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Sarasota Family Boating Guide


boating guide sarasota beach

In Sarasota, boating can be a fantastic family activity. Being outside surrounded by the clear blue water, salty air, and warm sunshine can calm even the most energetic bunch. However, knowing where to go and what to do on your boat can at times feel overwhelming. This boating guide will help to change that.

Boating Options

If you don’t have your own boat yet, there are a few different options in the area that will allow you to explore Sarasota and Manatee counties from the water.

Boat Club

Both Freedom Boat Club and Waves Boat Club have multiple locations throughout the area. What is a boat club? A boat club usually requires an upfront initiation fee followed by a monthly membership. The monthly memberships can vary according to the number of boat reservations you are allowed to have at any one time. As a boat club member you can make your reservation for the date you would like to go boating as well as the type of vessel you prefer. This allows families to change out the types of boats they may want to use depending on the daily activity. The boat club membership also allows families access to boats without needing to take care of the maintenance, or having to pay the storage or insurance fees. Boat club members are generally responsible for the cost of fuel as well.

Boat Rentals

Sarasota and Manatee counties offer many different options for boat rentals. There are many reputable companies that offer full day, half day, and multi-day boat rentals. The rental companies offer many different types of vessels. This allows you to choose a large pontoon for your group, or a small center console for a fishing trip. Check out Bayfront Excursions, or Sarasota Boat Rental for more information.


What to do?

Sandbar Exploring

Sandbars offer the perfect place for families to run around in shallow water, go shelling, have a picnic, or relax for the day. There are many local sandbars that are especially family friendly. Also, you can pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the entire day.

boating jewfish sandbar sarasota

Beer Can Island and Jewfish Key

These sandbars are located across from one another at the northern end of Longboat Key. Slide your bow into the sand and walk around the tip of Beer Can Island to explore the driftwood forest, rope swings, and natural wildlife. This is a great trip during the cooler months because this sandbar is not submerged, so it does not require wading through cool water for exploration. Jewfish Key offers a great place to anchor, is pet-friendly, and is quite a gathering spot for locals.

Big Pass

Follow the channel inside Big Pass and you will find many different sandbars to explore near the north end of Big Pass. Be careful to watch your depth as the sand can shift frequently, but enjoy the views and the opportunity for wildlife viewing in this area as well.


Fishing is a great family boating activity, and there are many local inshore fishing spots that are great for kids. Grab some bait at the local tackle shops and head out to explore what the local waters have to offer.

boating fishing sarasota

Reef Fishing

Sarasota and Manatee counties also offer many family-friendly fishing reefs. These reefs stretch from Manatee County waters south, and they can be located on this map.

The one-mile reef is just off of the Manatee Public Beach on the Gulf side. This reef offers an opportunity to catch everything from grouper to snook, depending on the time of year. You can find reef balls throughout the Intracoastal Waterway at the base of many of the markers. These are a great place for a quick fishing stop, especially when the tide is moving.

Grass Flats

In addition to reef fishing, the Sarasota Bay area has many different areas of grass flats, and these a great place to take the family fishing. Check out the grass flats behind the Ringling, or the Middle Grounds off of City Island for a variety of fish and a nice in-shore location for families.

Family Getaway

boating sarasota

Tired of the traffic? Why not take the boat to your next weekend getaway?

In addition to fishing and exploring, there are many family-friendly hotels that also offer marinas. Stay on your boat or rent a room and enjoy all of the amenities. This can be a great way to have a different type of family getaway. The Hyatt Regency Sarasota offers slip rentals for yachts up to 55 feet, heated pool and spa, and restaurant. A little further north, you can rent a waterfront campsite at Ft. Desoto Park and tie your boat up at your site. Then, you can pack the tents, or call Hitch Top Tent to set it up for you!

Finally, if you are up for more adventure, fill up the boat and head further north to the Holiday Inn Harbourside in Clearwater Beach. This hotel offers rooms and suites along with a lazy river and waterpark with two 42-foot waterslides!


Most of all, boating in Sarasota is a great way to get the family outdoors and enjoy the sunny weather and beautiful water. So use the boat to make memories that will last a lifetime!


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