The holidays bring out the best in everyone and everything. Such is the case in Fort Myers Beach where the annual Christmas Boat Parade sets sail on December 4th for the 33rd time in its long tradition, and it promises to be better than ever.
Already named a winner in the annual USA Today 10 BEST Holiday Parades Readers’ Choice Awards in 2019, the event is vying for an even higher standing this year and urging fans and potential viewers to vote every day on its voting page from now through December 6 to increase its chances of moving up in the poll. On a local level, parade-goers can cast their vote for the People’s Choice Best Decorated Boat Award. The voting will activate on the day of the parade.
How To Enter A Boat
If you’re interested in doing more than just watching this holiday spectacle, you can take part. To enter a boat, just pay the $25 fee if it’s non-sponsored and $50 if it’s sponsored. You can register online by downloading the application (PDF) and filling it out before the “Captain’s Meeting” scheduled for December 1 at 7 p.m. Call (239) 454-7500 or email [email protected] for the meeting location. There will be raffles and prizes as well as burgees for winning boats at the Winners Circle tent in addition to food, refreshments, and a cash bar.
The Parade Route
The gaily festooned boats will officially set sail at 6 p.m. and continue along the route until the final mooring at 8 p.m. Boats will assemble in front of Salty Sam’s Marina (anchorage/mooring field) by 5:30 p.m. All will leave the mooring field area at 6 p.m. with the lead vessel showing the way. The flotilla will proceed northwest, passing Doc Ford’s restaurant, then glide under the Skybridge and follow the San Carlos Island Coast past the USCG station before entering Pelican Bay. The fleet then goes into the easternmost Siesta Isles canal, into the next canal, and — after the last canal in Siesta Isles — the parade will cruise back into Pelican Bay and head west towards Bowditch Point. At Bowditch they will head towards Pink Shell, passing Nervous Nellie’s Restaurant with a right turn to the starboard to parallel Estero Island. Finally, the boats will cross the mooring field and end at Salty Sam’s.
The Best Viewing Spots
Any of these restaurants on the back bay — Parrot Key Caribbean Grill, Original Shrimp Dock, Matanzas on the Bay, Nervous Nellie’s, Bonita Bill’s, Dixie Fish Co., and Doc Ford’s — are great places where you can kick back, enjoy the fun, and see all the boats in their holiday regalia. Other spots to watch the parade are Bayfront Park next to Nervous Nellie’s and at the ends of the first two canals in Siesta Isles. You are encouraged to bring a chair if you go to Siesta Isles. For an even closer look, you can also enjoy the parade on the water with Salty Sam’s Pirate Cruise, or the Sight Sea-R Cruise.
More Florida Holiday Boat Parades
Florida is blessed with an abundance of waterways, including a gulf, numerous bays and rivers, canals and inlets, and lakes. In short, there is ample space to stage a holiday boat parade, large or small. One of the biggest in Florida is held in Fort Lauderdale and this year, The Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Known as “The Best Show On H2O,” the 12-mile parade route will feature Mario Lopez as the Grand Marshall and begin at 6:30 p.m., lasting around 2 hours and 30 minutes. The festival will feature private boats, giant showboats, and corporate megayachts adorned with hundreds of thousands of lights, music, entertainment, decorations, celebrities, musical groups, beauty queens, and many other exciting entries that are expected to be viewed by over 1 million spectators.
For a list of other Florida parades, see this TravelAwaits article from 2020, and also visit FloridaByWater.com.
For more experiences near Florida’s Siesta Isles, check out these stories: