Written by Ellen Honey
October 2016

Sunny by day, glittering by night, Florida is irresistible. The 1,350-mile coastline is the longest of any state in the mainland United States, and its unique heritage has had countless influences, with Native American, European, Latino, and African-American cultures among them. From the graceful charm of Fernandina Beach to the casual sassiness of Key West, Florida offers miles of diversity and many facilities for large yachts. In 2016, the regional marine impact for Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties was $11.5 billion. There are more than 8,000 vessels in the world that are 80-plus feet, and 40 percent of them call Florida’s East Coast their homeport.

Fernandina Beach

This quaint Victorian village is located on enchanting Amelia Island, which over the years has been inhabited by pirates, bootleggers, shrimpers and Gilded Age millionaires. As power continually changed hands, Amelia Island wound up flying the flags of eight different nations, giving today’s Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival (May 5-7) its name.

Notable among the 50 blocks of eclectic shops, restaurants and galleries are Books Plus, a used and new shop rich in Amelia Island stories, and Trailer Park Collectibles, which houses primitive antiques and secondhand “treasures.” Grab a bite at Mustard Seed Cafe & Juice Bar, or dine on French cuisine by candlelight at Le Clos, nestled in a 1906 cottage. Ever-lively Alley Cat Seafood is a beer house, wine boutique and piano bar.

Fernandina Harbor Marina, in the heart of downtown, has a 25-foot dock depth and accommodates vessels up to 250 feet.

Saint Augustine

Cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards and alluring cafes help define this historic district of Saint Augustine — the oldest continuously occupied town in the U.S.

Jump aboard the Old Town Trolley Tours to explore the major attractions, including a highly rated wildlife reserve. Shoppers head for the markets, both farmers and flea. The Starving Artist consignment boutique is a great place to discover the work of local artists. Foodies can choose from more than 400 eateries, including Crave Food Truck, popular for its healthy, creative offerings, and then head to Stogies Jazz Club for a night cap, some live music and, if the mood strikes, a cigar. As if all this activity weren’t enough, the 43 miles of fine, golden sand beaches offer endless shelling, sunning, surfing and swimming.

Dockage is available at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor on the ICW, which has a 7-foot dock depth and accommodates vessels up to 130 feet.

Palm Beaches

A 47-mile stretch of beach along the coast from Jupiter to Boca Raton encompasses a number of towns called the Palm Beaches. The area, especially Palm Beach, was frequented by foreign aristocracy, prominent socialites and legendary tycoons.

Still a playground for the affluent, the area offers land and water sports for kids of all ages, with one of the largest polo clubs in the world, coral reef and wreck diving on the world’s third-largest barrier reef and fabulous shopping. Then there’s all the excellent food. For a taste of Old Palm Beach, the chic Ta-boo lends itself to afternoon cocktails and family dinners. Also try Buccan, a high-end bistro located near the famous Breakers Hotel.

Large yachts have three extraordinary marina choices: The Club at Admirals Cove Marina in Jupiter accommodates boats to 130 feet, has an 11-foot dock depth and is considered a natural weather refuge; the resort-style Old Port Cove Marina, in the heart of North Palm, has a full-service restaurant and dockage for yachts to 200 feet, with a 15-foot dock depth; Palm Harbor Marina, four miles south of Lake Worth Inlet, accepts yachts to 250 feet and has an 11-foot dock depth.

Fort Lauderdale

The site of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, this beautiful city has matured from a destination for spring-breakers to a major manufacturing, maintenance and recreation center for yachts. Its hundreds of top restaurants, sophisticated streets such as Las Olas Boulevard, and 165-miles of local waterways and canals have earned it the nickname the Venice of America. The Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk promenade is thought by many to be the most beautiful mile in the state. Auto enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, which has a Packard from every year they were manufactured.

There are countless options for great food, including Bao Bar & Asian Kitchen and S3 (Sun-Surf-Sand), which has a chic patio overlooking the beach.

The Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center offers 250 slips for vessels up to 300 feet and a 17-foot dock depth; Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina has slips for vessels up to 350 feet and a 14-foot dock depth; Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort & Marina accommodates vessels up to 460 feet and has a 14-foot dock depth; Marina Bay Marina Resort accommodates vessels up to 130 feet and has a 10-foot dock depth.

Miami Beach

A collection of urban districts, charming beach villages, and unique ethnic neighborhoods, Miami Beach has an international flavor all its own.

The Design District sports more than 130 art galleries, antique dealers, high-end restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops. The stand-out Wolfsonian-FIU Museum displays 180,000 objects from the 1850s to the 1950s. The area is showcased during Art Deco weekend in January.

Often called the American Riviera, South Beach’s Deco fantasyland is one of the most photographed and filmed areas in the country. Along with the stunning architecture, glamorous nightlife and shopping promenades like Lincoln Road, there actually is a spectacular beach. Nearby Collins Avenue is home to the Miami Salsa Congress, a five-day music and dance event held in July.

No one will go hungry in Miami Beach. Among the myriad amazing options are Taquiza, serving handmade torillas; Lure Fishbar, with oysters and butter-poached lobster; Otentic Fresh Food, for French fare in an intimate setting; and Sunset Harbour’s gastropub, Pubbelly.

Three dockage options: Miami Beach Marina has 400 slips for vessels up to 250 feet with a 12-foot dock depth; Sunset Harbour Yacht Club on Biscayne Bay can accommodate vessels up to 210 feet and has an 8-foot dock depth; Island Gardens Deep Harbour, a new marina can accommodate yachts up to 500 feet with an 18- foot dock depth.

Florida Keys

Just an hour south of Miami Beach lies Key Largo, the key made famous by Humphrey Bogart. Although most scenes were shot in a Hollywood studio, the background was filmed on location. Key Largo is home to John Pennecamp State Park, which has great diving opportunities. To the west is Everglades National Park and to the east is the only living coral barrier reef in the mainland U.S.

Ocean Reef Club located in Key Largo, is a sophisticated private facility dedicated to boating, birding and golfing. The member-only marina has 175 slips and can accommodate vessels up to 175 feet and up to a 9-foot dock depth.

Family-friendly Marathon Key is noted for its old Keys lifestyle and seafaring heritage, and it has many eco-attractions and education centers. The Turtle Hospital rescues, rehabs and releases turtles back into Florida waters. The Dolphin Research Center houses bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions for research and education. Seafood is obviously very fresh in Marathon. Don’t miss the Keys Fisheries for their famous Lobster Reuben and the Butterfly Café at the Tranquility Resort for seafood with a Caribbean flair.

In Marathon there are two dockage options: Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club accommodates vessel up to 130 feet and has a 10-foot dock depth, and Marathon Marina, Boatyard & RV Resort can accommodate vessels up to 130 feet with an 10-foot dock depth.

Last stop is Key West – the footloose exuberance and spirited irreverence that characterize the Keys is amplified in the quirky collection of pastel conch houses and festive atmosphere that define Key West. The blended cultural heritage was inspired by Bahamian wreckers, commercial fishermen, spongers and Cuban cigar makers.

A variety of folks find their own particular paradise here. Begin the day savoring a cafe Cubano or cafe con leche, before visiting the Ernest Hemingway House, the Truman Little White House and the Butterfly Conservatory, or just bicycle around.

Seafood and Latin-inspired cuisine abound at Santiago’s Bodega, Garbo’s Grill, and El Siboney. After dinner, indulge at the dark and mysterious Better Than Sex for dessert and wine served in a chocolate- dipped glass. From midday until late at night, live music drifts out of the myriad saloons and breezy waterfront bars on Duval Street.

In Key West, Conch Harbor Marina located in the historic “bight” area, accepts vessels up to 185 feet with a 10-foot dock depth, plus there’s a West Marine store on-site. Key West Bight handles boats up to 200-feet with a 12-foot dock depth. The largest deep-water in the keys, Stock Island Marina Village accommodates vessels up to 300 feet and has a 17-foot dock depth and high-speed fuel.