Yachting’s 2012 Best Towns

And Without Further Ado…

June 19, 2012

Boothbay, ME

Jennifer Ross

Once you have chosen your favorite, cast your vote here!

**Marblehead, MA**** **

With more than three times the nominations of any other place, the residents of this small nautical town have a lot of passion. This 4.5-square-mile peninsula separates Salem Harbor from Massachusetts Bay. Located just 12 miles north of Boston, it feels a world away with a slower pace and a much lower volume.


Marblehead is considered by local historians to be the birthplace of the United States Navy, and it played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. The residents’ pride for their town’s service in the Revolution is still strong and hard not to notice. Walk a hundred yards from one of Marblehead’s many marinas and you will immediately spot signs of the town’s Colonial past. From narrow and winding roads that form a web throughout the town, to the red brick storefronts built to fit the roads, Marblehead still has the authentic feel of Colonial America.

Making a living from the sea is another tradition that Marblehead has yet to surrender. With some of New England’s best fishing available right in its backyard, there are many local fishermen, which benefits Driftwood, The Landing, The Barnacle and other seafood restaurants.

Youth sailing programs have a serious tradition here as well. “We start our sailors young with formal lessons at 6 years old and races (in the summer) on Wednesdays and Saturdays,” wrote Sandy Maio in her nomination letter.


“There are probably more moorings in the Marblehead Harbor than parking spaces downtown,” Maio pointed out. “That tells you our priority.” If you haven’t figured it out by now, these guys_ really_ love boating.

Steeped in yachting tradition as solid as the granite boulders that encase this peninsula, all it takes is one visit and you too may want to settle in Marblehead.

_Boothbay, ME___


Boothbay Harbor bills itself as “The Boating Capital of New England.” This deep-water harbor in Maine’s midcoast region is home to countless sailboats, fishing boats and several dozen excursion vessels for exploring the region, which may be most famous as home of the Friendship Sloop, Maine’s original lobster boat and an enduring design.

Balmy Days Cruises on Pier 8 can take you on a harbor tour or an hour and a half trip that takes in Southport Island, Capitol Island, Mouse Island, Ram Island Light and Burnt Island Light. It also offers outings to Monhegan Island, famous as an artist’s colony, about a dozen miles offshore. (If you can stay a night and want to splurge, the grand, old Island Inn on Monhegan is well worth the trip.)

Whale-watching and seal-watching cruises, Atlantic puffin excursions and fishing charters are available through Cap’n Fish and Capt. Ron’s cruises in Boothbay Harbor, and you can also rent kayaks and explore the shore more personally. But if you came by boat you may be ready to simply wander the streets full of weathered charm and explore some dining, shopping and land-based day trips.


Get a seat on the roof terrace at Boat House Bistro Tapas Lounge & Restaurant. Its name is too long, but the view is fantastic and the food, as the name suggests, is locally influenced international cuisine that’s top-notch. The Lobster Dock is good for the region’s specialty, and if you want something different, try the Tugboat Inn Restaurant, which serves great, basic food in — yes — a setting that’s part tugboat. (Try the blueberry pie.)

Historic Bath and the Maine Maritime Museum make a great side trip; the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is a dramatic beauty; Damariscotta is an incredibly charming town; and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland has an impressive collection of Homers, Wyeths and other Maine-inspired artists.

If you drop in to Boothbay Harbor, you’re likely to find more than enough here to fill a vacation — or a lifetime.

Sidney, BC

Welcome signs announce that you are entering Sidney-by-the-Sea, a charming little city on the Saanich Peninsula at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Guarded by the Gulf Islands on the Canadian side of the Salish Sea and the San Juan Islands on the American side, Sidney treats its residents to stunning views of the Cascade Mountains in British Columbia and the Olympic Mountains on the eponymous peninsula in Washington State. Modern, friendly marinas and a nearly endless variety of destinations among the islands, as well as the mainland, make this place an irresistible home port.

