Our Favorite Water Activities in Florida

Water Activities in Florida - Featured

The Sunshine State, being a peninsula, not surprisingly offers a plethora of recreational activities on or in the water from boating to canoeing to snorkeling. There are so many water activities in Florida, in fact, that it can sometimes be hard to choose how to spend your time when vacationing in the USA’s most southern state. Here is a list of our favorite ways to enjoy Florida’s boundless water sources in no particular order:

Water Activities in Florida - Gulf of Mexico

Enticing Gulf of Mexico  (Photo credit: Jason Paluck)

Scuba Diving in the Gulf of Mexico

While many people enjoy boating, parasailing and water skiing in the Gulf of Mexico, which is on the west coast of Florida, I think it’s the perfect place to scuba dive given its large variety of wonderful wildlife, including everything from giant grouper to tiny sea horses. I got my advanced PADI scuba license in the gulf which included my first night dive.

Canoeing on the Hillsborough River

The Hillsborough River runs for 59 miles (95 km) flowing into Tampa Bay. We love canoeing in the Thonotosassa area where you can see the largest variety of Florida wildlife, including alligators, turtles and many species of birds.

Water Activities in Florida - Canoeing Hillsborough River

Canoeing on the Hillsborough River

The large trees and Spanish moss meet each other over several sections of the river creating a beautiful canopy that you can meander through. And don’t worry if you don’t have a canoe; Canoe Escape will lend you a canoe and pick you up when you’re finished your adventure.

Water Activities in Florida - Alligators

Adult alligators in Hillsborough River

Water Activities in Florida - Baby Alligators

Baby alligators basking in the sun

Exploring the Everglades

At 734 square miles (1900 km2) exploring the Everglades can feel like you’ve entered a different world. And indeed you have. There are several ways to enjoy this unique nature including the more secretive canoe or kayak adventure or if you are looking for a more action-packed thrill go for a fan boat ride.

Water Activities in Florida - Everglades Fanboat

Taking a fan boat ride through the Everglades

While the latter will get your heart pumping as you whiz through swamp land, the slower paced person-powered options allow you to seamlessly slip through mangroves promising a more intimate experience with the local flora and fauna.

Water Activities in Florida - Everglades Mangroves

Boating through the mangroves


Florida has a cruise for everyone! We’ve enjoyed dolphin cruises, sunset cruises and even a pirate cruise where all the staff members play the part of a pirate.

Water Activities in Florida - Clearwater Pirate Cruise

Pirate ship at sunset in Clearwater, Florida

The most thrill-seeking cruise we experienced was the speed boat cruise out of Clearwater, where we actually saw more dolphins than on any of the dolphin cruises we went on anywhere else in Florida.

Water Activities in Florida - Clearwater Speedboat

One of the highlights for Mindy was driving the speed boat!

Apparently, dolphins love to play in the wake of speed boats and so dolphins were actually following us and gleefully jumping out of the water as they went.

Water Activities in Florida - Dolphin Cruise

Dolphin playing in the wake of the boat

Swimming with Manatees in Crystal River

One of the most unique water experiences in Florida is swimming with manatees, something I have enjoyed numerous times for my birthday in the cold month of January. The best place to be with manatees is in Crystal River, where manatees escape the cold ocean water and seek comfort in the natural spring that is a mild 72 degrees year round.

Water Activities in Florida - Manatees Crystal River

The manatees were just as curious about me as I was about them

They are rightfully protected so sanctuary zones have been set up for the manatees where people are not allowed to go. If a manatee is interested in an interaction with a human, they come out from these areas to play. I have enjoyed scratching them where their flippers meet their body, rotating with them and being followed by them. One year a playful juvenile mistook my hair for sea grass – best birthday ever! I look forward to spending time with the manatees again this year.

What are your favorite water activities in Florida?