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The Boating Life Rebounds In the Wake of Coronavirus

The Boating Life Rebounds In the Wake of Coronavirus

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Boating Life on the Emerald Coast Has Never Been Better!

Being confined to our homes due to the coronavirus made many of us really appreciate the freedoms we enjoy, including recreation in the great outdoors. For active boating enthusiasts, the opportunity to escape and celebrate life on the water has never felt so exhilarating or more rewarding!


Seasoned salts and newcomers to the boating lifestyle can enjoy the best of the boating life on the stunning waters of the Emerald Coast. From world-class fishing to cruising and a whole host of watersports, our coastal waters, inlets, rivers, and lakes offer ideal playgrounds to relax and enjoy life. Instead of “hunkering down,” boating unleashes the spirit within!  


With year ‘round good weather and a resplendent variety of species in our warm waters, it’s no wonder that fishing is such a popular pastime that lures millions of visitors annually to our famous sun-kissed shores and waterways. 

While fishing enthusiasts can be found hanging around countless piers or casting right from the beach, more serious anglers invest in a boat outfitted for their lifestyle. From million-dollar-plus sportfishers with all the electronic bells and whistles to more economical bay boats to the highly popular center consoles, there are plenty of new and premium pre-owned boats available for sale in the marketplace.  

“Fishing boats are definitely in high demand on the Emerald Coast,” said Shawn Talpey, president of Emerald Coast Marine Group with locations in Niceville and Destin, FL, and at The Wharf in Orange Beach, AL. “Whether you’re looking to venture offshore in pursuit of game fish, or are more interested in nearshore fishing for king mackerel, cobia or tasty red snapper, or prefer fishing for trout and bull reds on the bay, boats are available for your particular interests, lifestyle, and budget.”  

Fishing charters also offer a viable alternative, allowing fishing newbies, visitors, or new move-ins to learn from local pros.

“The benefits to hiring a fishing charter is that a good captain knows the hot spots and will put you on the fish,” said Captain Dave Heath of H & H Sportfishing Adventures. “Show up at the dock, and all the rods and reels, bait, fishing license, and fish cleaning are included in the charter fee.”


Many families have decided to forego the big vacation and opt instead for a “staycation.” Why not consider a new kind of cruise aboard your very own party boat?

“Whether you’re interested in an express cruiser with a cabin including galley and sleeping accommodations or a great dayboat like a family-sized pontoon, deck boat or runabout, there are plenty of affordable options for year ‘round cruising,” said Talpey.

Cruising adventures include overnight or weekend camping trips, waterfront dining excursions at scores of fabulous coastal restaurants, a dolphin and wake-watching party, or perhaps an extended escape to extended ports of call. A few boating destinations favored by cruisers include Robinson Island and The Wharf in Orange Beach; Ft. McRae and Bayou Sabine in Pensacola; Crab Island and Destin Harbor in Destin; and Shell Island in Panama City, among others.


One thing is for sure … locals along the Gulf Coast love their watersports!

Whether water skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, or sailing, there are plenty of protected inlets, bayous, out islands, or wide-open spaces to let loose! 

“Our water conditions make this a fantastic area for water sports,” said Talpey, “and more boaters are choosing boats designed for these activities like our Nautique models with custom hull designs and capability to create endless waves for surfing.”

In addition, boat rental facilities are scattered along the coast, offering hourly and day rates on everything from jet skis and daysailers to popular pontoons and runabouts.

Serious water sports enthusiasts from around the world converge on the famous Pickos Waterski School in Santa Rosa Beach to train with former world champion Cory Pickos and his instructors on a freshwater, man-made ski lake, site of several national and international tournaments. Single, half-day, and full-day sessions are also available for first-time skiers and recreational enthusiasts.   


If the boating life appeals, but you’re not ready for boat ownership, the boat club offers an affordable way to get your feet wet. 

Clubs generally require a one-time initiation fee, followed by affordable monthly payments; the only additional cost usually includes fuel. Members enjoy free training, access to online reservations, and a full fleet of diverse boat types. 

“Boat clubs provide the best of the boating life with access to a variety of boat types, without any service, storage or maintenance costs,” said Annamarie Worrell, manager of Emerald Coast Boat Club in Niceville, FL. 


Whatever your boating preference, the Emerald Coast offers a wealth of activities, resources, products, services, and locations to experience and enjoy the coastal lifestyle!  

For additional information on new and used boats, the Virtual Boat Show or the Emerald Coast Boat Club, visit      


Wanda Kenton Smith lives and boats in the Florida panhandle. She is the national marketing columnist for Soundings Trade Only, former editor of WaterSki Magazine and WindSurf Magazine, and two national marine trade publications. She is also president of Marine Marketers of America and Kenton Smith Marketing. 

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