We’d all jump at a chance to escape for one month on a charter yacht with a captain, crew, chef and open-ended itinerary. Two weeks? That would work too. Heck, we’d settle for 10 days. For some of us, a “short-week” charter out of Fort Lauderdale is a more realistic option — and a bucket-lister all the same.
If You Have: 3 Days – Northern Florida Keys
Day One: Fort Lauderdale to Elliott Key
Elliott Key is part of Biscayne National Park and is often called the northernmost of the Florida Keys. Apart from a campground it’s uninhabited, and it’s accessible only by boat.
Day Two: Elliott Key to Key Largo
With a decent-speed charter yacht, you can make it to Key Largo for lunch. Snorkel or dive at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and then enjoy a lobster dinner under the stars.
Day Three: Meander back to the Mainland
Cruise at a leisurely pace back to Fort Lauderdale, stopping at Pumpkin Key and Angelfish Creek for quick cool-off swims and a relaxing lunch as you make your way home.
If You Have: 4 Days – Middle Florida Keys
Day One: Fort Lauderdale to Key Largo
Some charter yachts can be in Key Largo by lunchtime if you leave Fort Lauderdale early. Then you have the afternoon to play before indulging in what is likely to be your first of several key lime pie slices during the trip.
Day Two: Key Largo to Islamorada
Want to live out a fish story? Islamorada is the place to make it happen. Sailfish are caught here year-round, as are snapper, tarpon, tuna, wahoo and yellowtail. You can guess what the shoreside restaurants specialize in.
Day Three: Islamorada to Long Key
For families on charter, it’s hard to beat Long Key State Park. The place is made for a charter yacht’s kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. The hiking is good too.
Day Four: Long Key to Fort Lauderdale
Depending on the speed of your charter yacht, it might take you the better part of the day to return to Fort Lauderdale, but there should be time for lunch and a quick snorkel at Key Largo. It’s hard to believe you were able to pack in so much in just four days.
If You Have : 5 Days – The Bahamas
Day One: Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama
West End on Grand Bahama is 55 miles away, an easy morning cruise for a charter yacht that does 15 to 30 knots in good conditions.
Day Two: West End to High Rock
West End is where rumrunners used to stage their U.S. entry during Prohibition, and the fun-loving vibe is still here. Also head to the Bahamian Brewery in High Rock.
Day Three: High Rock to Elbow Cay
Cruise to Elbow Cay on Great Abaco — you’ll see the iconic red-and-white lighthouse at Hope Town. Ride a bike to the impressive beach houses at the end of the island.
Day Four: Elbow Cay to Freeport
After stopping at Green Turtle Cay for a couple of locally-renown drinks at Miss Emily’s, your charter yacht can reposition to Freeport.
Day Five: Freeport to Fort Lauderdale
Stop at West End on Grand Bahama for a swim before the big run to Florida. You’ll be on the mainland before dinner — if you want to be.