Boating here can be tricky, especially for sailboats that don’t have auxiliary power. The islands play games with tidal currents, which often run at more than 5 knots, so the helmsman has to pay close attention. Swirls and eddies are common. On the other hand, if you know what you’re doing, the challenge can be electrifying and the scenic rewards beyond comparison.

Although residents may catch a ride aboard one of the whale-watching boats, they can also take their own boats to the Gulf Islands north of Sidney in the Georgia Strait and watch for themselves. The city is a hub of fishing for salmon, cod, snapper, halibut, sole, crab and shrimp.

Of course, you don’t have to venture into the big waters, because boaters can depart Sidney to easily explore a wide variety of coves, inlets, marine parks and other sheltered waters. Paddling a kayak is a popular and exciting way to get close to the spectacular wooded islands.

No wonder folks who live in Sidney don’t want to leave.

_ Annapolis, MD_

At the literal and metaphorical center of Chesapeake Bay lies Annapolis. It’s home to nearly a dozen marinas that all put you in the center of the city, but the Annapolis Yacht Basin places you directly in the aorta. Depending on which slip you get, you may be only feet away from bustling Main Street. High-speed fuel pumps,
Wi-Fi access and immaculate amenities make for a comfortable extended stay.

There are plenty of dining options within walking distance too. Café Normandie and Luna Blu Ristorante Italiano have both received high praise for their ability to deliver both European ambience and flavor. If a bucket of blue crab claws and cold beer is more your speed, you’ve come to the right place. Cantler’s Riverside Inn and Mike’s Crab House are popular local spots.

For those who arrive in this port under power, the schooner Woodwind cruises provide a breath of fresh air while you pass a backdrop of lighthouses and the setting sun. There are always cultural offerings and, of course, the U.S. Naval Academy.

Annapolis has managed to blend 21st century amenities with 17th century charm.

Charleston, SC

When cruising the East Coast by way of either the Atlantic Ocean or the Intracoastal Waterway, the first impression of any destination is formed as the horizon melts away and the silhouette of the port appears.

Your first impression of Charleston will be that you have traveled back in time 300 years. The large, colorful mansions circa 1700s that line the city’s coast will have you scrambling for your camera. And you haven’t even been ashore yet!

Charleston welcomes every mariner but it specializes in accommodating large yachts. From wide channels and spacious marinas to 100-amp shore power and dockside concierge service, you will receive five-star service here.

When venturing in to town, travel by foot because there is so much to see that might be missed from a car. Antique shops, restaurants, taverns and museums inside shells of buildings a century old or more dot the street. While never a smart fashion statement, stretchy pants may be the best option when dining here. French, Creole and African traditions have blended together to form a unique gastronomic culture. Whether your preferred setting involves a dozen utensils or a waterside tavern, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any restaurant in the Low Country that doesn’t serve fresh seafood.

A town rich in flavor, beauty and history, Charleston transports you back in time. The question is will you ever want to rejoin 2012?

Beaufort, NC

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,, 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. (

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. (

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 ( 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?

Portsmouth, NH

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, RI

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.

Montauk, NY

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.

Block Island, RI

Beautiful is a good place to start when describing Block Island. Thirteen miles south of mainland Rhode Island and 14 miles east of Long Island’s Montauk Point, it stands in stark contrast to both of those places. While only made up of approximately 10 square miles of land, Block has a lot to offer. Free white sandy beaches are just miles away from towering bluffs and water so clear you’ll want to drink it. Nominated as “one of the 12 last great places in the Western Hemisphere,” by the Nature Conservancy, the island has received many famous visitors. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton have all vacationed there. The most infamous visitor to the Island was the notorious pirate, Captain Kidd, who is said to have buried treasure somewhere on the island, which is helpful knowledge if you’re trying to keep the kids entertained.

