000s and can go all the way up to over a million, depending on the size of the property, home, and proximity to water, Ms. Ewald explained.

Islamorada, which is about an hour and a half away from Miami and surrounding areas, provides access points to various waterways. “If the wind is blowing in one direction or the other, you can quickly access the other side of the islands to get on the water. Generally, from any given point in Islamorada, it’s only about 15 minute max ride to get from Bay to Oceanside or vice versa,” Ms. Ewald said. It also has its share of very high-end neighborhoods with deep dockage and quick access through bridges for boaters.

Key Largo also offers stately pieces of land as well and is a bit closer to the city for a faster commute. “Marathon, 30-to-45 minutes south of Islamorada and over an hour from Key Largo, is very convenient if you fly privately; there’s an airport there,” Ms. Ewald said.

Homes in The Keys tend to be smaller and more minimal than homes on the mainland because people come to enjoy the outdoors. However, Ms. Ewald noted that architecture here is unique and all across the board. “You’ll find our homes are very well built as our building codes are very strict,” she said. “Most of our homes are elevated, concrete and sometimes even with concrete roofs and impact-resistant windows and doors.”

“While we are a secondary market, a lot of our clientele can see retirement in the not-so-far future and part of their planning is getting their foot in the door and enjoying their Keys home now as well as later.,” Ms. Ewald added. “We have very little land so what’s available is precious and valuable.”


Tzeses, Jennifer. “South Florida for Boating Lovers.” Mansion Global, Mansion Global, 23 Feb. 2020,

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