If this seaside town was good enough for Capt. Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard), it’s good enough for us. The infamous seafaring swashbuckler and his famed vessel Queen Anne’s Revenge called this part of the mid-Atlantic home. Naturally, the North Carolina Maritime Museum here features an exhibit dedicated to this legendary baddie.
Nestled along the community’s historic waterfront is the Town Docks (ICW mile mark 202, visitnc.com/listings/view/54181), so once you come into port and tie up, you’re in walking distance from numerous top-notch eateries and pubs. If you’re too full, you can walk off the meal with a few hours of shopping. Do you want to taste a real slice of Americana? Stop by during the town’s annual Fourth of July parade.
For avid offshore anglers, it’s a short hop to Gulf Stream fishing and the area is famous for its tuna, wahoo and billfish action. On the practical side, Beaufort is also home to custom boatbuilder Jarrett Bay Boatworks and its massive marine industrial park should your yacht be in need of service.
Almost every boater likes lighthouses, and just a short ferry ride from Beaufort is the Cape Lookout National Seashore and Lighthouse. If you’re an equine enthusiast, nearby Carrot Island is home to wild horses, which can be seen from the town’s boardwalk.
However, you should stop in at your own risk because, as Elizabeth Barrow, director of local public relations at Crystal Coast Tourism Authority, told us, “Upon arrival, you get a taste of real Southern hospitality that will make you want to stay!” (You’ve been warned.)
Sag Harbor, NY
If there’s a lovelier town than Sag Harbor, New York, we haven’t seen it. For years, this old whaling port on the south fork of Long Island’s east end was favored by artists and writers and often referred to as “the un-Hampton,” for its lack of flash in comparison to other towns in the region. Located on the west side of Long Island’s south fork, Sag Harbor Bay connects to Gardiners Bay and Long Island Sound. Approaching from Gardiners Bay, mariners should stay within the deep-water channel passing west of Cedar Point and take care not to round the breakwater too sharply because the water is only six feet deep closer to the wall. As you enter, you’ll see the town dock straight ahead, which provides transient space and moorings for rent. The town runs a launch in the summer months.
Sag Harbor offers many wonderful dining options. A couple of our longtime favorites are Corner Bar, famous for its burgers and mussels, and the consistently delicious and friendly Dockside Bar & Grill. If you’re looking for something more elegant or a bed on land for a couple of nights, try the American Hotel. In the mood for an after-dinner walk? You’re in luck! Stroll up Main Street and bear right to pass the local library and the Whaling Museum. There are some fine larger houses on Main Street that once belonged to whaling captains. Any of the side streets you pass will charm you with smaller saltboxes and Greek Revival homes. If you must have crashing surf and a little contact with the glitterati, you’re only five miles away from Route 27, the backbone that runs through that Hamptons. But … ehhh. Who needs it when you’re in a spot like Sag Harbor?
San Diego, CA
San Diego Bay forms a wonderfully protected and very deep natural harbor. That’s what attracted the United States Navy. As though to remind residents and visitors how important the Navy’s presence is, the USS Midway Museum offers everyone a chance to experience life at sea as the sailors lived it. Visitors to the museum get to explore galleys, officer’s country, sleeping quarters and the engine room of the first Navy ship that was too large for the Panama Canal and to hear veterans of the Midway describe their experiences via the headsets that go with the self-guided tour. The four-acre flight deck provides a 360-degree view of the city.
San Diego Bay must have captivated Juan Cabrillo in 1542. He was the first European to visit the West Coast, and he staked out the entire area for Spain. Cabrillo named the site San Miguel, and in 1602, mapmaker Sebastian Vizcaino arrived aboard his ship, San Diego, and named the area San Diego de Alcala.
In addition to the Navy’s activities, San Diego is a busy commercial port, so yachtsmen have to stay alert. The bay is about 47 square miles in size and offers plenty of water for boating outside the high-traffic areas. Anyone with a serious urge to cruise may head north to the Channel Islands off Los Angeles or south to Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.
Port Washington, WI
Port Washington, Wisconsin, lies 25 miles north of Milwaukee and 110 miles north of Chicago. Its natural harbor at the mouth of Sauk Creek opens onto Lake Michigan and, in the middle of the 19th century, made the city a port for exporting cord wood, wheat and rye flour, bricks, fish and hides.
