New York, New York
Manhattan is an island, after all, and the water surrounding it teems with activities for the nautically inclined. Take a ride on the Circle Line or the Staten Island Ferry, visit Governor’s Island, explore the South Street Seaport, stroll City Island, or go kayaking through 160 square miles of rivers, creeks, bays, inlets and ocean in the five boroughs.
Ocracoke, North Carolina
This small island town isn’t easy to get to but Ocracoke is well worth the trip. Twenty-five miles off the North Carolina coast, and surrounded by the reefs that earned the Outer Banks the sobriquet “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” Ocracoke is where Blackbeard is said to have met his maker. Only a small community winters here, but the population swells each summer as folks come in search of a simpler way of life. Most get around on bikes, and the beaches are world famous.
Oriental, North Carolina
Oriental bills itself as the sailing capitol of North Carolina — in fact, a 2008 statistic listed 875 residents and more than 1,200 sailboats! — but trawlers, skiffs, sport-fishing boats and kayaks will feel equally at home. Situated just below where the Neuse River joins Pamlico Sound, Oriental offers a network of creeks and easy access to the Outer Banks, and it’s just a short hop across the sound to the Adams Creek Cut, which leads to Beaufort.
Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor, Maine
These two towns are located on the southern end of Mount Desert Island, just across from each other at the entrance of Somes Sound, near the gorgeous, 35,000- acre Acadia National Park. They front deepwater harbors and are full of summer fun. In Northeast Harbor, there are the lovely Asticou Gardens, a strawberry festival, a seafood festival, a farmer’s market, live music on Main Street every Thursday evening, ice cream socials … More than 400 members belong to the Northeast Harbor Fleet, and nearly every day of their calendar in July and August offers a club event or regatta — except Tuesdays, which is apparently the sailing Sabbath. Southwest Harbor is home to a gaggle of great boatbuilders, including the Hinckley Co., Wilbur Yachts, Ellis Boat Co. and Ralph W. Stanley. Islesford Dock Restaurant on Little Cranberry Island is a favorite local outing for residents of both towns.
Puerto Williams, Chile
“The Southernmost Town in the World,” Puerto Williams faces across the Beagle Channel and has the snowcapped Dientes de Navarino mountains at its back. The highlight for any mariner is the famous Micalvi Yacht Club. John Parker wrote, “The bar specializes in the local concoction called a pisco sour, which is best drunk while sitting, especially as the deck of the Micalvi and therefore the bar lists to port about eight degrees. In the bar there are guest books dating back to the 1970s, signed by many of the great sailors of the Southern Ocean.”
Sag Harbor, New York
In 1789 this small port reportedly had more tons of square-rigged vessels engaged in commerce than New York City, which may be why it still tugs at the heartstrings of yachtsmen. It is certainly the sailing capital of the region, though anglers also love the proximity of Gardiner’s Bay, Long Island Sound and Montauk Point. Wonderful shops, plenty of fine dining options and a vibrant artistic community make Sag Harbor special. But old institutions like the Variety Store, still known locally as “the five and dime,” and Schiavoni’s IGA market have not yet been replaced by Williams Sonoma and Citarella’s, which also keeps it real and unique.
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Nature has graced Vancouver with an incredible setting — the North Shore Mountains dominate the cityscape, and on a clear day you can see snowcapped Mount Baker in the state of Washington to the southeast, Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia to the west and southwest, and Bowen Island to the northwest. Vancouver prides itself on its livability. It is home to Stanley Park, one of the largest urban parks in North America. Logging is still its top industry, followed by tourism, and the city is justly proud of its low carbon footprint.
Camden’s small main street is perched on a hill above a harbor studded with lobster boats, Down East yachts, sailboats and other vessels. There’s a great gourmet grocer, several wonderful bookstores, an exceptionally good library and a slew of good eateries — in short, everything you need. If the summer crowds get to you, Camden makes a great base for exploring: Take a hike up to Mount Battie’s summit for a stunning view over Penobscot Bay, or catch a ferry from Lincolnville or Rockland to Islesboro, Vinalhaven, North Haven or Matinicus.