Muskegon, MI

Muskegon is adjacent to Lake Michigan on the west and Muskegon Lake to the north. The 10 marinas here boast upwards of 3,000 slips. Known for some of the best beaches in Michigan, Pere Marquette Beach is the crown gem of this town. Its natural white sand beach and cool clear water has attracted many professional beach volleyball tournaments. The immaculate condition of the beach has earned it a spot on the Clean Beaches Council’s “certified clean beaches” list. Michigan’s Adventure Amusement and Water Park is a popular local attraction for younger people.

Port Washington, NY

Location and accessibility to a port is a pivotal component in this competition and Port Washington has that. Just 17 miles from New York City, this nautical Long Island town has been welcoming city dwellers by train, car, boat and ferry since the 1750s. The town rose to prominence in the 1800s with the growth of the shell-fishing industry but when that business slowed; the town used its natural beauty and convenient location to attract tourism. Free beaches and summer concerts, art galleries, a nautical museum and antique shops make this a great town to walk around. Should you tire of walking, a stagecoach or trolley ride is a great way to take a stroll through the town’s history.

The Florida Keys

This 800-island archipelago located off of the southeastern tip of Florida is commonly referred to as America’s Caribbean. With turquoise waters, top-end marinas and fishing opportunities to spare, this destination lives up to its nickname.

The third largest living coral reef in the world and the largest in the United States, the Keys attract divers who enjoy shipwrecks, underwater canyons and crystal-clear turquoise water.

If a 60-foot sportfisherman screaming through the keys in pursuit of mahi-mahi is your idea of paradise well they have that too. The Keys are a breeding ground for sailfish and giant tuna. If you are looking to fish on a charter boat, Key West, Marathon and Islamadora have the most available.

With tons of restaurants and family-friendly activities, the Keys are a must-visit destination.

St. Augustine, FL

Located at the northeast corner of Florida, St. Augustine is the oldest occupied European settlement in the United States. Having changed hands from the Spanish, English and ultimately The United States, its incredible architecture reflects its diverse heritage. While it hardly seems like something to brag about, St. Augustine is home to the narrowest street in the United States. Measuring just seven feet across, connecting Bay Street to the Royal Spanish Treasury, it was designed to prevent horse-drawn carriages from riding up and robbing the treasury. History buffs with an interest in the civil rights movement will be in for a treat when touring the publicly funded freedom trail, which includes stops at the first school for African Americans and later became the first museum for African Americans.

Beaufort, SC

Pronounced like “beautiful” it will be easy to remember once you’ve been there. This town is stunning. Located 40 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, it’s just 10 miles away from the U.S. Marine Corps. training facility at Parris Island. The rigorous training done at this facility is the antithesis of life in Beaufort. Horse-drawn carriages and colorful mansions covered in Spanish moss and property graced by giant oaks and weeping willows, will make you reach for your camera every few minutes. A movie buff can spend an afternoon touring where the movies Forest Gump, The Big Chill, GI Jane and Platoon were filmed. Golfers can also find paradise at upwards of ten pristine courses. Aside from the array of attractions that are too many to mention, you will be treated to the charm of southern hospitality, which makes this a first-class destination.

Coronado, CA

Sometimes referred to as Coronado Island, this peninsula is only five miles from downtown San Diego and is a quintessential West Coast yachting destination. Featuring beaches that are regarded as some of the best in the country and nearly year-round sunshine it is no mystery why Coronado is an appealing port of call. Biking down the 15-mile coastal bike path is one of the best options for taking in the sights while covering a lot of ground. Rentals are centrally located at the ferry landing, with additional locations in town. There are dozens of shops, restaurants and art galleries here, but it’s the view at sunset that attracts people in droves. A quiet dinner at the dock is the best way to enjoy the San Diego skyline.

