Cool cruising destinations await for the holidays in South Florida’s back yard. From Palm Beach to Miami, the Florida Keys and neighboring Bahamas, there are great spots for everything from a weekend getaway to a Lighted Boat Parade to a longer cruise to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s.
“It’s easy to have a fun time not too far away by cruising, for example, from Pompano to Miami Beach,” says Christopher Finck, Getaways Captain for MarineMax Pompano, in Pompano Beach, Florida. “Head to the Miami Beach Marina or Miamarina at Bayside. There’s lots happening over the holidays in South Beach and downtown Miami. Do make reservations ahead. There’s not as many transient slips as there once was.”
There are several lighted boat parades in towns along Florida’s southeast coast. For example, both the Palm Beach Holiday Boat Parade and Jupiter Boat Parade and Celebration take place on December 3. The Pompano Beach Holiday Parade happens December 11, while one of the biggest, the Winterfest Boat Parade in Ft. Lauderdale, occurs the day before on December 10. Over 100 festively decorated yachts, everything from small private cruisers to megayachts, take part. In Miami, the Miami Outboard Club Holiday Boat Parade happens December 17.
If looking for something a little quieter, head to No Name Harbor in Biscayne Bay, recommends Estelle Cockcroft, an Aventura, Florida-based yacht broker with Dream Yacht Sales who with husband Stephen are also owners of the popular website, catamaranguru.com. “It’s a lovely protected anchorage surrounded by mangroves and located within the boundaries of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. The anchorage is close to both “artsy” Coconut Grove and the “big buzz” of Miami, yet it is an idyllic place for boaters. The bay offers beautiful sailing, kiteboarding, fishing and other watersports.
Historic Stiltsville adds another fun vibe, adds Cockcroft. “We often sit in the anchorage at sunset and are visited by dolphins and manatees. It is just beautiful and the state park offers lovely nature walks. The restaurant in the anchorage, Boaters Grill, offers up great Cuban food and music during the day. Miami’s fun crowd hang out here during the day but by sunset everything calms down and you can enjoy a very peaceful evening under the stars. It is so close and yet so far from civilization. We love this place!”
In the Florida Keys, there is a holiday boat parade in Key Largo on December 17. Stick around or circle back because the New Year’s Eve Fireworks over Blackwater Sound are a huge extravaganza not to miss. All the way south in Key West, the Schooner Wharf Bar hosts its Lighted Boat Parade. Everything from festively-outfitted rowboats to tall ships circle the historic seaport and harbor.
“The Galleon Marina in Key West is the nicest to stay. But just like those in Miami, transient slips can fill up fast, so call ahead for reservations,” suggests MarineMax Pompano’s Finck.
The Bahamas are just a short cruise away from South Florida.
“My favorite places in the Bahamas are the Abacos, especially Hope Town, for the quaint village feel and good nightlife, but also Great Guana Cay with the world-famous Nippers beachside restaurant,” says Ami Ira, president of bluewater USA (formerly Crew Unlimited & C U Yacht charters), in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “Another super popular itinerary is Nassau, Highborne Cay, Shroud Cay, Staniel Cay with the swimming pigs, and back to Nassau. The Exumas are so spectacularly beautiful water! Nowhere else like it.
For families with kids, Ira suggests the Exumas. “There are beaches everywhere, watersports anywhere, great diving and fishing. The age 20- and 30-something crowd will like the Abacos, where there is good nightlife and beautiful beaches. Nassau also has great nightlife at Atlantis resort. For older couples, the Abacos and Exumas are great destinations because the water is so clean, you can be totally alone on a private beach, or you can find a nice open-air restaurant with local Bahamian flair in both places.”
The Bahamas is a great place to spend and end a holiday cruise-cation. Most islands host’s carnivals and festivals on Christmas Day. What’s more, there are Junkanoo parades ashore on New Year’s Day. The one held downtown Nassau is one of the best. Watching the festivities, then casting off to a quiet island anchorage is certainly a good way to ring in another great year of boating ahead in 2017.