Rent a Boat: Explore Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico
Updated: Jan 21
Sarasota is known for its amazing beaches including Lido Beach and the top rated beach in the USA, Siesta Beach. There is not much better than a day spent at one of the fantastic beaches with your toes in the sand and a view of the crystal turquoise water of the Gulf stretching as far as your eyes can see. One possible exception to this is to spend the day on the water by renting a boat and getting out into the Gulf or Bay on your own private floating island. You can anchor the boat off shore or at a sand bar and spend the day splashing in the water. You can cruise around the Bay and past all the land locked beach goers or spend the day fishing. Regardless of your experience level there are plenty of options to enjoy the water around Sarasota by boat. Sarasota Bay is fairly shallow and sandbars can create unexpected obstacles so if you are not comfortable boating or are new to the area you might want to consider hiring a local captain when you rent a boat. You should also know how to read the channel markers as they can guide you and keep you in the deeper water.
Things to consider:
1) Are you ok with staying in the Bay only or would you prefer to also adventure out into the Gulf? Not all rental options allow you to go out into the Gulf but require you to stay in the Bay. This is an important question to ask before you agree to the rental contract.
2) Do the hours of operation fit your desire? Typically boat rentals are hourly, half day (4 hours) or a full day (8 hours) and usually require you to return before sunset.
3) Location: Is the boat conveniently located or will you spend a chunk of your day driving to the marina? It is also important to consider the location in the bay and not just driving distance to the marina. The intercoastal has numerous no wake zones and it can take longer to get out into the main part of the bay than driving to the marina. Of course, this is not bad as you are still on the water, but it is something to consider.
4) What type of boat should you rent? The type of boat is largely dependent on your experience level and choice of activities. The common types include Pontoon boat, ski boat, and fishing boat. Pontoon boats are great for those with less experience and they are also great for beaching on a sand bar. The fishing boats are more likely to be allowed out into the Gulf.
5) Does your rental boat have all the equipment you need or want? For example, a depth finder can be very useful, but you might also want to consider a navigation system, stereo system or other water toys.
6) Check the Tides! Many marinas are located in narrow channels and are more navigable
during a high tide. You should be aware if the tide is coming in or going out while you are boating. This can be very important if you want to anchor on a sandbar or beach. If you anchor on a sandbar and then the tide goes out you may find yourself stuck until the tide comes back in again. One web site that you can use to check the tides is www.tide-forecast.com. We like this one because it gives the tides and also the sea conditions.
7) Do you have any boating experience? If you are comfortable being your own captain that is great, but if you have less experience or if you are unfamiliar with the area you might want to consider hiring a captain. Many rental companies have connections to captains for hire, but there are many independent ones as well. For example, we have used Captain Joseph with www.SarasotaCaptains.com. When we first purchased our boat, we hired him for several lessons including an introduction to Sarasota Bay and boating etiquette. Joseph is an excellent instructor and he was born and raised in Sarasota and grew up boating in the area. The best way to contact Captain Joseph is by phone or text at: (941) 538-1265.
There are many boat rental options in Sarasota and the surrounding area including full-service rentals and also ones that are essentially the equivalent of "AirBnB" for boats. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a few examples to highlight what is available.
This is an online boat rental app that is similar to "AirBnB". The boats are privately owned and that provides more variation in boat to boat choices and the equipment included. In many cases private boats are equipped better than the typical rental as the owner is using the boat also. Most recently this app showed 66 Boats in Sarasota with a wide range of locations.
2) Get My Boat
This is an app similar to BoatSetter. You can also connect via their website at www.getmyboat.com. This site currently has 61 listings (but that can change frequently) and covers everything from small cruisers and pontoon boats to larger “yachts”.
3) SRQ Boat Charters (w/ Captain Rob).
946 Siesta Drive
This is more of a charter boat rental, but they will take you out into the Gulf. Captain Rob provides a private charter boat service for up to six guests for sightseeing tours, evening/sunset cruise, lunch cruise, dining cruise, dolphin watch cruise, diving, beach recreational visits, bar crawls on the water, marine life viewing, splashing around and generally enjoying yourself in the beautiful waters of Sarasota Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.
4) Sarasota Boat Rental (Suntex Boat Club)
www.sarasotaboatrentals.suntexwatersports.com (or just www.Suntex.com)
They are located at Marina Jacks
Phone: 941 349-9488
The Sarasota Boat Rental is a full service company. They also are part of the Suntex Boat Club which is a national chain similar to the Freedom Boat Club. You do not need to be a member to rent a boat. This is a very convenient location to Sarasota and also the Bay.
5) CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Phone: (941) 349-4400
1249 Stickney Point Rd. Siesta Key, FL 34242
CB’s has the largest Bait & Tackle Shop on the water in Sarasota. They also offer Siesta Key Boat Rentals, Parasailing, Jet Ski Rentals, Fishing Charters, and clothing for everyone. They are located on Siesta Key just over the draw bridge on Stickney Point Road.
6) Bayfront Yacht Works and Marina (Suntex Rentals)
Phone: (941) 349-9449
8865 Midnight Pass Road, Siesta Key, FL 34242
Bayfront Yacht Works is also associated with Suntex boat rentals. This marina is located on Siesta Key across from Turtle Beach. If you are planning on going out into Sarasota Bay there is a long no-wake zone that needs to be traversed from here, but if you are planning on heading south instead it could be more convenient. They are a full service rental company and we rented from them once and found them friendly and easy to work with.
7) Sarasota Captains: “Our Boat or Yours”
Phone: (941) 538-1265
Sarasota Captains, Including Captain Joseph, is a family run business that provides captains and local knowledge for your own boat or rental. They also run a full charter service. Conservation of the bay and the environment is very important to Captain Joseph and he will also teach you best practices to protect the wildlife.
There are many options for renting a boat and getting out onto the water to explore the area beyond the beaches. Our best advice is to pick a day, get out on the water and “Seas the Day”!