There are a quite few things everyone owes it to themselves to try once if they’re coming down to Florida for a visit and taking an airboat tour should rank high on the list. Surprisingly though, a great number of natives or full time transplanted residents have never taken the time to enjoy what tourists go out of their way to experience. Maybe we take too much of what our state has to offer for granted.
Hitching a ride on an airboat is quite easy since there are tour locations all across the state. Just about anywhere there’s water and swamp will create a perfect backdrop for an experience you and your loved ones will never forget. Zipping across the grass, through creeks and slews, into the cypress forests, and cutting a wake across open water gives you the sensation of gliding across ice with limited control. The ride is a series of coordinated skids and slides, skillfully executed by gentle increases of power and steering inputs. Animals of every variety pass by the gunnels as you seek them out in their watery haunts. Alligators, herons, ducks, turtles, eagles, spiders (very large and creepy), egrets, and many other wild and domestic critters stand by for a few clicks of the camera before heading out for more private hiding spots.
My family and I were able to take a ride with Midway Airboat Rides with some close family who are in town for a visit, and let me tell you that everyone aboard gained a new appreciation for our St. Johns River system and the wildlife that inhabits the waterway. We were greeted by a vast body of water swollen by the large amount of summer rain so we knew the animals would be scattered to the four corners of the world in search of dry ground, but our optimism was rewarded by a good number of animals that hung around long enough for some photographs. It’s hard to comprehend the variety of landscapes within the river basin until you’re able to experience them for yourselves and the airboats are the only means of transport that make it possible year round.
There’s so much to see out there besides the theme parks (I’m not knocking them by any means), that I truly believe everyone should take a break from the crowds and get out there with the critters and the water. There’s nothing like being pushed across the open water and grassland by a giant roaring fan, except the quiet solitude of the cypress forests where the creaking of the trees themselves is the only sound you can hear. Both are unique experiences you won’t find any other way and in very few other places on earth.
Brian “Beastman” Eastman