Yachting in South Florida: A captain, owner, guest and crew guide
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 26/06/2017
As the Sunshine State, yachting and Florida go hand-in-hand, with the Atlantic coastline remaining a firm favourite with the superyacht set for its year-round sunshine, pristine waters and buzzing street cultures.
The famous yachting hubs of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are popular not only with superyacht owners and charter guests wishing to explore all that the Tri-County region has to offer, but also with crew as a favourite refit destination, crew hangout, hiring port, and location for shore-side homes.
With the Americas season upon us once again, Yachting Pages presents a guide to yachting in South Florida, with tips and advice for captains and crew living and working in the area.
When to visit Florida aboard a superyacht
Florida is truly unique as a yachting destination as visiting yachts from far and wide often stop by not once, but twice a year as they transition between the Americas and European yachting seasons.
The waterways are actually busy year-round, however, as many superyachts and famous yacht shows call the state home. The peak yachting months are in full swing in October and November, when superyachts and supporting shore-side businesses congregate for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and again in March and April for the Miami Boat Shows. During these months especially, Florida becomes a prolific hiring port for crew hopefuls who are looking for their first yacht job, or those more experienced crew hoping to jump ship.
Cruising climate in South Florida
Southern Florida experiences a subtropical wet-and-dry climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons. While yachts are typically summering in the Med, the Florida summer is hot and humid, often with daily thunderstorms. The yachting set typically returns to Florida again in the dry winter season when the weather settles in late October.
Regardless, warm sunshine and cloudless skies give the region an average annual temperature of 28°C (82°F), ranging from an average low 24°C (75°F) in the winter to 32°C (89°F) in the summer. The Atlantic Hurricane season is typically in force from 1st June to 30th November each year.
What to see and do in South Florida
The water-centric nature of Southern Florida means that many of the region’s highlights and hotspots are located in, or just a stone’s throw away from the water.
Florida yacht and boat shows
Some of the calendar’s biggest yacht and boat shows take place in Florida waters, drawing impressive superyachts, ample shore-side support businesses and out-of-towners to the region throughout the winter months.
- Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show: October/November
- St Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show: December
- Yachts Miami Beach: February
- Miami International Boat Show: February
- Palm Beach International Boat Show: March
- Suncoast Boat Show: April
Besides the well-known sights and sounds of Ocean Drive and the electric draw of South Beach, there is much more beyond for charter guests and crew alike to enjoy on a break in the city of Miami.
The surface water temperature in the Greater Miami area rarely drops below 21°C (70°F), so diving and water sports are a great option. If the equipment isn’t available on board, there are plenty of hire companies in the local marinas to assist in fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, canoeing, wind surfing, Jet Skiing, parasailing and more.
Miami also has a lot to offer when it comes to restaurants, bars and nightlife. Visitors can dance all night at Fountaineblue Miami Beach, sip cocktails at Area 31 or enjoy fresh seafood at Seaspice Brasserie and local take-out from My Cevice.
Shopping for high-end fashion is good at The Design District, while the Bal Harbour Shops on Miami Beach blend shopping with pleasure, with unique merchandise, street entertainment, cafés and bars. There is also plenty on offer in theatre, arts and culture, with The Perez Art Museum, Bass Museum of Modern Art and Jackie Gleason Theatre offering up great art, architecture and entertainment.
Yacht crew hangouts in Fort Lauderdale
Known fondly by crew as “Fort Liquordale”, Fort Lauderdale is home to many yacht crew hangouts, including the Irish bars Waxy O’Connors on SE 17th Street, McSorley’s on N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. and Briny’s on the Las Olas Riverfront. Tap 42 is a favourite beer bar, and Boatyard is great for dockside drinks. If you’re looking to break away from the pack, the Chima Brazilian steakhouse and Rocco’s on Las Olas come highly recommended for food and drinks. Discover the ten best bars for Fort Lauderdale yachties.
Beyond drinking and dining, yacht crew located in South Florida should get out on the road with daytrips to the Everglades National Park to see ‘gators, Key Largo for scuba diving, and Clearwater for a day on the beach. Orlando and Tampa are also favourites for their infamous theme parks.
Yacht berthing: Superyacht marinas in South Florida
The water-centric nature of Southern Florida sees private residences, condos, restaurants and marine businesses competing for limited prime waterfront real estate. Florida’s waterways offer plenty of superyacht berthing, allowing captains to select a location based on the amenities required during their stay in Florida. Our favourites include:
The home of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), the Bahia Mar Yachting Centre is an ideal superyacht berthing spot in Fort Lauderdale. It offers 250 slips capable of handling vessels up to 91m (300ft) LOA, with all the necessary marine and guest facilities.
Hall of Fame Marina is another FLIBS host marina; active year-round with home berthers and visiting superyachts, it offers room for 20 yachts up to 21m (70ft) and 20 up to 41m (135ft) LOA. The site is home to first-class marine, dining and entertainment facilities.
Close to the Art Deco District and the nightlife of South Beach, Miami Beach Marina is at the centre of it all, providing 400 fully serviced slips for megayachts up to 76m (250ft) LOA with no fixed bridges nearby.
Branded as the ultimate luxury destination and a waterfront playground, EPIC Marina is a deep-water megayacht marina in Downtown Miami. The facility accommodates superyachts up to 91m (300ft) LOA alongside a first-class hotel and popular fusion restaurants.
Miamarina at Bayside was rebuilt in 1997 to accommodate megayachts up to 45.75m (150ft) LOA across 130 deep-water slips. Hosting the Strictly Sail exhibit of the Miami International Boat Show, Miamarina is located next to the infamous Bayside Marketplace with its local shops, restaurants and cafés, and offers dockage on a transient, commercial or long-term basis.
The Grove Harbour Marina in Coconut Grove is a full-service facility with 58 slips for megayachts up to 45.75m (150ft) LOA. It offers a great location for those hoping to explore the Florida Keys while enjoying a stay close to the hustle-and-bustle of Downtown Miami.
For those seeking a more exclusive stay in Miami, Fisher Island Club is a members-only marina and lifestyle club, complete with state-of-the-art recreational facilities, hotel and two surge-proof marinas; one being the only private deep-water marina in Florida. With water depths of up to 4.8m (15ft), the marinas have over 100 slips between them, accommodating megayachts up to 76.2m (250ft) LOA.
Branded as the first deep-water superyacht marina in the Western Hemisphere, Island Gardens Deep Harbour Marina accommodates megayachts over and above 167m (550ft) LOA across 50 slips. The facility boasts some of the deepest drafts in the US, at 6.4m (21ft) at its deepest, all set alongside some of the finest waterfront infrastructure and marine support services in the state, with 24-hour security and in-slip fuelling, water and pump-out services available.
Clearing in and out of Florida aboard a yacht
The entry and cruising requirements for foreign vessels and non-US citizens visiting the US varies by country of residence, so it’s always advised to check the official rules outlined by the local tourist board before travelling, or checking in with a local yacht agent.
When navigating in US waters, non-US yacht crew and guests are expected to abide by standard US regulations pertaining to visa categories in B1 (for business) and B2 (for pleasure).
Superyachts over 300 gross tons must file a Notice of Arrival (NOA) with the National Vessel Movement Center (NVMC) prior to arrivial in the United States. This is separate to obtaining a Cruising License from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).