Airboats are a special kind of watercraft that can maneuver even the shallowest of waters. These boats are powered by a giant propeller at the back of the boat instead of by rudder or motor in the water. Airboats are popular for touring swamps and marshes because they can not only easily get through the shallow waters, but they also provide an elevated view of the shrubs and logs to spot wild life. Fishing tours are popular in Orlando, Florida, where there are many shallow freshwater bodies in which kids and families can catch fish.
Orlando is a sprawling city with dozens of satellite suburbs. There are opportunities for airboat fishing throughout the area. In Sanford, about 25 miles from downtown Orlando, Airboat Adventures takes you out to Lake Jessup, which it bills as "the most gator-infested lake in Florida." While the kids enjoy looking for gators, you can relax and fish or look for bald eagles, which are often spotted here.
In Geneva, about 27 miles north of downtown Orlando, Central Florida Airboat Rides and Tours also takes you into the heart of Lake Jessup or to Lake Harney. Standard times are 30 minutes or an hour, but you can schedule a private ride if you want to fish for longer periods.
South of Orlando, there are numerous airboat tours available, as there is a wide network of lakes and rivers. Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Tours in Saint Cloud, about 28 miles from downtown Orlando, takes you through the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which feature swamps and cypress forests and the opportunity to fish for catfish and tarpon. Spirit of the Swamp has airboats that accommodate up to six people, and tours are entirely private. That means you won't share the boat with anyone but your family members.
Big Toho Airboat Rides in Kissimmee, about 18 miles from downtown Orlando, takes you on a tour of Lake Toho, another of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which are the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. While you're waiting for a fish to bait, your kids will love looking for wild pigs, alligators, deer and birds.
Heading east of Orlando, you are moving toward beach territory. However, there are still a few lakes and rivers that provide excellent opportunities for airboat rides and fishing. Black Hammock Airboat Adventures in Oviedo, 18 miles east of downtown Orlando, takes you to the eastern end of Lake Jessup. You'll be able to fish, pack a picnic lunch and spot wildlife on your tour. The boats accommodate large groups of up to 18 people.
A-Awesome Airboat Rides in Christmas, which is 27 miles east of downtown Orlando, tours the Florida Swamps of the St. John's River, which winds up the eastern coast. Standard tours are 90 minutes, but you can schedule a private ride if you want more time for fishing with your kids.
A few hours west of Orlando, there are many opportunities to explore lakes and marshes on airboat tours. However, closer to Orlando, CraigCat Tours offers tours of Lake Dora. The lake, located in Mount Dora, about 30 miles west of Orlando, is home to 2,000-year-old Cypress trees and was the setting in some scenes from "The African Queen" with Humphrey Bogart. Tours last two hours, which should be enough time for most fishing expeditions, but you can always book a private tour if you need more time.