The pursuit of water recreation along Florida's Paradise Coast can take you on an airboat ride through the Everglades, fishing the nearshore and offshore waters, paddling through Rookery Bay or parasailing off Vanderbilt Beach. You can even play marine biologist for a day by helping to count dolphins or collect plankton. Here are a few of the top ways to get in and on the water.
Boat & Paddling Tours of the Everglades
Watch for dolphins and a variety of bird species on a 90-minute boat tour in the Ten Thousand Islands portion of Everglades National Park operated by Everglades Florida Adventures. They depart regularly four times daily from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City. Take a backcountry kayak fishing charter or kayak eco-tour in Everglades National Park, the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge or Big Cypress National Preserve with Everglades Area Tours, a Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism certified tour provider.
Soar across the surface of Lake Trafford on an Airboats & Alligators tour. You'll see alligators lurking in this 1,500-acre freshwater lake while gliding through the reeds and grass at the lake's edge. Or take a more leisurely approach with a narrated or self-guided boat tour. Native birds, turtles, deer and wild boar flourish in the rich ecology, making it a favored destination of birders and photographers. There are many airboat tours in and close to Everglades City including those provided by Wooten's Everglades.
Dolphin & Shelling Excursions on Marco Island
Observe playful dolphins as a participant of the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project, a research-based program that combines scientific research with wildlife viewing during twice daily trips aboard the Dolphin Explorer.
Assist the onboard naturalist by spotting a mama dolphin with her newborn baby. Photograph and identify different dorsal fins, each one unique to an individual dolphin. The trip includes a stop at one of many barrier islands, such as Keewaydin Island, where you can collect a rainbow of shells and spot numerous species of coastal birds.
Cast the backwaters of Marco Island for snook, redfish, snapper and sea trout with Fins-N-Grins Charter Fishing, which also offers sightseeing, shelling and eco-tours. Shell-a-holics will love the shelling tours of deserted beaches in the Ten Thousand Islands departing from Marco Island with Marco Island Boat Tours, Reel Kind, Sand Dollar Shelling, and more.
Explore the winding labrynth of the vast mangrove forests south of Marco Island on a guided Waverunner or Jet Ski tour with Marco Island Ski & Watersports, Capt. Ron's Awesome Everglades Adventures, or Avi's Water Sports.
Boating, Paddling, Fishing & Manatees in Naples
Sail away for a two-hour cruise with Sailboats Unlimited. Sit back and relax, or choose to help the crew. View the sunset from the Gulf under sail aboard the Sweet Liberty or Miss Naples sailing catamarans. Other vessels offering nightly sunset cruises include the Naples Princess air-conditioned yactht and the open-air Double Sunshine.
Go parasailing at Vanderbilt Beach and get a bird's-eye view of north Naples. Tour the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, which offers a 2,300-gallon aquarium with immersion bubble to get up-close and personal with numerous living estuarine residents. For even more natural interaction, assist a local naturalist with plankton research during a kayak trip. Then, return to the lab to view the collected specimens under a microscope.
Paddle through the estuaries and mangrove tunnels to spot bird rookeries, dolphins and more with Rising Tide Explorers, Kayak Tours wIth Mike Devlin and others.
Reel in popular game fish such as grouper, permit and tripletail in the Gulf of Mexico or tarpon, snook and redfish in the backcountry and nearshore waters with Grand Slam Light Tackle Sportfishing. You can also combine your fishing expedition with sightseeing and explore waters that haven't changed since the early days of the Calusa Indians and Spanish explorers.
Take an eco-tour into a remote manatee hideout with See Manatees - Manatee Sightseeing Adventure at Port of the Islands, located halfway between Naples and Everglades City. You'll experience nature first-hand and see manatees swim or witness one nursing.