The things that enchant collecting hobbyists are as many and varied as the collectors themselves. One group heeds the call of the sea, drawn to items such as antique fishing reels, barnacle-encrusted ship salvage, and even single-stroke boat motors that once donned wooden runabouts.
While there are shops that sell and even specialize in marine and nautical antiques, Florida’s marine flea markets and nautical antique shows offer the thrill of the hunt.
Different from boat shows, which mainly emphasize new gear, these flea markets and antique shows appeal to those who want to own a piece of maritime or sportsmen’s history. Fishing enthusiasts are drawn by vintage saltwater bait-casting reels, freshwater fly rods, and antique lures of all kinds. The siren song for nautical antique fans are things made of brass and wood — everything from ships' wheels and binnacles to ships’ clocks and compasses.
Because of its coastal environs, Florida offers more marine antique events than nearly any other state. Below are some of the best.
Nautical Flea Market, Pompano
The 30th-annual Nautical Flea Market, hosted by the City of Pompano Beach, will take place the third weekend of January in Community Park, located on Federal Highway. More than 200 vendors will sell marine antiques, along with used and new gear. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, January 18, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, January 19, in Community Park, 820 NE 18th Ave., Pompano Beach; nauticalfleamarket.net.
Big Pine Key Nautical Flea Market
This event, located on Big Pine Key, can draw anywhere from 100 to 200 vendors. The grounds at the Chamber of Commerce are packed on flea market weekend and also include craft vendors, food and beverages, live music, raffles, and such. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, January 11, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, January 12, at Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, 31020 Overseas Hwy., Mile Marker 31, Big Pine Key; eventcrazy.com.
Palm Beach Marine Flea Market and Seafood Festival
Hosted by Under the Sun Promotions (which runs several nautical-themed events), the Palm Beach Marine Flea Market and Seafood Festival is returning to the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach for the 11th year. Over 200 vendors will be offering everything from marine salvage and vintage tackle to marine artwork and even used boats. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 29 and Sundary, March 1, South Florida Fairgrounds, 9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach; flnauticalfleamarket.com. Admission is $10.
Rotary Gigantic Nautical Flea Market
Another popular nautical antiques show held in the Keys, this one featuring up to 300 vendors, is sponsored by the Upper Keys Rotary Club. 8 a.m., Saturday, February 22 and Sunday, February 23 at Founders Park, Mile Marke 87 (bayside), Islamorada; keysrotary.com. Admission is free.
Dania Marine Flea Market
Now in its 41st year, the Dania Marine Flea Market is recognized as the largest nautical swap shop in the world, with as many as 300 dealers occupying over 1,000 vendor stalls. March 19-22 at Big Easy Casino, 831 N. Federal Hwy., Hallandale Beach; daniamarinefleamarket.com. Admission is $12; multi-day passes will be available.
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Cortez Nautical Flea Market
This popular marine event on the west side of the state features nautical antiques as well as marine-themed arts and crafts. It has become one of the largest nautical events in the region and turns 23 in 2020. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, October 31 at Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. West, Cortez; floridamaritimemuseum.org.
While these six represent the better-known shows in Florida, there are other annual events not yet officially scheduled for 2020. So, whether your interests run to taxidermy, marine maps, or creek chub fishing lures, there’s a nautical antiques event just on the horizon.