By Patti Roth
For island excursions – perhaps to Islamorada, Bimini or Nassau – flying across shimmering surf is a scenic delight. Sometimes the water also provides an ideal place to land.
Seaplanes, which don’t need to use airport runways, offer travel flexibility and access to remote sites. Perhaps they’ll drop passengers at the dock of a waterfront resort, or in the middle of the ocean next to a yacht, or pull onto the sand for a beach picnic.
For some passengers, the romance of landing on the water is the real appeal.
“It’s absolutely part of the fun,’’ says Peter Green general manager of Key West Seaplane Adventures, which offers narrated flights from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park. “The plane lands in the ocean, we taxi the plane literally up on the beach, and you step right off the float onto the beach.”
During an ocean flight, sightseeing is a highlight. Passengers get a rich aerial perspective of rays, sharks and other sea life when the plane is flying low or on approach.
“Landing in the water is such a great experience,’’ says Rob Ceravolo, chief executive officer of Tropic Ocean Airways based in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s very smooth. You touch on the water and the plane immediately turns into a boat.”
The seaplanes in the fleets of Tropical Ocean Airways and Key West Seaplane Adventures are amphibious aircraft, that are able to function on both water and traditional airport runways. Tropic Ocean sometimes rolls in and out on water at Miami Seaplane Base on Watson Island.
“It’s such a neat experience flying out of downtown Miami,” says Ceravolo, a former U.S. Navy pilot. “You start out as a boat, and as the seaplane picks up speed, it feels like a fast speedboat. Looking out the window you can see the water splashing up the sides … really cool. As you get to liftoff speed, the plane just flies.”
Tropic Ocean Airways
Provides charter flights in Florida, the Bahamas and Cuba (documentation required for U.S. passengers). Scheduled flights to Bimini and Great Harbour Cay in the Bahamas. Occasional sightseeing tours. Fort Lauderdale, 800-767-0897, flytropic.com
Key West Seaplane Adventures
Flies round-trip from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park. Booking early is recommended. Key West, 305-293-9300, keywestsea planecharters.com
Miami Seaplane Tours
Offers sightseeing tours and charters. Miami, 305-361-3909, miamiseaplane.com
Destinations is an annual travel supplement of the Sun Sentinel, produced by City & Shore Magazine