A Nautical Look at the Surf Expo

Twice a year, Florida By Water heads to Orlando to check out the latest in fashion, swimwear, gadgets, and anything else that we think you, the boater, might enjoy. The Surf Expo features approximately 2,600 booths, all chock full of apparel and hard goods, as well as a full lineup of special events. This year we spent countless hours searching for products we think you'll be interested in. Here are our top 5 picks.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 2.26.46 PMBest Tan Lines
The Scrunch Butt Bikini
The Ipanema line is themed, based on destinations like Florida, Mexico, Belize, St. Barts, and many more tropical paradises.  Designer Patrixia has created a complete line of styles; our personal favorite is the “scrunch butt.” This particular style allows the wearer to show as much or as little skin as she desires just by adjusting the stylish strings and straps. Also, each piece of swimwear is reversible, giving the customer more possibilities for mix and match combinations.

DSC_8084Best Nautical Bikini

When we're out on the boat, we find it very important to dress for the occasion. Heat Swimwear caught our attention with their Anchors Away collection. These are mix and match items, which range in cost from $32.99 for the bottoms to $42.99 for the tops. Check out their site for even more nautical bikinis.



Best New Boat Shoes
Tucket Footwear is perfect for boaters for a couple of reasons. First, the shoe is fully submersible and the water will completely drain off in three to five seconds.. Second, this shoe has traction like no other, providing a strong grip on the slick surface of a boat.The proprietary tread material has actually passed the slip testing used for occupational footwear. Last, they just look good. On the boat or an evening out, you can't go wrong with these boat shoes.


DSC_7613Best Bag/Cooler

Even though I’m sure that, like us, you already have more bags and coolers then you can count, the CoolBag is worth a second look. We were impressed by the fact that the bag is compartmentalized; meaning that ice and drinks fit securely in the bottom of the bag, leaving room for valuables like your phone and other personal items, which stay nice and dry in the upper portion of the of this “cool” bag. The other feature that boaters will love is that the straps can be unhooked and placed around a secure object (like your steering wheel) and then locked, providing a little more security for your valuables while you are away from the boat. The bag comes in six colors and retails for $109.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 2.36.51 PMBest in Bling

Nau-T Girl Jewelry has a great collection of items for the “outdoor kind of girl.” Their jewelry collection consists of  Mermaid, Anchor, and Hook collections.  Each piece is handcrafted and can be purchased in Sterling Silver or 14K white or yellow gold. This family-run business out of Venice, Florida, also features apparel like t-shirts and hats. It has been our experience that we all love a Nau-T Girl, so you can't go wrong getting her the bling she deserves.

A Boater’s Paradise: Homosassa, Florida and Tarpon Key Lodge

Homosassa River

As the morning sun breaks through the darkness of night we realize that we have discovered a boating paradise. This is the kind of place you dream about: great restaurants with fresh seafood, dockside bars with live music, a freshwater spring where you can raft up, outstanding fishing and scalloping, not to mention a beautiful house on a private island that overlooks both the Gulf of Mexico and the Homosassa River.

The first weekend in May we trailered our boat down to the small town of Homosassa, a destination that has been on our bucket list since we created Florida By Water. We had two main objectives: to experience the local flair and beauty of this Nature Coast community, and to stay at Tarpon Key Lodge.

Tarpon Key Lodge

Tarpon Key Lodge is a beautiful three bedroom, two bath private home located on Shell Island; a 30 minute boat ride from the Riverhaven Marina. What makes this home unique is that it’s the only house on an eight-acre island, located where the Homosassa River and the Gulf of Mexico meet. The accommodations sleep eight, and include amenities such as kayaks, a fish freezer, commercial icemaker, modern kitchen, Internet and cable, and amazing sunsets viewable from the massive deck that wraps around the entire house. The home, which is only accessible by boat, has a private dock equipped with a shelter and a fish cleaning station. The entire property is beautifully landscaped and you will see wildlife everywhere. Panoramic views provide an incredible reminder of the uniqueness of this destination. During regular season, the island can be yours for only $300 per night with a three-night minimum stay. Costs go up during scallop season.

