Guided tours and cruises provide awesome ways to get out on the water (and leave the navigating to someone else). Set sail on a nature tour to see dolphins playing in the waves, sightsee some of the are’s most beautiful beaches, islands and keys or have dinner right on the water. And that’s just the start! You can become a pirate for a day, cruise along the coast in a speedboat and enjoy St. Pete/Clearwater’s legendary sunsets with these boating tours and cruises.
Nature & Culture Tours by Boat
You don’t have to venture far from shore to see dolphins playing in the surf, manatees swimming and Osprey soaring through the sky. Guided tours by boat are a great way to sit back, relax and be awed by nature. There are boating nature tours all over St. Pete/Clearwater, from Tarpon Springs to Pass-a-Grille Beach making it easy to find a tour near wherever you’re staying.
If you want to see dolphins, try the Clearwater Marine Aquarium dolphin and wildlife boat tour. On this one-hour tour, you’ll learn about the dolphin population in Clearwater Bay and see a bird sanctuary while guides point out local wildlife and talk about how the marine center cares for sea creatures.
For some of the best seashell hunting around, head to Pass-a-Grille Beach and catch a boat tour to Shell Key Preserve where you can spend several hours combing the beach on this undeveloped paradise. The key is also a great place for bird watching and snorkeling and it’s not uncommon to spot dolphins swimming offshore. Just remember to bring water and other beach-day supplies. This barrier island doesn’t have any amenities – it’s truly wild.
Another favorite island boat tour is the ferry to Egmont Key State Park. On the key, you can explore the remains of Fort Dade, enjoy the sand and surf and take a dive into the vibrant blue-green waters. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins, manatees and ospreys during the ferry ride over and the captain will point out interesting animals you can spot along the way. To see even more wildlife, bring a snorkel or sign up for the optional snorkeling portion of the ferry ride.
Tarpon Springs’ famous sponge docks are a launch point for nature excursions and tours that explore the community’s history. Watch a diving demonstration with traditional equipment (the full diving suit weighs around 172 pounds!) on the Sponge Diving Exhibition Tour by St. Nicholas Boat Line. Or head out to Anclote Key Preserve State Park for some swimming and sunbathing. The state park is only three miles off the coast of Tarpon Springs and can be reached with a ride on the Dolphin Adventure Island Cruise by Odyssey Cruises or chartering a boat.
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You’ll never get tired of the sunsets here and there’s no better view of this daily show than being right on the water. When it comes to sunset cruises, there are plenty of options. But make sure to book early, these cruises can fill up fast.
One classic option is Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass in Madeira Beach. The Hubbard’s sunset cruise sails into the sunset on the Gulf and includes a free wine or beer to top off the day. If you’re looking for something in Clearwater, embark on the Schooner Clearwater at the Clearwater Beach Marina. Bring a bottle of wine onboard and soak in the romantic ambiance as you sail into the sunset. Every trip is unique since the cruise goes where the winds and tides take it.
Dine, dance and watch the sun dip below the horizon aboard the StarLite Majesty. This dinner cruise is hosted aboard a yacht and you can opt for a full-service meal and drinks from the bar or choose to enjoy the experience from the outdoor decks. StarLite Majesty sets sails out of either Clearwater Beach or St. Pete Beach and cruises last about two hours. Make it a special date night or a unique family experience.
Whether you have tiny tots or teenagers, there’s a boating experience that will make the entire family happy. Most eco-cruises are family-friendly, but the options don’t stop there. Become a pirate for a day, slice through the water at high speeds or take a boat ride that will have you (literally) flying high.
A perennial favorite, the Pirate Ship Royal Conquest out of John’s Pass is a pirate-themed boating adventure with activities for toddlers and young children. Passengers will enjoy treasure hunts, pirate stories and water gun battles led by a crew in full costume.
For even more pirate-themed fun, take on Captain Memo’s Original Pirate Cruisefrom Clearwater Marina. This all-ages adventure is filled with plenty of swashbuckling activities and a knowledgeable crew of friendly pirates.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, the Sea Screamer has just what you need. Bring your kids or teens for a thrill ride around the Clearwater area. The Sea Screamer calls itself “the world’s largest speedboat,” and this long and sleek boat cuts through the water faster than your typical cruise. There’s also a good chance you’ll see dolphins playing in the boat’s wake while you fly by beautiful beaches.
For families that want a new vantage point over the beaches, soar high in the sky on a parasail ride. Parents and kids can go alone or in groups of two to three to see the jaw-dropping views. Once you’re in the air, you can simply soak in the moment. And for the less-adventurous, most tours allow for those who aren’t parasailing to stay firmly on the boat and enjoy the ride. Outfitters are located at marinas along the coast.