The pirates have taken over the ship, their ebullient singing and laughter filling the salty sea air and alerting those around them that this is no ordinary vessel. One of these rowdy buccaneers halts his sea chantey to lift his eye patch, smudging his dark beard in the process, which elicits giggles from his fellow sailors sporting similar face paint. These freebooters are not gruff pirates, but rather youthful adventurers partaking in one of Bluefoot Pirate Family Adventures' daily cruises along the crystalline waters of the south Florida coast.
Dedicated to both educating and entertaining kids of all ages, Bluefoot Pirate Family Adventures' crew of well-trained staffers keeps wee passengers enthralled with action-packed aquatic outings. Before shipping off on the U.S. Coast Guard?certified Bluefoot, sea-dogs-in-training partake in a buccaneering crash course replete with face painting, pirate-slang translations, and studies on the linguistic evolution of landlubber. Journeys embark from the Bahia Mar Yachting Center in search of a treasure chest's lost key and culminate with an epic water-cannon fight with the nefarious Barnacle Bill. Upon docking, junior pirates receive an official certificate and a take-home bag of booty.
At the age of 5, Captain David Ide had already navigated the back canals of South Florida in his own 8-foot motored dinghy. Over the years, the sea tugged at him even more; he amassed fishing knowledge by talking to locals on the docks during his family's annual trips to the Bahamas, and at the age of 15 he began working on the fuel docks at Lauderdale Marina. The following year, he was asked to compete in his first professional fishing tournament. Though he sometimes still competes, Captain David spends most of his time aboard the US Coast Guard-licensed Lady Pamela II—leading drift-fishing trips around South Florida's natural reefs and shipwrecks,
The 41-foot custom-built and tournament-ready Hatteras boasts a 15-foot beam, air-conditioned bridge, and refrigerators, as well as ample electronics for detecting fish and any ghost ships before they rise from the ocean. At this vessel's helm, Captain David pilots passengers armed with rods, tackle, and various types of bait out to distances of 2, 10, or up to 20 miles from shore on extended daytime and nighttime trips. Groups may hunt in search of small targets such as tuna, snapper, grouper, and mahi-mahi, or larger quarry such as broadbill swordfish and hammerhead or bull sharks.
15th Street Fisheries illustrates a key facet of the circle of life: you feed the fish, and the fish feed you. Every evening, guests head to the edge of the docks to feed schools of giant tarpon—fish that can grow up to 8 feet long—with shrimp from the nearby store. It's a feat made possible by the restaurant's location on the Lauderdale Marina, a hub for pedestrians and boats alike on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Floating above the silvery tarpon, yachts, fishing boats, and other charters pass in view of the upstairs dining room. The space resembles an upscale boathouse with eclectic seafood entrees to match. Start with a bowl of Bahamian-style conch chowder or shrimp and grits, then choose from an impressive list of prepared fish, including miso-glazed Chilean sea bass and pan-roasted black grouper. The Maine lobsters on the menu weigh 2 to 3 pounds, depending on how often they crawled ashore to go to the gym, but you can also order a spiny lobster tail with baby bok choy. Downstairs, the dockside café offers more casual fare and live music on weekends.
Wading through indoor heated pools, the instructors at British Swim School teach independent swimming skills to learners aged 3 months and older, adhering to a curriculum devised by British national swimmer Rita Goldberg. The 30-minute one-on-one sessions and small-group lessons, containing six or fewer swimmers, elucidate essential techniques for water safety and the importance of speaking fluent manatee. Swimboree (ages 3 months–3 years with parents) and Young Minnows sessions (ages 1–3 years without parents) teach wee swimmers basic water-survival skills, such as the back float. Turtle One and Turtle Two classes focus on freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke maneuvers, honing more structured swimming skills in older kiddos. British Swim School's Shark courses enhance stamina and speed and teach even more demanding strokes, such as the butterfly and little-known mountain-goat flail. Certain British Swim School classes require parents to participate in the water or to supervise from the pool deck, and adults-only lessons allow grown-ups to refine their own abilities without the supervision of a toddler.
Everglades Holiday Park unveils the natural splendor of one of Earth's last undisturbed territories with invigorating airboat tours and interactive alligator presentations. Visitors to the untamed river of grass explore its wetlands and observe its animal residents, and tour guides keep encroaching gators at bay with pointed comments of historic and ecological significance. The powerful airboat fleet features a covered passenger vessel for all-weather observation and an innovative zephyr-harnessing propulsion system that allows boats to swiftly skim across the Everglades' grassy rivers while sneaking up on unsuspecting patches of spanish moss. The park is also home to Animal Planet's Gator Boys; most of the reality show's episodes are filmed here.
The park complements boat tours with 20-minute gator presentations that star a cast of live alligators and shed some light on nature's last remaining dinosaurs. The boat captains are always available for private charters, which can be stocked with food, beverages, and ice at the park's 24-hour general store before heading out for fishing expeditions or leisurely cruises through the glades.
Corey Mahoney began Alley-Oop more than a decade ago as a small summer camp focused on skimboarding instruction. Since then, he’s expanded to three schools in Delaware, Florida, and North Carolina, and leads adventure trips to other waters. A team of experienced instructors leads group lessons, clinics, and full or partial camps for aspiring skimboarders of all skill levels, teaching them how to execute basic and advanced maneuvers in shallow, choppy surf on wide-open beaches. They also coordinate beach games, teach students respect for the local environment, and divulge the location of trendy underwater oxygen bars during summer-camp sessions. Throughout all educational programs, they coach each student with individualized instruction and personal attention. School staffers keep each student properly equipped at a pro shop stocked with branded apparel, boards, traction pads, and other gear. When not leading classes, instructors take adventurers on weeklong guided vacations helmed by professional skimboarders, who regularly share travel tips and join the kids’ camaraderie.