The Shed
The Shed

If you’re into dockside dining, Homosassa is filled with outstanding restaurants that range from the local dive to the upscale. Our first night we made the five-mile journey up the scenic waterway to the Sea Grass Waterfront Restaurant. Docking was easy and plentiful, and the food was excellent. We also enjoyed the feel of the outdoor bar where locals gathered. On the evening trip back to the lodge, the setting sun delivered a spectrum of colors that reflected off of the glass-like water. ‘Magnificent’ is really an understatement on how to describe this paradise. During the day, one local hotspot is an outdoor bar that goes by the name of “The Shed.” On the weekends, this place is hopping with boaters, bikers, vacationers, and seemingly just about everyone in else in this small town. Live music and laughter fill the air, along with smell of (really good!) wings and beer. While you’re there, you can also pick up any additional items you need at MacRae’s Marina. If you’re in more of a sit down lunch or dinner kind of mood, be sure and check out the Riverside Crab House located next door at Riverside Resort. They have the best blue crab in the area.

On any boating adventure, you look for places to spend the day on the boat. The local raft up can be found at Homosassa Springs. The springs are known for their manatees and crystal clear water. It is a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, or just people watching. The springs are located at the mouth of the Homosassa River and are about an hour’s boat ride from the Lodge. We would also suggest taking a sunset cruise. Just a short outing from the Lodge will provide you with more pictures and memories than you can

Homosassa Springs
Homosassa Springs

imagine. While we cannot really call ourselves fishermen, fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in the area. Guides and local knowledge will ensure you have fresh fish for supper. But, if you’re like us, and the only way you can catch a fish is if one jumps into your boat, there is always Shelly’s Seafood, a local fish market located right on the water.

The town of Homosassa dates back to 1851 and began as an established sugar plantation, producing sugar, syrup and molasses that were used in rum production. Today the community has a population of about 2,300 residents. We think you will find this destination to be one of your favorites for boating opportunities. It is rare to find so many great boating options nestled in the middle of paradise, complete with your own private island.

Boat Central Florida: Lots of Great Lake Boating Available

Though most people first think of Central Florida’s reputation as a major theme park capital, the fact of the matter is that if you like to boat, Central Florida is a great place to be.  For your next trip to the Sunshine State, bring your boat – Orlando has a lot to offer for boating fun!

One of the most beautiful and popular places to take the boat, Central Florida is home to Lake Kissimmee State Park.  There are boat launches available in the park as well as an onsite boat ramp and marina.  When you explore Lake Kissimmee State Park, you’ll have access to over 35,000 acres of Lake Kissimmee and other connected lakes to explore.  You’ll enjoy bass and pan fishing as well as wildlife viewing along all of the lake and creek waterways.

If you’d like to make a weekend of it, there are 60 full facility camping areas available, as well as primitive camping.  RVs up to 45 ft. are welcome as well.

Another popular area to boat, Orlando lies south of the Harris Chain of Lakes.  The nine lakes of the Harris Chain were once home to many national bass tournaments, but due to conservation efforts over the last decade as well as drought concerns, the Florida Fish and Game has maintained a strict catch and release program, limiting the number of tournaments each year.  Because of the many springs feeding the lakes, the waters are very clear year round.

Lakes Harris, Dora, Griffin and Apopka are the largest of the Harris Chain.  Big Lake Harris has three public launch spots, and has very deep waters to accommodate bigger boats. Lake Dora has two public boat ramps, and there is also a boat ramp in the town of Lake Jem along the Apopka Beauclair canal.  Lake Eustis has two boat ramps, one on Buzzard Beach and one just south of the City of Eustis.

There are tons of spots to explore when you tow the boat to Central Florida!

The Party Starts Here

Ski IslandIf there is one thing most boaters love to do, it is raft up. A formal definition is “the roping together of a number of small vessels to form a raft-like structure; a social gathering based upon such a structure.” However, over the years the term has come to focus much more on the social aspect rather than the roping together of boats. A raft up is about a destination. It could just as easily be called a party spot where boaters congregate. These pristine locations are usually sandbars or small islands that are only accessible by boat. They are perfect for relaxing, people watching, playing in the water and socializing. From time to time there are organized events, but for the most part it’s just the place to be.

