There’s no better way to feel a part of the Miami luxe life than spending a day cruising the calm waters of the Biscayne Bay on a private yacht charter. This was our first chance to experience some of the boat culture of South Florida, so I booked a 2-person romantic getaway on a 40-foot Formula through the Miami Yachting Company.

The Elia, the 40-foot Formula that took us all around the waters of Miami

I chose the Miami Yachting Company after browsing online. I found their site to have the most straightforward and transparent booking process for several reasons:

  • First, pricing was clear for every combination of boat make and length, and time booked.
  • Plus, was no “small type” during the booking process. At every step, they explained clearly what food, beverages, and extras were included, what they offered at an extra charge, and what we should or might want to bring.
  • Then to verify my identity during the booking process, I needed to upload my identification.
  • I appreciated that we only had to pay a deposit as opposed to the full amount upfront.
  • I was pleased to receive regular text messages and email updates from the staff confirming the booking and the meeting place.

The process was truly as professional and businesslike as you want when investing a significant amount of time and money for a special vacation activity.

First: the Island Hop

Our captain, Chris, was obviously an expert at handling boats as well as very well-versed with the waters in the area. Even though we expected an experienced captain, his confidence and deep knowledge of the area made him really stellar.

We met him on a dock in southwest Miami Beach. After hearing about our goals for the ride, Chris began motoring around the islands that dot the Biscayne Bay between Miami Beach and Miami, among them: Star Island (also the title of one of my favorite Carl Hiassen books), Hibiscus Island, and Jungle Island. Stately homes and palm trees dotted the shores, and we loved the genteel vibe of the area.

You’ll be treated to the sight of stately mansions like this on your yacht ride around the Biscayne Bay

Miami River

Chris took us past the clipper ship Stad Amsterdam moored near Museum Park and into downtown Miami along the Miami River. Looking at my geotagged photos, I see we went as far as where SW 1st street crosses the river, then backtracked out into the Biscayne Bay.

The passenger ship Stad Amsterdam as docked in Miami

We were loving every bit of the ride so far. I enjoyed the contrasts: those stately palm-lined homes on the islands to the sleek modern architecture of downtown, the grand yachts and the working fishing boats, and the two of us on a solitary cruise to the party boats filled with spring breakers whooping it up. It was such a treat.

Stiltsville

But the best was yet to come – Captain Chris had a surprise in store for us. He steered south through open waters of Biscayne Bay from downtown Miami. We thought we saw boats in the distance as we passed Key Biscayne toward the open ocean. But as they came into view, Chris pointed out they were actually houses.

He steered us right into he heart of Stiltsville, a historic group of homes built on stilts in the shallow waters a mile south of the Cape Florida lighthouse at the end of Key Biscayne. The water in this area is only a few feet deep at low tide, and there have been stilt homes here since at least the early 1930’s. After almost a century’s worth of hurricanes and rebuilding, seven homes remain from what was 27 at its peak in the 1950’s. Now, the area is located within the boundaries the Biscayne National Park. The homes are maintained by the original owners or their heirs, who pay a yearly fee to lease them from the state. Chris told us it’s a popular spot for Scout troops and other field trips to visit. There were very few visitors that afternoon, though. We were the only boat admiring the area and taking advantage of the spectacular view of the Miami skyline.

One of the Stiltsville homes with Miami several miles away in the background

The sun was setting as we cruised back toward the dock. Captain Chris took us on a different route back, so we got a boat’s-eye view of the business end of the bay: the enormous cruise ship terminals, the Coast Guard station, and the docks.

Sun setting behind downtown Miami

There are any number of iconic images or experiences associated with a place. Miami’s luxury water culture is one of them. Having this opportunity to watch the sun set over Miami’s iconic skyline from the water capped off what really was a perfect afternoon, a quintessential Miami afternoon.

I highly recommend this!