Way Down Upon The Suwannee River: Houseboating in Florida
By Chelle Koster Walton
In Florida, you find them in all shapes – from clunky to sleek – plugging along ancient rivers, crystalline springs and Everglades back bays, or zipping through the island-edged Intracoastal Waterway and open sea.
Houseboat rentals in Florida perhaps began at Miller’s, where the Suwannee River flushes out into the Gulf of Mexico at the crotch known as “Big Bend.” The Miller family has run the unpretentious marina for more than 28 years.
While houseboating popularity has spread throughout Florida, spawning fast, streamlined vessels specially fitted with live-aboard gadgets, Miller’s willfully and thankfully persists behind the times; appropriate for traveling the ancient, ballad-inspiring Suwannee River.
Home to prehistoric manatees and Gulf sturgeon, the Suwannee passes miles of thick and ancient magnolia, pine and cypress forest emitting primitive wildcat sounds out of the early morning fog. You can go for hours without signs of civilization.
Past a couple of fish camps, Manatee Springs State Park is the first of several cool, limestone springs that gush into the Suwannee, their lush, clear beauty and chill baptismally cleansing. Seafood restaurants along the way serve catfish and Southern-fried seafood.
Great Place to Explore
Historic sites illuminate Florida’s Amerindian, Confederate and early resort past. It’s a great place to explore in the comfort and convenience of a houseboat.
You can pick up the pace, if you so desire, with other houseboat rentals on the St. John’s River, in the Everglades or in coastal waters. Take it zippy or take it slow. That’s the beauty of Florida houseboating: no pre-set schedules. The only timekeeper is the tides.
FLORIDA HOUSEBOAT RENTALS
Flamingo Lodge Marina
800-600-3813, 239-695-3101 ext. 320 / 321
Access to the Everglades wilderness aboard old- and new-fashioned houseboats.
Holiday Cruise Houseboat Rentals
800-862-8645, (941) 481-5657
Hop islands along Florida’s Southwest Coast and around Sanibel Island. Hontoon Landing
800-248-2474, (904) 734-2474
Houseboating headquarters on the St. John’s River in East Central Florida, around DeLand.
800-458-2628 or (352) 542-7349
Way down upon the Suwannee.
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