For today's boaters, the Port Washington Marina is a certified Clean Marina that features 220 deep-water slips, a casual atmosphere and night security for added peace of mind. It’s one block from the downtown area and its many fine restaurants and shopping. It offers free courtesy dockage for boaters stopping for lunch (up to three hours). The marina season is from April 1 until Nov. 1. (ci.port-washington.wi.us/Marina/Index.htm)
The Port Washington Yacht Club activities include a year-round social calendar of parties and informal group trips. During the boating season, the club stages a Saturday Buoy race series for racing-class and cruising-class boats. The club also sponsors the across-the-lake Clipper Cup Race and hosts the west shore and across-the-lake Double Handed Race. (pwycwi.com)
July means the daylong Fish Day celebration and as much fish and chips as you can eat, plus beer and soda to quench your thirst. Nine civic organizations run the fish and chips stands throughout the day, just as they have since the first event in 1964. All of the profits from sales go back into the community to maintain Rotary Park, the harbor walk that leads to the grounds, Kiwanis Pavilion and more.
Port Washington’s a great spot to call home.
South Haven, MI
Native Americans originally called South Haven Ni-Ko-Nong, which translates into “beautiful sunsets.” That alone seems reason enough to sail into this harbor for a spell. Many other nearby waterfront communities are about a 20-minute cruise to access Lake Michigan, whereas South Haven is only about five to 10 minutes away. Then there are the more than 229 available boat slips that can handle vessels up to 60 feet overall length at four municipal marinas (south-haven.com/pages/marinas/transient_slip_rates.html). You’ll want to break out the camera as you enter the harbor, because you’ll notice what the locals call the “world famous” 110-year-old lighthouse. And just about anything you’d want to do is within walking distance of your vessel. There are seven public beaches, a bike trail, a movie theater, museums and a slew of restaurants and pubs, shops, hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.
Lisa Shanley, executive director of the South Haven Van Buren County Convention & Visitors Bureau, says South Haven hosts a newly established Michigan section of U.S. Bike Route 35 that runs through the area from the north and south. There is also the well-known 34-mile Kal-Haven trail, a former railroad line. But don’t fret if you forget your bike; rentals are available.
After you’ve filled yourself at one of countless lakeside eateries, you may want to check out the Michigan Maritime Museum, which is home to the replica tall ship Friends Good Will ($30 to $40 for a two-hour cruise). You can also head out on a Pirate Chaser Adventure Sail, where the crew get into their pirate gear and take you on a voyage. If that isn’t enough for the day, visit the Lindy Lou, a river launch replica that is electric-powered. Naval historians may want to visit South Haven’s newest attraction, War on the Great Lakes, which is a tribute to the War of 1812.
Whether you’re stopping by for the bikes, ships, shops, bed-and-breakfasts, the lighthouse or the beautiful sunsets, South Haven is a town that should go on your cruising short list. Could 2 million visitors a year be wrong?
How could you not want to visit this historical seaside town within rock-tossing distance of Kittery, Maine? Although New Hampshire only boasts 13 miles of coastline (the smallest of all states bordering an ocean), it serves as a great spot to visit when transiting north to Maine or south to Massachusetts and beyond. Portsmouth once served as home to John Paul Jones, American naval hero of the Revolutionary War. It sports a few deep-water marinas, some of which can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet, wine-tasting harbor cruises, the USS Albacore submarine museum, tax-free shopping and a plethora of seafood restaurants, making this a quaint town with a big personality.
New Bedford, MA
If there was ever a town born for the water, it may be New Bedford. Its history is steeped in the commercial fishing industry, and on your next cruise through the city be sure to check out the 107-year-old whaling museum. Sailing is not lost on this salty city and it boasts a Community Boating Center aimed to foster the love of wind-born boating to its residents. Aside from the numerous marinas available for recreational boaters, you may want stop by September 29-30 when New Bedford holds its commercial fishing festival. Here you can learn all about the industry from those who work in it. Of course there is great food, drink and entertainment.
Newport is the undisputed center of sailing in the United States — among other things. Founded in 1639 at the southern end of Aquidneck Island and about 30 miles south of Providence on Narragansett Bay, this city of about 25,000 souls has a large and well-protected harbor, which is only a short distance from the open North Atlantic. Since the days of the J Class and through most of the 12 Meter era, Newport was the home of the America’s Cup racing until Australia wrested the trophy from the New York Yacht Club in 1983. During the sailing season, the harbor shelters a number of restored 12 meter yachts, which may be chartered for corporate events or racing. Touring the harbor — best done in a small boat at very low speeds — reveals a staggering variety of yachts. If you prefer being awed by superyachts, the Newport Shipyard should be one of the stops. Out in the mooring field, you’re likely to stumble on one or more classic Herreshoffs, an old Huckins or two, and nearly every brand of late-model sailboat and powerboat on the market. The best time for a tour is when the Newport Bermuda Race fleet or the Transatlantic Race fleet is in town. The city is the New York Yacht Club’s Harbor Court on-the-water “club house.” Getting a mediocre meal in Newport requires research, because the obviously popular restaurants are so good — chowder at the Black Pearl, fine seafood at The Mooring, fried clams at Benjamin’s. The city has more comings and goings by sea than most places have by land. It’s a great place to visit and an even better place to live.
