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Yacht Charter Itinerary: Cruise the East Coast of Florida to the Florida Keys

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The southern-most state on the East Coast of the United States of America, Florida offers an excellent yacht charter itinerary from Ft. Lauderdale down the eastern seaboard of Florida and through the Florida Keys all the way to Key West. See a slice of America with a unique and different history, set in the middle of crystal clear waters offering great fishing, swimming and snorkeling. Ideal months for a yacht charter in southern Florida are in the spring, summer and fall.

Board in Ft. Lauderdale, joining your yacht at one of the many marinas available in this town built around its canals. Here there are located some of the finest marinas, shopping, beaches and nightclubs on the Gold Coast, as well many luxury yachts. Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to the southern tip of Miami Beach, also known locally as "South Beach" or "SoBe". The nearby "Art Deco" district is famous for its beautifully restored Art Deco styled landmark hotels. Stretch your legs on a walk down Ocean Drive and enjoy dinner at a beachfront café, or cruise over to the Lincoln Road outdoor pedestrian mall, where an eclectic mix of shops, art galleries, restaurants and live music reflects a truly international blend of Latin, Caribbean and European life. Perhaps, try Miami Beach Marina, which is conveniently located right in the heart of South Beach. Overnight.

After breakfast, head south of Miami Beach to Biscayne Bay stopping in time for lunch. Dinner Key is a great anchorage for the night or perhaps overnight at one of the several local marinas. Coconut Grove, the most popular restaurant and shopping area in South Miami, is within easy walking distance. Here, are located some of the country’s most creative chefs cooking in great restaurants featuring cuisine ranging from “Floribbean” and Cuban to Southwestern and Japanese. Villa Vizcaya, a coral mansion built at the turn of the century, and the local Planetarium are just a taxi ride away and both well worth visiting. Opposite Coconut Grove, on the islands of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne are the Miami Sea Aquarium and Crandon Park. On the southern tip of Key Biscayne is Cape Florida Park; complete with beautiful beaches, an interesting lighthouse, and a view of Stiltsville; a group of stilt homes strung out along the flats off Key Biscayne. Overnight.

After breakfast leave for Key Largo cruising through Hawk Channel. Soak up the sun and stop to enjoy some snorkeling or diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This 25-mile long preserve was established to protect the only living coral reef in the continental United States. This is the Diving Capital of the U.S. A., so be sure to explore some of the numerous dive sites including Carysfort Reef, The Elbow and Grecian Rocks, a 13’ bronze statue called "Christ of the Deep" sits just under the water surface. Dock for the night at Port Largo Harbor or if you prefer anchoring, try the leeward side of Rodriguez Key.

In the morning, cruise to the Florida Key Islands of Islamorada and Duck Key, stopping on the way to enjoy a refreshing swim, and great snorkeling available at Conch, Davis, Pickles, Alligator and Molasses Reefs. A good anchorage for lunch is Indian Key, featuring one of the first settlements in the Keys, and is also a great location for hiking. If you have time, take the ship’s tender over to Lignumvitae Key to explore virgin hammocks, native vegetation, and the coral rock house, cisterns, and windmill. Overnight in either Duck Key or Marathon, or if you prefer to be away from the madding crowds, anchor in Boot Key Harbor.

Leave early in the morning, for Key West and Little Palm Island near Newfound Harbor, a beautiful private resort. Along the way, enjoy snorkeling at Looe Key National Park, offering excellent coral and colorful tropical fish, or explore beautiful Bahia Honda with its lovely beaches and scenic trails. Try dinner at Little Palm Island, reservations strongly recommended, and overnight.

In the morning, cruise right to the center of Old Key West and tie up at a marina in the heart of the Duval district. Wander the streets of this historic town filled with unique Key West architecture. Shopping and people watching are great activities. Be sure to be at Mallory Square before sunset, to watch the sun set over the water in the only location where this can be seen on the East Coast, and enjoy the eclectic life that gathers each sunset on the quay. Visit Hemingway’s home, stop for a drink in Hemingway’s favorite bar, and enjoy visiting the sea aquariums, and old turtle kraals. This is a town to enjoy and be enjoyed. At night, Duval Street comes alive with activity, with a great nightlife scene.

Enjoy morning walk around Key West before leaving to cruise to the Dry Tortugas. Once in the Dry Tortugas, visit the Marquesas and Woman’s Key or even cruise as far as Fort Jefferson and Loggerhead Key. Here there is excellent fishing, snorkeling and exploring as the surrounding shallow flats are filled with rays, tarpon and dolphin, and the surrounding crystal clear waters are filled with coral, lobsters, and other marine life. The underwater nature trail is a must for snorkelers, and Fort Jefferson is a National Monument and park as well as a wildlife refuge. You can still tour the abandoned fort that was once the prison for President Lincoln’s assassin. Overnight on anchor.

After breakfast, head back to Key West, to disembark.

For more information on this and other great yacht charter itineraries, please contact: Northrop and Johnson Yacht Charters

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