Sidney, British Columbia, Canada
Our northern neighbors promoted Sidney with vigor. And for good reason. As in most of British Columbia, the only thing topping the welcoming and pleasant attitude of the locals is the off-the-charts scenery. Richard Ludwig wrote, “Without a doubt, the town of Sidney, British Columbia, Canada, is the premier yachting town in the world. If YACHTING magazine visits, you’ll be assured of a red carpet treatment.” Be careful, Richard; we’re the type of guests who will overstay our welcome.
St. Petersburg, Florida
Bill AuCoin writes, “I nominate St. Petersburg- Clearwater. Here’s why: calm water everywhere; boating and services infrastructure; history and geography and climate. Pinellas County has water suitable for every boating taste including power, cruising, sailing, offshore fishing, inshore fishing, scuba diving, water skiing, wakeboarding and PWCs.” Well, OK then, that doesn’t leave much out except the canoe. Good luck, St. Pete.
A lot of the nominations for Pacific Northwest towns seemed to be written with a reserve that made us suspect they really didn’t want to expose their secret, unspoiled gems. Yet the social nature of most yachtsmen prevailed, and folks from Anacortes, Washington, basically shouted, “Come on down!” Or over, up, whatever. You get the point. One reason Anacortes appeals to our edit panel is its boatbuilding industry, which gives it an even richer, saltier vibe. Mitch Everton writes that Anacortes “is a natural home port for the San Juan Islands. The city itself offers a host of amenities — from a wide range of boating services to an authentic old town. It’s a place that combines great scenery with a vibrant economic base.” And Shane Gibson simply states, “Absolutely hands down, Anacortes, Washington.”
Thanks to the financial crisis, Islamorada was saved from overleveraged developers and investment banks that were about to replace salt-worn and funky with tacky and gauche. Many investors had to pull out, so some establishments, like Holiday Isle, were spared. Transient slips are plentiful at the Plantation Yacht Harbor, just north of Islamorada proper. The facility is first-class, and the staff is about as nice and accommodating as you’ll find anywhere. If you’re looking for outstanding fresh fish for dinner, be sure to stop by Uncle’s. The whole yellowtail snapper is awesome. Mangrove Mike’s is a must for breakfast. Don’t forget to take a tour of the backcountry: It offers incredible fishing and breathtaking scenery, especially at sunset.
What if you could move to a town where you’d feel like you’re on vacation all the time? And what if that town were only a 30-minute ferry ride to the bustle of downtown San Francisco? Tiburon has all the quaintness and friendliness of a small town, yet it is accessible to the big city when a dose is required. Sam’s Anchor Café is the place to chow down on fresh oysters from the deck on a summer afternoon. Pull your boat up and place an order.
About a month before we needed to finalize the count for the 50 Best Yachting Towns, our staff faced a moral crossroad of sorts. There were no votes for the popular yachting hub of Annapolis! Oh, sweet Jesus, we faced the risk of upsetting one of the most vibrant boating communities on the East Coast. We would surely be snubbed at our favorite watering holes, the Boatyard and Davis’ Pub. We considered that Annapolitans may have become a little cocky and simply assumed their town was an automatic nomination. Then the votes started to come in. This historic waterfront town now sits securely in the ranking of our top 50, and for good reason: restaurants galore, numerous marinas and boatyards, and plenty of spots to drop the hook. Spend a week, or spend a lifetime — the choice is yours.
Steve Klein wrote, “Charlevoix offers some of the best boating in the world for anyone with a watercraft, no matter the size, make or model. Downtown — only about 100 yards from the marina — is full of unique people, shops, restaurants and stores that can only be found in Charlevoix, Michigan. Hospitality is unprecedented! Check it out for yourself.” We couldn’t have said it better, Mr. Klein.
Charleston, South Carolina
Four million people a year can’t be wrong. That’s the annual number of visitors to this wonderful Southern charmer. Historic mansions line the harbor, low-hanging oaks are peppered throughout the city, the sound of clanking horseshoes on cobblestone streets echoes through the fragrant air, and all blend together to force you to slow down and enjoy. Beyond the atmosphere and warm locals, Charleston is quickly becoming a yachtsman’s town, with events such as the Charleston Bermuda Race.