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Houseboating in the Keys

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Corcoran, California
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Houseboating in the Keys

Hi

Planning a trip next year, april or May to the Florida Keys. My husband has wanted to take this trip for years and now we are ready to do it. He is wanting to rent a houseboat for a week and travel along the keys. My question is , is this a good idea? Also are there boat docks so that we can go tie up for the night? Where should I go to get the info for this? Would it be better to fly into Marathon or drive down. Where should we fly into. I have just started to put things together and see houseboat rentals in Islamorada. Are there some better that others? We have taken our houseboat out on the Delta but I keep thinking this is going to be much different. Any helpful tips will be greatly appreciated. Thanks ~ Karen

Melbourne, Florida
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1. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

Most of the houseboats in the keys are older. Maybe someone knows of newer ones. The one we rented a couple of years ago was pretty old. Actually our friends rented it and invited us. It also had a problem with the power & and the gas so we had to run the generator almost constantly. The boat slept 6 of us comfortably. We rented it from Tavernier and went out into the gulf area and anchored up. (We had our own boat and they had jet skis so we were able to come and go from the boat without having to move it.

We had a nice breeze and were able to leave doors and windows open at night. (misquitos are fierce if there is not a breeze.) There is ac so you don't have to do this.

There are a few places you can drive the houseboat into and dock to go get something to eat or groceries, If they have facilities for tying up for the night they are probably going to charge you. I would ask about places that are large enought to get the houseboat into for fuel, etc. Many restaurants have docks to tie up to for getting something to eat.

We really had a good time despite the problems with the boat. You sleep really good at night as the boat rocks you to sleep.

You can always rent a jet ski for getting around and tow it behind the houseboat. Also make sure the houseboat is one you can drive as some of the ones in the keys are very nice 2 story boats but are not made for traveling. They stay in a marina.

This is an interesting way to see things in the keys. Hope you have a great trip.

Corcoran, California
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2. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

Thanks for responding. did you go down the Keys or just stayed close to Tavernier? Is it reasonable to think we could go all the way down to Key West in the houseboat. This is my husband big dream, I think I would like to use a car and drive and stop in the different places. I just need to do more homework I guess. Where would you say to fly into?

Brandon, Florida
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3. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

Where are you starting from? Your location does not show under your user name.

Melbourne, Florida
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4. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

Depends on what you want to see & do in the keys. The keys are made up of 4 major islands and many smaller ones all connected by roads and bridges. Key Largo is the beginning, Islamorada, Marathon and then Key West. Tavernier is just north of Islamorada. It takes about about 2 1/2 hours by car to get to Key West from there. The houseboats are not made to go more than about 10 maybe 20 miles per hour. If you have never been to any of the keys I'm not sure if this is the best way to see them. We only went as far as Islamorada on our trip. But that is where we wanted to be located. If you fly into Marathon you will have to drive back north about 1 1/2 hours to Tavernier. It would be easier than flying into Miami.

I would call the Marathon & Islamorada chamber of commerce and ask for a vacation info package. They will send you brochures and a booklet that shows a map of the keys. Also contact the houseboat rental company and ask them how far you are allowed to take the houseboat. Not sure if there is a limit. You will also have to find out about navigation in the gulf. It's kind of difficult further south. There are channels but they are mostly offshore so you won't see much of the keys once you are south of Marathon. The rental company should be able to tell you which restaurants have large boat access. Many can only accomodate small boats (thus the jet ski idea!)

I think you would be better to rent the houseboat and stay around the Islamorada / Marathon area. Rent a car to go to Key West for a day.

Good luck, I think you are planning a great vacation.

Corcoran, California
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5. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

Thanks for the help. Needless to say we need to do some reading. After checking with some of the other forums I will get one of the books they suggested. We are going to check with the Chambers to see what they suggest. My husband is the exec. director of our local Chamber here in California so he thought he would call for the info. But there is nothing like either a local or someone who has been there and done it! Thanks again ~

ne jersey
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6. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

Did you take this trip? What houseboat rental did you use? Were you happy with it?

Corcoran, California
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7. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

We did not take the trip but still in the planning works. Hopefully March/April of next year. Still not crazy about this but my husband seems to be. I do have a cousin who spend the winter there so they also have been some help. Just seems like we need a houseboat and a dingy to get to and from land so it really needs to be planned out. It's not like floating on a lake!

ne jersey
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8. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

Did your cousin check out any of the houseboats for you or give you names of places that have houseboats available?

We're planning on going this December. A friend of my husband is making the arrangements. He already found one place and left a deposit. I'm really leery of the boat. Looks old and have read good and bad reviews. http://floridakeys.com/houseboats/ I found another company that looks a lot better - www.goislandhopping.com The friend just told us last night that he is going to check the boats out next month since he lives in FL. That makes me feel a little better.

Does anybody have any experience on rental in the keys? or know of which are good or bad?

ne jersey
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9. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

P.S. I called all of the island chambers of commerce and none of them had any houseboat rental companies to give.

key west
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10. Re: Houseboating in the Keys

I personally try to discourage people from renting boats and driving themselves, because....

channel markers aren't always channel markers

there are thousands of unattended lobster and crab traps with their floating line just waiting to tangle in your prop.

Most houseboats are I/O (inboard/outdrive) which means you need deeper water than many of the really cool places to be.

Every storm moves our channels, some in a big way, some in a little way. It really takes a lot of local knowledge to know where to go. "Blue, blue, sail on through" isn't necessarily so.

There are plenty of day-trip captained boats where you don't have to worry, you can drink and relax, the captain will bend over backwards to make you have a great day and he/she knows just where to go depending on what you want to do. I'd suggest that approach....find a marina, find a captain who's sitting on the dock waiting for you, and negotiate a price for the day. This summer, cash is king....but if you get sticker shock remember he's paying over $5 a gallon for fuel and boats are thirsty little buggers.

The bigger snorkel trips offer free sunset cruises (PJK has the skinny on those) out of KW. I've not seen a bad review, visitors have a great time, make new friends and the staff works hard for your enjoyment (a tip jar will be in your face at the end, so put some money in your pocket before you leave). Hope this helps.