Traverse City, MI
Unlike Portsmouth, NH, with its cozy 13 miles of shoreline, the Traverse City area features nearly 181 miles of it bordering on Lake Michigan. (That’s a lot of cruising room.) This spot is also home to the Great Lakes Maritime Academy. Traverse City features no less than nine marinas that can handle a boater’s needs, from transient slips to fuel to pump-outs and more. It’s also a scuba diver’s paradise, featuring countless shallow- and deep-water wrecks. And don’t forget the several tall ships, which are available for dockside tours. If you cruise through during the second week of July, you’ll want to check out the weeklong Traverse City Cherry Festival. We get hungry just thinking about it.
Sturgeon Bay, WI
Whether you happen to be stopping by during this lakeside town’s 12-week Harmony by the Bay summer concert series or for its snorkeling opportunities (yes, snorkeling), Sturgeon Bay offers gin-clear water, cool cruising nights and a plethora of on-the-water activities. Area marinas can handle vessels up to 100 feet LOA, and once you get your boat situated, how much you do or not is up to you. Non-motorized watersports have become big in Sturgeon Bay; you can try your hand at paddleboarding, canoeing and/or kayaking. If that isn’t enough, there’s also fishing. For a freshwater destination, this is one salty spot.
Oyster Bay, NY
Individuals who nominated Oyster Bay call it “the new mecca for sailing.” To that end, this Long Island Sound-based hamlet features a number of sailing clubs and its Waterfront Center provides classes for both adults and kids interested in learning how to sail. Nearby Oak Cliff Sailing Center offers several racing programs. If you decide to come ashore, a stop by historic Sagamore Hill might be in order. Or, if you want to leave your boat at one of the area marinas, enjoy a harbor cruise on the 40-foot gaff-rigged oyster sloop Christeen. A jaunt down the Sound to New York City, out to Greenport or across to Connecticut are also great options.
Port Jefferson, NY
This municipality, which sits on Long Island Sound and just about equal distances from both New York and the Hamptons, offers boaters a fantastic downtown area with shops and restaurants within walking distance of the Port Jefferson Marina. You can also take in the town’s movies on the harbor at dusk, participate in its annual fundraising regatta or stop by the Long Island Seaport and Eco Center to catch up on this area’s maritime heritage. If you are in the area from July 27 — August 1 this year, you can check out the tall ship HS Bounty.
Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia may be for lovers, but Virginia Beach is very much for boaters. Anglers can enjoy a cornucopia of both near-shore and offshore angling opportunities, while cruisers can tie up at any of the numerous full-service marinas and take in the seaside restaurants along the three-mile-long boardwalk. Feel like hitting the links? This town has a number of top-notch courses to challenge even the best boating golfer.
What can you not dig about a place nicknamed “The End” and that features a bar called Liars’ Saloon? This quintessential self-proclaimed “drinking village with a fishing problem” has grown from a quaint seaside hamlet into an international destination for cruisers and anglers alike. There are countless marinas for transients from the fully equipped ones, complete with pools, on-site restaurants and the like to the more stripped down, do-it your-way type. It’s also a short 14-mile cruise from here out to Block Island, RI. Be sure to stop by the lighthouse and Salivar’s restaurant to check out the giant great white shark caught by the late Capt. Frank Mundus, who was said to be the inspiration for the character of Quint in the movie Jaws.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Cruising into Fort Lauderdale, FL, is worth the trip if only to tie up at 15th Street Fisheries dock and stop in for the cheddar bread. (It’s that good.) Of course, this 12-month boating community features a novel’s worth of other noteworthy seaside eateries. This area provides easy access to the ICW and Atlantic Ocean. In addition, in the event of a breakdown you can find any required marine service almost immediately. This is also a great jumping off point to shoot across the Stream to the Bahamas or down the coast to the Keys. It truly is one of the most boat-friendly towns around.
Roche Harbor, WA
It’s got orcas. That alone makes Roche Harbor, WA, an awesome place to visit with your yacht. From the spring throughout mid-fall, you can head out and view these amazing mammals. Of course, located on San Juan Island you can also enjoy amazing vistas of Puget Sound. Roche Harbor Marina can accommodate vessels up to 150 feet LOA. Once you’re tied up be sure to stretch those legs by taking a hiking tour on one of its many trails and through its historic lime quarries.