Florida East vs. West. When it comes to boating, the state of Florida is amazing! However, which coast is better?

THEY ARE BOTH AMAZING

Let me begin by saying I’ve lived on both coasts and have boated all over the state.  While I love both coasts, each location has its’ pros and cons and ALL are great choices depending on the need. I didn’t include the Florida Keys because they’re an entirely separate region and warrant their own specific post. For this blog post, I want to highlight things to consider for those new to boating in our area.

WATER CONDITIONS

The first thing I look at when deciding on the Florida East Coast vs. the West Coast are the water conditions. The Atlantic Ocean has bigger swells and waves whereas, the Gulf of Mexico is generally, calm and flat. As a result, almost all of the shoreline on the Gulf-side is perfect to anchor the boat and find seclusion. It’s impossible to do this on the East Coast beaches unless it’s flat-calm.

WINNER: West Coast

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WATER TEMPS

Another huge factor in determining the East vs West argument are the water temps. South of Jupiter, on the East Coast, you’ll find comfortable water temperatures year-round. Specifically, you’ll find water temps that range from approximately 70 degrees in winter to the mid 80’s in summer. This is primarily due to the proximity of the Gulf-Stream and the warmer climate. The more north you go, the colder it will get as the seasons change.

The Gulf-Coast has Florida’s biggest water temp changes. During the winter, the Gulf of Mexico will reach the 50’s and in the summer it will heat to approximately 90 degrees.

WINNER: East Coast

WATER CLARITY

The water clarity on both coasts is phenomenal. The biggest factor that determines clarity is the weather.  The water won’t be clear on either coast if the wind’s been blowing and the seas have been rough for days. It takes calmer weather and light winds for the water to settle down and clarify. In general, the water on the East Coast, south of Ft. Pierce, is outstanding with the best clarity occurring in Jupiter to the Palm Beach area (due to the gulf-stream coming the closest to land).

THE BEST FLORIDA BEACHES FOR CRYSTAL CLEAR WATER

On the West Coast, the water clarity is best during the spring and the fall.  In addition, the West Coast locations with the best clarity are Tampa-Bay to Naples and Panama City Beach to Pensacola Beach.

WINNER: West Coast

DESTINATIONS

For the purposes of this blog post, destinations are defined as more than a day trip.  The East Coast destinations consist of other cities, the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. The West Coast destinations include Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Naples and the Florida Keys. Without a doubt, the best destination would be the Bahamas and the proximity of Florida’s East Coast to the Islands of the Bahamas makes it ideal. That being said, the West Coast has more destinations to choose from that are closer to home.

WINNER: Tie

SANDBARS AND COVES

The West coast of Florida has a vast amount of sandbars and coves to spend the day. The East coast has fewer.  Combined with a larger population, the few sandbars and coves on the East Coast can get much more crowded.  On the other hand, the West Coast has many more locations to explore with a smaller population, resulting in more opportunities for seclusion.

THESE ARE THE BEST WATER FLOATS FOR THE SANDBAR

The best areas for sandbars and coves on the East Coast are in the bigger bays and near the inlets. The best areas for sandbars and coves on the West Coast are the coastal shoreline, inlets and larger bays like Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and the bays around Destin.

WINNER: West Coast

FISHING

For inshore fishing I would say both coasts are equal except that the West Coast has more “backcountry”. However, when it comes to the East vs. West in offshore fishing, the East Coast wins hands-down. The primary reason for this is the Gulf Stream is located off the East Coast and the water gets much deeper, much faster south of Stuart. Consequently, you don’t have to run as far offshore to get to the fish and the fish are often pelagic’s.

WINNER: East Coast

BEACHES

Florida is loaded with world-class beaches. This makes determining which Florida Coast is best. However, the beaches on each coast do have significant differences.  For starters, the East Coast has darker sand whereas, the West Coast has white, powdery sand. In addition, there are more islands on the West Coast so there are more opportunities to find your own private beach. If you like to surf and play in the waves then the East Coast is for you. Conversely, if you want peaceful and calm water to swim in, the West Coast is for you.

WINNER: West Coast

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RED TIDE

Red Tide is a natural occurrence that frequents the West Coast of Florida and rarely occurs on the East Coast. Red Tide is normally minor and often goes unnoticed however, every several years (7-10?) it seems to become major. Nobody really knows what causes it except that it seems to get worse when there are early-season rains that cause abnormal runoff and/or significant Lake Okeechobee water releases.

Runoffs can cause harm to the East Coast’s water quality as well. A prime example is the “Blue-Green Algae” slime that occurred in the Stuart area a few years ago. That affected two or three East Coast counties but isn’t a normal occurrence.

WINNER: East Coast

 

SO WHICH IS BEST?

There really isn’t a “best” unless you intend to specialize in a certain type of boating. If you like to fish offshore than the East Coast would be best. If you like to cruise and visit sandbars often then the West Coast is best. If seclusion is your thing, the West Coast is king. Regardless, the Florida East Coast and West Coast are equally amazing for boating and each offers certain benefits. I’ve found it to be super-fun to trailer my boat all over Florida for the best of both worlds.

 

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