Way Down Upon The
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.