Water, Water Everywhere

A trip to South Florida is a great way to escape the winter blues. It’s one of the few places in the USA with consistently warm temperatures throughout the first quarter and it’s more affordable than an island destination since you don’t have to fly to get there.  There are also hotels and other rentals in any price range – from budget to luxury.

An important fact to know about South Florida (Palm Beach to Miami) is – it’s all about the water.  Not only are there miles of sandy beach coastline, but there is a large channel known as the Intercoastal Waterway and hundreds, if not thousands, of small canals that connect to it.  There are a few inlets connecting the Intercoastal with the Atlantic Ocean and it is more common than not to see a boat – or yacht – docked in the sheltered waters of these canals behind some VERY impressive homes.

In order to fully appreciate the South Florida lifestyle, it’s necessary to venture out onto the water – not just swim into it.  To do so, you will need a boat.  There are a number of boat tour options and here is my take on 3 of them:

Palm BeachDiva Ducks:  The “Ducks” are unusual vehicles because they are able to use both land AND water, in fact, part way through the tour, the “Duck” drives down a ramp and takes to the water.  The vessel is campy, the tour peppered with quacky jokes making it not right for everyone.

Palm Beach is the home of some of the rich and famous with the mansions to prove it.  Nearly all are tucked away behind tall hedges and fancy gates.  The only way to get a glimpse is from the water.  In reality, there’s not much more to see in this area besides a couple of landmark hotels and these multi-million dollar estates and the Diva Duck is the only tour boat option.  There is a water taxi, but no other water based tour operators.

On the plus side, it’s not expensive and if you check on line, there may even be a discount coupon.  It’s easy to book on line and as long as you either write down or save the tour details (including your confirmation code) you don’t even have to hassle with printing out your ticket.  The guide was appropriately quirky, the themed music was fun and it is a unique adventure. You see about a dozen impressive homes and the guide gives insights into the owners, most of which are names you will know.

On the negative side, it’s only 75 minutes and given the speed – or lack thereof – the Duck achieves in water, you don’t get to see as much from the water as we would have liked. Much of the time in the water is spent crossing from the boat ramp across “Worth Lake” to the homes and back.  You don’t get close enough to Peanut Island to say you saw it and at no time do you venture out into the ocean so the ocean front mansions can still only be seen on the Travel Channel.

Final word:  As far as a tour, it’s better than nothing and the land to water experience is unique.

Fort Lauderdale –  Carrie B. Cruises:  The website touts their investment in their sound system and it is impressive!  If you have ever endured crackling microphones and garbled narrative – you will appreciate the difference.  There are several water based tour options in Fort Lauderdale but as an experienced tourer, we opted for Carrie due to this factor.  We saw a couple of the other boats while out on tour which only reinforced the wisdom of our choice.

They use the same online ticketing agent and also may have a promo code for a discount so be sure to check the website before you click through to purchase your ticket.  As with Diva Ducks, this process was easy and efficient and a good value for the money.

It’s all plus for Carrie B. Cruises.  The vessel is nice and you can even spend the entire 1.5 hour tour on the bow of the boat as we did.  The ride is quiet, smooth and we were pleasantly surprised the paddleboat covers a LOT of territory.  The guide was informative and easy to understand.

If there is a negative, it’s that it was ONLY 1.5 hour tour.  I could have spent the entire afternoon onboard!

Final word:  There are countless mega-mansions, mega-yachts and cruise ships (Fort Lauderdale is the busiest US cruise ship port) making this a “must see” in Fort Lauderdale.

 

MiamiThriller:  My husband likes to go fast on the water – jet skis, ocean catamarans – more adrenaline than tour.  In choosing Thriller speed boat tour, we got both!  Reservations are available online or at the ticket booth in Bayside.  Discounts are often offered for online booking.

On the plus side,  the boat is sleek and fast.  The ride is remarkably smooth but the speed, the wakes of other boats and venturing out into actual OCEAN waters offers an adventure ride unlike any other!

There is some “tour”, a few homes of the rich and famous – cruise ships – impressive skylines views of Miami and a distant look at famous South Beach but this this is as much about the “Miami Vice” style ride as it is the “tour”.  The crew is laid back and great about taking photos using your camera including one that lets you sit in the co-pilot seat!

The only negative, the sound system.  It was great when playing music but was temperamental when it came to the narrative.  The crew did their best and it was fine but certainly made the Carrie B.’s sound system seem even more stellar.

Final word:  We did the sunset tour and it was amazing – definitely a high point to end our trip to South Florida.  Put this on your “must see” when in Miami!

Both Carrie B. and Thriller offer the cruise ship style boarding photo with no obligation to buy. Each tour website offers suggestions for parking but you may need to factor in the cost of parking as well as the time it takes to find a spot then walk to the boarding area.  Lastly a sunset tour is beautiful but by the time you get back to the dock the sun will have set so a light jacket or sweater is a good idea.

If you are planning a trip to South Florida, be sure to include one or more of these tours.

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