Santa Cruz, CA

Centrally located on California’s coast and 72 miles south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is a watersports paradise. Every year thousands make the trek to this beach community to scuba dive, swim, wind surf and especially surf. The world’s best surfers regularly visit and compete on this shore’s 11 world-renowned breaks. When visitors are not in the water, they can usually be found on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Created in 1907 (the same year the first issue of YACHTING hit newsstands), it is California’s oldest surviving amusement park. It’s a throwback to a simpler time where old school carnival games are comingled with newer attractions like roller coasters and laser tag. A beautiful town on the water Santa Cruz is great for young people or the young at heart.

Santa Barbara, CA

Better know by its nickname, The American Riviera, Santa Barbara has a fair climate year-round similar to that of the Mediterranean. The Santa Ynez Mountains towering over the flat coast also contribute to this illusion. Aside from watersports and the beautiful beaches California is known for, this is one of the best places on the West Coast to go whale watching. Nearly 30 species of whales and dolphins travel in the Santa Barbara channel every year. You can use your boat or if you wish to be the guest of a local guide, charters are available. An even more popular attraction in Santa Barbara are the different species, err, types of wine. With upwards of 100 different wineries you’ll have plenty to choose from.

Victoria, British Columbia

The capital city of British Columbia, Victoriais the oldest city in Canada’s southwestern corner, and boasts architecture to prove it. The British Columbia Parliament buildings built in 1897 and the Empress hotel built in 1908 are two of the oldest buildings that are a must-see. Known as “The City of Gardens” a short trip to Beacon Hill Park will explain the name. Acres and acres of immaculately groomed flowers and shrubbery, will impress even the saltiest of sailors. The cooler climate andabundant natural beauty make Victoria an ideal location for outdoor activities such as hiking and golf. Cycling has also exploded in popularity in Victoria with hundreds of miles of bike paths, lanes and routes sprouting up throughout the city.

Mystic, CT

The Mystic Seaport is a must-see attraction for seafaring enthusiasts. It’s a living history museum that offers visitors a look into the 19th-century maritime history of New England via its village, ships, educational programs and more ( If that’s not enough to fill your day, check out the Mystic Aquarium and its Titanic exhibit, the beluga whales or even the penguins. Several marinas such as Seaport Marine, Mystic Seaport and Mystic River Marina all have myriad amenities for visiting boaters.

Camden, ME

Did you know that Maine features 68 lighthouses? About one-third of those boater-friendly beacons reside within about 40 miles of Camden. If that isn’t enough to make you point your vessel’s bow north, this area also sports an apparently endless array of nooks and crannies for gunkholing enthusiasts to explore. If you’re more of a traditionalist, then try taking a cruise around Penobscot Bay (NOAA Chart 13305). Once you arrive, there’s a cornucopia of dining choices, shops and galleries to occupy your shore time.

Cape May, NJ

Located at the bottom of The Garden State, Cape May offers a wide, easy-to-navigate inlet, with several marinas such as South Jersey Marina and the Canyon Club offering transient slips for cruisers and anglers alike just a stone’s throw from open water. A short walk from the Canyon Club is the Lobster House, which is a great local seafood eatery. This spot also hosts several big-game tournaments during the summer, including the Viking-Ocean Showdown and the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 marlin tournament, which draws about 140 teams per year. If you like fudge, saltwater taffy and white sand beaches, Cape May has all of that too. (And be sure to stop by Congress Hall for dinner at The Blue Pig Tavern and breakfast at Uncle Bills.)

Greenport, NY

This protected, deep-water area on Long Island’s north shore was once a major East Coast whaling port. It also served as a hub for the area’s oyster industry. You can learn all about this and more after you tie up by visiting Greenport’s Maritime Museum (3rd Street and the Shelter Island Ferry Dock). Several marinas, such as Brewer’s Stirling Harbor, Claudio’s, Townsend Manor and Mitchel Park can handle vessels up to 200 feet LOA. A plethora of shops, restaurants and marine-related services are within a short walk or bike ride from your vessel.

