Go wild on a St. Johns River cruise. The adventure-filled sailings are one of the best ways to get up close and personal with Florida's most unique creatures. The historic waterway is home to a menagerie of wildlife from manatees to alligators, as well as several species of birds and fish.
Before you set your sights on the cypress covered shoreline and all of the animals that call the meandering river home, acquaint yourself with the picturesque St. Johns. Spanning 310 miles long, the river is the longest of its kind in the state of Florida. In addition, it is one of the few rivers in the country that flows north, though it does so in an extremely slow manner. St. Johns is typically referred to as a "lazy" river and spans several miles between Palatka and Jacksonville, Florida. That's where you'll find the majority of cruise companies which offer educational sailings of the brown tea-colored river.
Public sightseeing cruises along the sluggish St. Johns River are ideal for nature lovers who enjoy sailing at a leisurely pace. Passengers on the specially designed river vessels are treated to awe-inspiring views of nature at its best, especially during trips that wind through Florida's famous Blue Spring State Park. If you are looking for an intimate encounter with one of the most photogenic ecosystems in the nation, then consider booking a spot with one of the following cruise companies:
St. Johns River Cruises
St. Johns River Cruises is legendary on the winding waterway. The company offers daily narrated nature sailings of the St. Johns River on boats specially designed to navigate shallow waters. The vessels allow captains to get very close to the shoreline so passengers can get unobstructed views of nesting bald eagles, gators, manatees and osprey. Since the boats cruise at a speed of just six miles per hour, nature photographers are able to capture jaw-dropping images of the river's natural habitats.
The two-hour educational cruises depart Blue Spring State Park at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you are planning to take the tour during the winter months, it's a good idea to bring along a jacket. Meanwhile, summer passengers should apply bug spray and sunscreen before setting sail. Also, reservations are recommended. All reserved seats are held until five minutes prior to departure, at which time the empty spots will be reassigned.
If you are looking to take an extended sailing along the St. Johns River, then consider patronizing Rivership Romance. The Sanford, Florida-based cruise company offers a variety of sightseeing voyages, as well as three and four-hour lunch and dinner cruises, which sail 25 miles down the river on a converted 98-foot triple-decker steamship. If your idea of a unique Florida adventure includes dining on gourmet entrees while soaking up incredible scenery from a climate-controlled cabin or shaded deck, then consider the following options:
- Lunch Cruise: Includes live entertainment, historic narratives, incredible scenery, plus appetizers and a full-course meal.
- Sunday Brunch Cruise: A special brunch made by gourmet chefs is served up to passengers as they take in the serene sights of the St. Johns River. In addition to informative comments by the captain regarding the scenery, the sailing also includes live music.
- Moonlight Dining and Dancing Cruise: This Saturday night special sailing is designed for true romantics. You will indulge in cocktails and a gourmet dinner while sailing down the tranquil waterway. After dinner the moonlit waters serve as a backdrop to dancing to the sounds of a live band.
If you are looking to use the St. Johns River as the setting for your next party, then consider River Cruises based out of Jacksonville. The company operates old fashioned paddleboats that cruise the St. Johns River.
- The Lady St. John: Features two bars, two dance floors, and can accommodate up to 250 passengers.
- Annabelle Lee: Smaller than the Lady St. John, the Annabelle Lee can carry up to 150 guests.
Both vessels are used for monthly public cruises which include lunch or dinner, plus entertainment. In addition, you can charter a private party cruise along the St. Johns River for events such as weddings, rehearsal dinners, birthdays or company get-togethers.
Prior to booking your river cruise with any of the aforementioned companies, it's a good idea to do some research. For example, some companies do not allow children under the age of 14 to sail on dinner cruises, while others have strict policies on the types of foods and beverages you are allowed to bring along on sightseeing voyages. Finally, regardless of the sailing you choose, don't forget to pack a camera so you can document the one-of-a-kind creatures that call the St. Johns River, home.