Boat Rental Fort Lauderdale
Everything You Need to Know to Plan the Perfect Day on the Water
Fort Lauderdale is all about the water—it’s an aquatic playground of beaches, bars, cafes, and sandbars.
So… what better way to experience the city than by boat!
There are lots of boat rentals in Fort Lauderdale. Of course, finding the right one makes all the difference in making your sea-breezy, sensational day perfect.
Whether you are renting a boat with a group of friends, planning the perfect floating party, sightseeing for the afternoon, or slipping away on a romantic sunset cruise, this guide will give you everything you need to know—all while steering you clear of a few hazards.
Here’s the plan, we will…
- Highlight Fort Lauderdale’s can’t miss waterfront sights and experiences
- Outline the different kinds of boat tours and rental options available in Fort Lauderdale
- Arm you with what you need to select a reputable (and legal) boat rental or tour company
- Examine what questions to ask while making your plans
- Check off a list of don’t-forget items to do and take with you
Sound good? Let’s, go!
What to Do and See in Fort Lauderdale in a boat rental
If there was ever a city that you should take the time to see from the water, Fort Lauderdale is absolutely it. With over 165 miles of prime waterfront and 23 miles of white beaches, it has rightfully earned the name Venice of America.
Palm tree lined canals offer glimpses of the glamorous. While boutique waterfront shopping, local hot-spot dining, beaches, and marine wildlife encounters provide endless entertainment options.
Floating down Millionaire’s Row allows you to sail right into the lush, tropical backyards of some of the most extravagant estates in Florida. Daydream as mansion after mansion glides by while you drift down the twisting canals. Swanky pool houses and gleaming yachts will give you plenty to gawk at too.
Hungry? Ready for a cocktail? Tie your boat up to any of the riverfront establishments lining the harbor and enjoy a refreshing meal and view. Here’s a couple local favorites to try:
- Coconuts-relax under the cool palms and grab a plate of piping-hot conch fritters
- 15th Street Fisheries-boasts the winning combo of the best views and seafood around
- The Downtowner– an iconic favorite offering big craft beer menus and lively entertainment
- Shooters– another landmark restaurant loved by local sailors serves up ultra-fresh seafood
- The Boathouse– celebrity chefs create your delights while you watch the mega-yachts go by
Back out on the water, the New River is teeming with vibrant marine life. Dolphins, manatees, great blue herons, and white egrets are common sights.
Sea turtles often swim into the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from the inlet. They can be seen leisurely floating at the surface and poking their heads out of the water.
Of course, swimming, snorkeling, diving, and fishing are all area favorites too.
Whether you rented a private boat or joining others, Fort Lauderdale boasts some of the best opportunities to get in the water and have some fun. You can go offshore to the reefs, tie up on a sandbar and soak up some sun, or just drop anchor and dive in for a good splash.
Types of Boat Rentals and Boat Tours offered in Fort Lauderdale
When it comes to picking out what type of boat to rent or boat tour to take in Fort Lauderdale, your choices are almost endless. There are probably possibilities you never imagined!
Narrow down your list by defining what you want your experience to feel like. How long do you want to be on the water? Do you want a private boat or share the experience with fellow travelers? Do you want to sightsee, or jump in? Do you want a captain, or do you want to take the helm?
See, so, so many options!
Here is what a few of those possibilities look like:
- For a family-friendly, fully-guided sightseeing tour complete with dining and entertainment, the famous Jungle Queen provides a complete experience with guided tours, drinks, meals, and shows. Plus, it’s an easy tour to work into any itinerary and great for a variety of ages and group sizes.
- Gathered a group of friends? Punch up your party with a pedal-powered pub the ultimate Fort Lauderdale Party Boat! Lagerhead Cycleboats provides a floating platform of fun. Here’s how it works… you and your party gather around the bar-top having a blast while sitting on cycling stools. You peddle-power the boat as you work your way down the river from bar to bar! (Unless you’d rather just hangout, then, of course, the captain will start the motor and take care of things while you party on.) How fun does that sound?!
- For a more traditional vessel, powerboats and sailboats can be rented with or without a captain provided. These are usually for smaller groups and typically offered for half or full day rentals. These give you the option of going when and where you like. (Just make sure you are renting your boat from a legitimate boat rental Fort Lauderdale company…more on that below.)
- If you don’t have the time to spend on a guided tour but want a chance to see the city from the water, hop on a Water Taxi. They crisscross the river all day stopping at all the popular spots. Go from the spectacular Las Olas Boulevard boutique shops to the gorgeous Bahia Mahr Beach and back. You can even buy a day pass and hop on and off as many times as you’d like.
