Updated: The annual Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail are the highlight of the February tourist season in Miami Beach bringing over 130,000 visitors and more than 3,800 boat builders and nautical accessory exhibitors to our shores. Produced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, a trade group representing 80% of the companies that manufacture boats, motors, trailers and gear for North American sportsmen, the show kicks off February 14-18, 2013 at the Miami Beach Convention Center and remote sites along Biscayne Bay in Downtown Miami and on Indian Creek north of 41st Street on Miami Beach.
The Convention Center floor and surrounding parking lots are packed with a million square-feet of boats and accessories offering guests a chance to check out the latest in personal watercraft from jet skis, inflatables, high performance speedboats, luxury yachts and all the gear to go along with them. The Sea Isle Marina on North Bayshore Drive hosts an impressive fleet of power boats and the Miamarina at Bayside Marketplace in Downtown Miami houses magnificent sailing craft. Each site is serviced by complimentary shuttle bus service making it quick and easy to glide through the exhibits without the hassle of traffic and searching for a parking spot.
Within the Convention Hall, The Big Game Room hosts over 100 exhibits dedicated to the sport fishing industry on the second level of the concourse. Vendors of rods, reels, hooks and lines join with the promoters of popular tournaments and fishing travel destinations to create a dedicated area for anglers at the show. Famous big game sportsmen and members of the Game Fishing Hall of Fame hold informative educational seminars on sport fishing, spear fishing, boat maintenance, fly-casting, and billfish challenges during the week. Improve your chances of landing a trophy catch at the Big Game Room.
In the calm waters of Indian Creek north of 41 Street, an awe-inspiring display of dozens of mega-yachts attracts a crowd of big spenders and big dreamers who marvel at the custom appointments including hot tubs and helicopters propped on deck. Southbound traffic along Collins Avenue grinds to a halt so curious onlookers can check out the bikini models and temporary disco docks set up to entertain the crowds. Champagne flows at waterside parties designed to attract the few remaining customers who are still in the market for an 85-foot cruiser with teak decks, polished fittings and glamorous staterooms.
A show of this magnitude takes over the entire city, booking out most hotel rooms, rental cars, and table reservations at popular restaurants. The fact that the event coincides with the 3-day President’s weekend when families frequently plan a Spring getaway adds even more volume to the annual traffic. It turns out that only those wise enough to confirm dates well in advance can hope to find a spot anywhere on the beach during Boat Show Week. If you follow this guide and confirm your reservations well in advance, your Boat Show visit will be ship shape in no time!
Hotels that are within walking distance to the Miami Beach Convention Center are available at every price point from the full service beachfront resorts along Collins Avenue to the smaller boutique properties found along James Avenue and Lincoln Road. If you are looking for ocean views, room service and all the amenities of a top shelf South Beach vacation, check rates at the Delano, the Ritz-Carlton South Beach and the Setai. If they are already booked,(and chances are they just might be filled with nautical bigwigs), venture to the W South Beach Hotel, the Perry South Beach, the Raleigh and the National hotel. For spacious beachfront rooms with an in-suite kitchenette, the Sagamore has an upscale vibe and a lovely pool.
To save a little money (to spend on a bigger boat), smaller properties near the Convention Center still offer plenty of creature comforts but do not have ocean views, luxe swimming pools or 24 hour room service. At James Avenue, the Crest and the Cadet (where Clarke Gable stayed during Basic Training) join the Sanctuary hotel in offering quiet guest rooms and a very short walk to the action. At 20th Street, the Sadigo Court is one of South Beach’s hidden gems for a bed & breakfast style getaway. On Lincoln Road, the Albion hotel offers easy access to restaurants and bars and a mod hipster vibe in the renovated Art Deco lobby lounge. For an inexpensive hotel that’s a step away from the chic oceanfront retreats, the Catalina Beach Club has simply appointed rooms, a busy sidewalk cafe, a complimentary happy hour for hotel guests and a younger clientele.
Restaurants Dining on South Beach during the Boat Show can be most challenging at the top-rated steakhouses and landmark restaurants. If you hope to score a table at Prime 112, Casa Tua or Meat Market, make reservations well in advance, confirm them a week prior to your arrival and expect to cool your heels in the bar while the hostess manages overflow crowds. Joe’s Stone Crab does not take reservations but a generously loaded handshake can sometimes minimize the wait. Smart sailors visit Joe’s Takeaway right next door to get the same great food without the wait.
Restaurants closest to the Convention Center are a welcome relief from mundane snack bar foods served on site. For a casual outing just steps away from the show, the sidewalk cafes of Lincoln Road Mall are a welcome relief. Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, TiramesU and Trattoria da Leo offer casual Italian fare. Sushi Samba Dromo and Sushi Siam create interesting fusions of Asian cuisines. At the west end of the mall, Baires Grill is cozy Argentinean steakhouse just across from New York’s own Shake Shack and Altamare serves delicious seafood with a Mediterranean twist. STK Miami steakhouse at the Perry South Beach Hotel and The Dutch Restaurant at the W Hotel are a quick walk toward 23rd Street at Collins Park.
For a quick drink between yachts, find Finnegan’s Too Bar, Rio Station, Gemma Lounge and the Van Dyke Cafe on Lincoln Road which hosts live jazz seven nights a week. For authentic German beers, Hofbrau Munchen Beerhall is as close to Munich as you’re likely to find. At Happy Hour, nip into Mova Lounge, Lucky Strike Lanes, or 5 Napkin Burger. Collins Avenue celebrates Happy Hour at Maxine’s and the Raleigh Hotel Martini Bar where drinks and snacks are just $7.
The annual Miami International Boat Show & Strictly Sail kicks off February 14-18.
Miami Beach Convention Center
1901 Convention Center Drive
Miami Beach, FL
Sea Isle Marina & Yachting Center
1635 N. Bayshore Drive
Miamarina at Bayside – Home of Strictly Sail Miami
400 Biscayne Blvd