This past year, Florida By Water (floridabywater.com) went in search of the most poplar raft up location in the Sunshine State. Not surprisingly, almost every city has its own special place. Therefore, we picked 10 of the most popular (based on a very unscientific survey) raft up locations for boaters.

Whale Harbor Sand Bar (Islamorada): This sandbar is located just off the marked channel coming into Whale Harbor. It’s a beautiful sandbar with beautiful water. This location can get pretty rowdy at times, so beware; this is not your location if you’re looking for a quiet Saturday afternoon. However, if a party is what you’re looking for, you will be thrilled.

Crab Island (Destin): Locals and vacationers alike hang out at this sandbar. Dozens of boats anchor here on any given day and in average depths of only two feet. It’s an ideal place to park a boat and play in the water. It’s also a great place to catch hermit crabs, hence its name. You’ll also want to catch the Ultimate Chicken Fight Championship held at 2:00 pm on Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Disappearing Island (Ponce Inlet): During low tide every day, an island appears (and later disappears) as the water recedes at the inlet where Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna almost meet. The sandbar is over ½ mile long and the perfect place to spend a day. Boaters from all over come to play on the pure sandy island. It’s as if it was made for recreational boating! A bonus is you can see the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse from the sandbar.

Peanut Island (Palm Beach): Peanut Island is a great choice for Palm Beach county’s top boating destination. It has a dock, anchorage, designated swimming area, snorkeling, sandbars, picnic areas, restrooms, showers, camping, footpath, museum and even a presidential nuclear bomb shelter! The nearby Lake Worth Inlet floods the area with crystal clear blue water with each incoming tide. Peanut Island got its name from a peanut oil shipping terminal which was supposed to be built nearby. The facilities are second to none.

Ski Island (Merritt Island): Ski Island is located on the Banana River near Port Canaveral. It’s just minutes away from Kelly Park, Harbortown Marina, the Locks and the Barge Canal. This small piece of land turns into a gathering place for boaters on the weekends. Boats in every size, shape, and color pull up to the island or sandbar for their piece of the Jimmy Buffet lifestyle.

Three-Rooker Key (Clearwater): Three-Rooker Bar is not your typical bar because it’s really a small island or sandbar just off the coast of northern Pinellas County. Partying here is the nautical equivalent of tailgating in a parking lot before a football game. Boaters drop anchor and get crazy. It’s crowded and loud on weekends, but the water is Caribbean blue and the sand is white and sugary soft.

Sliver Glen Springs (Lake George): Silver Glen Springs is one of two fresh water springs located off Lake George in Central Florida. You’ll find clean, cool water surrounded by a state park and the Ocala National Forest. This is the perfect destination for snorkeling and relaxing. You’ll find numerous houseboats anchored for the week on any given day. The spring is part of the USDA Forest Service's Silver Glen Springs recreation area. The recreation area is used for swimming, snorkeling, picnicking, fishing and boating. Boating is not allowed in the spring pool, but the spring run is a popular spot for recreational boaters.

Jupiter Sandbar (Jupiter): The popular Loxahatchee River Sandbar in the Jupiter-Tequesta area is a top destination for local boaters. It's conveniently located near the Jupiter Inlet and the Intracoastal Waterway. The sandbar is long, can accommodate hundreds of people and is usually crowded on weekends. Boats begin arriving about three hours before low tide, when the sandbar is covered in a foot or two of water. As the tide leaves, the huge sandbar becomes exposed. The Loxahatchee Sandbar is made up of fine sand and there is some good snorkeling near the sandbar's east end.

Fort George Island (Jacksonville): Located off the Intercoastal Waterway you’ll find this location has the best of both worlds, a sandbar and a private beach. Fort George Island is a state park; however, the sandbar and the beach are only accessible by boat. The destination is rarely overcrowded and is pet friendly.

Haulover Sandbar (North Miami): If you like boats, beer and bikinis, this is a stop for you. The entire Haulover Sandbar is nothing more than a shallow area near the inlet and marina of the same name, but on weekends it becomes something else. Haulover Sandbar is the Margaritaville for the boating crowd. Oh, and it's next to a large, uninhabited island officially called Sandspur, but popularly known as Beer Can Island. People camp, have bonfires and do all sorts of other adventurous things on this sandbar.