An Airbnb for boats and 5 other ways to sail around Tampa Bay
Whether you’re trying to impress your out-of-town guests, celebrating a special occasion, or just having a fun weekend on the water, hopping on a boat somewhere around Tampa Bay is a great option. But where to start ?
You don’t need a friend with a yacht these days. We’ve rounded up a variety of ways to get on the water without owning a boat, from small boats to big excursions.
Billed as an Airbnb for boats, GetMyBoat was first launched in San Francisco in 2013 with the goal of making boating more accessible. The platform now has over 3,000 listings in Florida.
“[Boat clubs] are good if you plan to go out a lot, but they require quite a high upfront fee just to get access to the boats,” GetMyBoat spokesperson Val Streif said. “We want to connect people to what they want, when they want.”
Boat owners can rent out their boats to earn some extra cash. Passengers can find boats of all sizes, from modest fishing boats ($60 to $150 per hour) to larger pontoons ($100 to $250 per hour) and luxury yachts (from around $300 an hour). You don’t know how to drive a boat? You can book a charter trip with an experienced captain. getmyboat.com.
Guided tiki tours
Picture yourself sipping your favorite drink under a thatched canopy, floating along the waves as the sun sets. Floating Tiki bars are a popular way for large groups to get on the water and celebrate everything from corporate retreats to engagements. Prime Video’s lesbian reality show, “Tampa Baes”, even chartered one for an episode. Don’t forget to bring your own drinks.
Tampa Tiki Boat offers personalized tours as well as a 90-minute trip along the Hillsborough River, which passes major downtown Tampa landmarks. All trips are chartered by licensed captains, and these floating Tiki bars even have bathrooms on board. tikiboattampa.com.
Tikis on a cruise offers tours to Tampa as well as Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg. Coolers with ice and a Bluetooth speaker are provided. cruisintikistampabay.com.
“Whether you call us a BOAT, a BIKE or a PADDLE PUB, one thing you’ll call us is an unforgettable experience!” read the home page of Kraken CycleBoats.
This two-hour cruise along the Hillsborough River comes with a captain and crew, plus souvenir mugs and coolers. Passengers pedal to propel the ride, but there’s also a motor if people get tired. Reserve for $45 per seat, or reserve the entire boat, which is large enough for 15 people, for $585 (excluding taxes and fees). krakencycleboats.com.
Looking for a similar experience to Pinellas? Paddle Pub Clearwater departs from Clearwater Beach. Private tours start at $499 on weekdays. paddlepub.com/clearwater.
Board this sightseeing cruise at Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks for an aquatic adventure that includes views of the Anclote River and its historic landmarks. Spongeorama Cruises offers sunset and dolphin cruises, as well as charters.
Drinks and snacks are available on board, as well as bathrooms. Tickets start at $14.95, with discounted prices for seniors, military, and children. www.spongoramacruiselines.com.
Pirate water taxi
If you’ve walked along the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa, you’ve seen those banana-yellow boats buzzing along the water. These water taxis operate seven days a week, offering day passes that allow passengers to hop on and off at their leisure to explore places like Davis Islands and Sparkman Wharf.
The Pirate Water Taxi also offers an annual pass ($199.95) as well as special holiday excursions, from a Gasparilla Invasion Cruise to Mother’s Day and Memorial Day cruises. Call 813-223-7999 or visit piratewatertaxi.com.
It’s not too early to start dreaming about scallop season, which begins July 1 and ends September 24 in Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties. The The Tampa Bay Times dated a captain from the Plantation on Crystal River’s Adventure Center last summer.
A captain will take you on a scenic ride, find the best stop to anchor, and provide all the necessary equipment and guidance to help you pick up a bag of scallops. plantationadventurecenter.com.
Tips for successful yacht charter
Rory Conforti, who rents his boats with GetMyBoat and on his own website, floatboating.com, shared tips for success when using the platform. They also apply to other rentals.
- Gathering a group of friends or bringing families together is a great way to spread out the cost of a boat rental.
- Know your group size in advance and stick to it. “You never want to max out a boat,” he said. “Some people will try to get as many people on a boat as possible. That’s a no-no.
- Be aware of the different waterways and your comfort level before booking if you plan to drive. Lake boaters, for example, may need to prepare before booking a saltwater boat tour, which comes with varying wind conditions and obstacles like sandbars and oyster beds.
- Book early for events and holidays like Gasparilla and 4th of July.
- Let your captain know ahead of time if you are celebrating a special event, such as a bachelorette party or birthday. They may have a special route or a fun twist that they take out for the occasion.
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