- For those in the mood for something a little sportier, snag a spot on one of the many Deep-Sea Fishing boat rentals based in Fort Lauderdale. With immediate access to the inlet, there’s an ocean of options for all types of fishing trips and group sizes.
- Dreaming of a romantic evening drifting down the river with the cityscape and palms silhouetted against the setting sun? Grab a bottle of wine and board a gondola or this adorable Tuck Tuck—you can even take your pup along.
- Not enough to just see the sights from the surface? Book yourself a spot on one of the many snorkeling and dive boats. Or, for those not wanting to get their hair wet, but still want to see the fish, maybe the glass bottom boats are more your style. Different boats can accommodate different ages, levels of skill, or mobility.
- Make friends with the fishes. Fort Lauderdale has a healthy marine life in its waters. Hop aboard one of the eco-friendly tours for sea turtle spotting and bird watching. Dolphins often come and play in the wake of the boats and manatees frequently float around the piers or in the canals.
- For a slowed-down, close-up experience, rent a kayak or paddleboard and take your time scoping out sights from a water-level perspective. If you’ve never been on a paddleboard, you might be pleasantly surprised about how stable and easy they can be to use.
Selecting a Reputable and Legal Boat Rental or Boat Tour Company
Now that you might have a good mental-picture of the type of boat rental or tour you want while in Fort Lauderdale, next comes picking which business to work with.
First things, first… Sadly, not all boat rental companies are running legal operations. Not even the ones you might find through frequently-used apps.
Why does this matter to you?
Because going out on a boat that has purposefully sidestepped the safety, equipment, maintenance, training, and legal requirements puts you and your friends in harm’s way.
Further, unlawful operations don’t have the proper insurance. Which means if something does go wrong, you will not have the protection needed.
Also, these operations are at risk of being shut down either before you get a chance to enjoy the water, or worse, in the middle of your cruise.
Meeting the legal requirements are not prohibitively difficult or expensive for boat rental businesses. So… there is no need to work with a business that has chosen not to get the proper United States Coast Guard (USCG) requirements.
“You put your life at risk when you board a charter vessel with an operator who is not properly certified to take paying passengers. You have a right to ask for proper credentials.” said Mr. Victor Rivera, Coast Guard Sector Miami command duty officer.
How can you protect yourself? Ask your prospective boat rental company the right questions. And that is easier to do when you have a little info. Let’s quickly look at the basics…
All legal boat rental and touring operations in Fort Lauderdale will have some sort of USCG certification. The classification depends on the type of boat, how many passengers it carries, and who will be captaining the boat. Smaller rental and tour boats will fall under one of the following three categories (we are excluding ferries or large passenger vessels here):
- Bareboat Charter– With this type of rental, you will pay for all the fuel, expenses, insurances, and hire the crew yourself. Think of it like financially leasing the boat for a determined time period. You are fully responsible for the vessel, and the owner cannot be onboard, provide crew, or tell you who to hire for crew. Bareboat Charters are limited to 12 passengers or less.
- Uninspected Passenger Vessel (UPV)– These licenses are often referred to as 6-pack licenses. While the boat is not inspected, it must still meet safety equipment requirements. The owner chooses and hires the properly USCG certified crew. Uninspected Passenger Vessels may carry up to 6 passengers.
This sticker should be displayed on the vessel.
- Small Passenger Vessels (SPV)- These vessels require a Certificate of Inspection (COI) from the USCG. These vessels are inspected for manufacturing regulations, safety equipment, maintenance schedules, on-going training, and elevated crew certifications. The owner is responsible for providing the properly USCG certified crew. Only small vessels with a COI may carry more than 12 paying passengers.
This sticker should be displayed on the vessel.
Commonly Encountered Boat Rental Business Infractions
Often illegal operations do have USCG licenses but are operating outside of the parameters allowed. This allows them to skirt the safety, insurance and passenger requirements. And, it can make it unclear to the paying passengers that there is a concern. Let’s look at three common infractions to help you know what to look for when looking for a boat rental in Fort Lauderdale.
The first is vessels operating with more passengers than certified for, like more than 12 passengers without a USCG Certificate of Inspection (COI). Or, vessels operating with more than 6 passengers on a 6-person UPV certification.
The second involves bareboat charter companies providing a crew for you. While this sounds like a delightful added benefit to you. It is not.
