The pursuit of water recreation along Florida's Paradise Coast can take you on an airboat ride through the Everglades, paddling among the Isles of Capri 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 Tours of the Everglades
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.
Watch for dolphins and a variety of bird species in the Ten Thousand Islands aboard one of the Everglades National Park Boat Tours. They depart regularly from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City. Take a backcountry kayak fishing charter or kayak eco-tour on the Paradise Coast Blueway, Collier County's paddling trail, or the Everglades Wilderness Waterway with Everglades Area Tours.
Dolphin & Manatee Encounters on Marco Island
Observe playful dolphins and meandering manatees as a participant of the Sea Excursions 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project, a program that combines scientific research with wildlife viewing 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 or perhaps catch a rare glimpse of a prowling Florida panther.
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.
Boating, Parasailing & Fishing in Naples
Sail away for a two-hour cruise with Sailboats Unlimited. Sit back and relax, or choose to help the crew.
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.
Reel in popular game fish such as tarpon, grouper, permit and tripletail in the Gulf of Mexico with Six Chuter Charters. 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 Manatee Sightseeing Adventure. You'll experience nature first-hand and see manatees swim or witness one nursing.