Favorite Florida West Coast Cruising Guide?

What do you look for in a cruising guide?  We want detailed mile by mile information on every anchorage, overhead satellite photos, a brief description of the anchorage as well as what directions are sheltered from the wind and any other information specific to anchoring there.  Unfortunately such a cruising guide does not exist (at least in our opinion) for the Southwest Coast of Florida.  Or let me rephrase that … it does exist, but it’s been out of print since 1999 and it’s uncommon to find a used copy.  Cruisers like us that are lucky enough to have a copy aren’t selling them.

Anchorage at Stump Pass

Anchorage at Stump Pass

On the other hand, it’s worthwhile to check online used bookstores and nautical flea markets — if a copy turns up, snatch it up!

A Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida.  Out of print 1999.  Too bad someone doesn't update this guide, it's amazing!

A Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida. Out of print 1999. Too bad someone doesn’t update this guide, it’s amazing!

The cruising guide is called “A Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida”.  It’s a spiral bound little book chock full of valuable information.  The last chapter has photos of anchorages color coded with bottom characteristics.  Here’s the cover photo.

Unfortunately, since the guide was written, there are some things that have changed … for example, the Coconut Island anchorage at Marco Island doesn’t exist anymore – Coconut Island turned into a sandbar and the anchorage filled in when someone got the bright idea to get rid of the vegetation on the island because it wasn’t all native to Florida.  Duh.

BUT there’s some good news!  The National Sea Grant Library has scanned a copy and put it online.  It’s available as a free PDF download — unfortunately the scan is black and white and extremely grainy, so some information is clouded, but there’s quite a bit still available – you just can’t use the photo maps showing bottom characteristics.  So go download your copy here:

A Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida

Here’s the description from the BAIL website:

If you are a cruiser and are planning to sail around to the western coast of Florida, then you have got to get your hands on BAIL’s A Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida. Now in its second printing of its second edition, this guide was compiled by the Boater’s Action and Information League, Inc.   The guide provides information on local laws concerning anchoring, holding conditions, tips on shoals, suggestions on where to anchor and what amenities can be found on land nearby each anchorage.     The guide has been meticulously cross referenced with NOAA charts and with tables which rate each anchorage according to position, beauty, holding conditions, storm protection and tranquility. In short, it is what every cruiser needs and wants in order to make passages safer and easier. There are photo maps which demonstrate approach, shoal indicators, marker and buoy information as well as a chart listing the pumpout stations along the way. As if that were not enough, the guide is spiced up with solid sailing and boating advice and tips on everything from kedging off to setting a Bahamian anchor.  


Here’s an example of the anchorage illustration/details page for one anchorage (Useppa/Cabbage Key).

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 9.11.48 AMWell worth downloading for free even if the photomaps with the bottom characteristics aren’t usable since they’re scanned in B&W.

Have fun cruising Florida’s West Coast!  It’s a treasure!

Anyone have other favorite Florida West Coast cruising guides?  Please leave a comment and share!  THANKS!  Jan

Tranquilly anchored at Stump Pass.

Tranquilly anchored at Stump Pass.


  1. As of this morning, I checked on amazon and there are 4 of them for sale, all used, but they can be found. Thanks for the links, the Sea Grant project web site has some really great and hard to find info on that part of Florida. I grew up there and it’s so cool to see this information. Thanks again
    s/v Renasci

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