In fact, it allows the bareboat charter company to sidestep all the additional safety requirements, inspections, and maintenance that they don’t have to meet to run a legitimate bareboat charter business.
Further, these operations will not have the proper insurance to cover an incident if one were to occur. To make it worse, you will have had to sign papers saying you were fully responsible for the boat as part of the bareboat charter agreement. Yikes.
If the charter company wants to have control of the crew, the vessel needs to be UPV or SPV certified by the USCG.
Another common infraction involves owners of private recreational vessels taking passengers out and accepting payment, tips, fuel compensation, beverages, or even food.
If any compensation is given to the owner, the vessel needs to be registered, at minimum, as an UPV by the USCG.
Even if the owner of the boat has a Captain’s license, if they are charging you in any way for a ride, the boat needs to meet the UPV or SPV requirements. This is because a private recreational vessel is not required to have the same safety equipment on board. And it won’t (because it can’t) have the proper insurance to protect you.
Now… please… don’t let this information intimidate you.
It’s meant to give you the knowledge to partner confidently with a reputable, safe, fabulously fun, boat rental company in the Fort Lauderdale area. There are plenty out there! If the website doesn’t clearly state what kind of license they have, ask.
They should be able to explain easily:
- What they can and cannot do with their boats
- How many passengers they can carry
- What type of licenses their captains have
With the right business, you will be all good to go for that marvelous cruise down the New River in your Fort Lauderdale boat rental.
What Other Questions Should I ask before purchasing a boat rental Fort Lauderdale?
Okay, you can envision what kind of out-on-the-water experience you want—and now you know how to find a reputable boat rental company.
So… what else do you need to know?
Here’s a list of questions that can help you fine-tune your grand plans:
- What happens if it is too stormy? (Weather clauses vary from one boat rental business to another.)
- When do I need to book by? (The peak season in Florida is December through April and it is busiest on the weekends. Make sure you reserve in time)
- What is your cancellation policy?
- Is there a bathroom on the boat? Will the boat be making stops where there are bathrooms?
- If the tour stops at the local restaurants and shops, is the itinerary customizable for our party?
- Are there any age restrictions?
- If renting out the boat for a group, will other passengers be onboard if we don’t fill it to capacity?
- What identification do I need to board for my boat rental Fort Lauderdale?
- What deposits are needed and when will my card be charged?
- Where do we need to go to board the boat? (Be careful, where you board your boat, and the business location are often two different addresses. Don’t GoogleMap the wrong one.)
- Are beverages provided or do we need to bring our own? (Many boat rental Fort Lauderdale are BYOB)
- If it is a BYOB/BYOF cruise—Are coolers provided? Is Ice provided? How about cups?
- Is there a limit on how much alcohol we can bring?
- Do you have a sound system that I can play my own playlist on?
- What kind of reviews does the crew have? (Peek to see if previous passengers loved the captains and crew!)
- Should I tip? (Generally, the answer is yes. If your crew cared about making your trip special, 10-20% is standard)
What to Put in Your Bag for a Boat Tour?
Woohoo! Your planning is nailed down. Time to grab your friends, grab your bag, and get on the water!
But…wait…what should you toss in your bag?
Here’s a checklist of items you might want to tote along on your boat rental Fort Lauderdale. Of course, it will vary wildly depending on what type of boating adventure you chose, but this list will make sure you have the essentials:
- Sun protection- that Florida sun will not only be shining down but reflecting up off the water. Slather and cover up. If you are getting in the water, consider picking up a reef-friendly sunscreen.
- Water (well, isn’t that just a given in Florida)
- Waterproof bag or pouch for cameras and phones
- Extra battery pack for your phone (you might not be able to charge on the boat)
- If it is a BYOB tour, don’t forget the details like napkins, wine-bottle openers, and glasses if needed.
- Binoculars are completely optional, but nice if going for the wildlife.
- Watersport toys and equipment if planning on diving in
- A pair of shoes that can handle the piers and metal grates you might encounter.
- Motion sickness pills (These are generally not needed on the river rides, even for the most sensitive of riders. But they may be desired for the offshore fishing and diving excursions.
Bon Voyage! Fair Winds! Godspeed!
Now that you have everything you need to confidently rent a boat in Fort Lauderdale AND plan a fabulous day on the water, all that is left is to grab your friends and make some memories. See you out there!
If you still have questions, give us a call at Lagerhead Cycleboats. We are happy to help you find the right boat trip for you—even if it’s not with us. (954) 300-2401
Though, to be honest, we do think we have the most fun on our boat rental Fort Lauderdale!