_**Point Peasant, NJ **_

September may be the month you want to drop into this Jersey-shore town. That’s when Point Pleasant holds its annual Festival of the Sea, which has been going strong since 1975. Crab cakes, paella, shrimp and more are available to satisfy your seafood itch. Located on the easily accessible Manasquan Inlet, there are numerous marinas ( to tie up to for the day, week orseason. For anglers, there are lots of opportunities for both inshore and offshore species. An armada of bait-and-tackle shops is found nearby for gathering the latest reports and picking up the necessary gear. If you’re looking for some fun shore-side, there is an active boardwalk in Point Pleasant, which offers amusements, a dizzying selection of food choices, nightlife and even an aquarium.

Newburyport, MA

Halfway between Gloucester and Portsmouth and two miles into the Merrimack River lies the stunningly beautiful city of Newburyport. Charcterized by an abundanceof New England charm, the town is full of quaint shops and local businesses. With over 30 restaurants all within walking distance of the harbor, Newburyport is the perfect stop for foodies. While there are an array of restaurants and options, sidewalk and waterfront dinning are popular choices during the summer. If a romantic dining experience is on your menu, just follow the light; the lighthouse that is. Atop of the Newburyport Rear Range Lighthouse is an impressive restaurant, which was designated the most romantic and exclusive restaurant in New England by Phantom Gourmet. A great way to get the most out of your visit to Newburyport is to traverse its flat roads by bicycle, with rentals available at two locations in town. Pedal to the outskirts of town and you will find yourself surrounded by local farms and farm stands. Their huge array of fresh fruits and vegetables, which you can pick yourself, offers cruisers a great stop to restock during a trip.

Edgartown, MA

Make port in this pre-revolutionary whaling community of Edgartown and you will realize that the community has’t lost touch with its heritage. A town best seen on foot, century-old captains’ houses line the streets. Built in 1692, the Vincent house, which is the town’s oldest home, stands as a monument to early American architecture. Walk down the historic roads at night after the street lamps come on, and look at the many homes with widow’s walks in a different light and you will feel as if you traveled back in time. The Old Whaling Church, which was built in 1843 with six massive pillars in front, is as much a landmark today as it was when it was built. The church has since been transformed into a performing arts theatre.

Stonington, CT

Close proximity to open water is as important to today’s yachtsman as it was to the first American settlers. Founded in 1649, this nautical town in eastern Connecticut is on the border of Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Besides its location, it is also exceptionally beautiful, which has earned it the honorary title as the jewel of Connecticut’s coast. This real estate is so exceptional that Great Britain tried to take it, twice, once during the revolutionary war and again during the war of 1812. During the War of 1812, four British warships had the town surrounded and demanded full surrender. The town sent a famous note back to the British, which read, “We shall defend the place to the last extremity; should it be destroyed, we shall perish in its ruins.” This passion and pride for the community resonates today. Boasting more than 400 moorings in the harbor as well as Dodson’s Boat Yard and Stonington Harbor Yacht Club, the town’s priority is boating. While in town, be sure to take a walking tour to learn more about its famed history and visit the Stonington lighthouse, which was the first lighthouse established by the federal government.

Rockland, ME

Easily accessible via Penobscot Bay, Rockland epitomizes everything Maine has become known for; from cool, clear water and a rugged coastline set against a backdrop of mountains to a minefield of lobster traps. While there are many locations along Maine’s rugged coast that boast great lobster, Rockland truly goes crazy over the crustaceans. Its five-day Maine Lobster Festival in August features live jazz, reggae, blues and Celtic performances, kids events, cooking contests and, of course, lots of lobster. There is even a 10k road race to help you burn off all that extra butter.

Astoria, OR

Astoria claims to be the oldest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains and got its name from John Jacob Astor, the so-called fur baron who established the fur-trading Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia in 1810. His Pacific Fur Company failed in 1813, and he sold the trading business and fort to the British. At one point in the town’s history, it was home to about a dozen fish canneries, the birthplace of Bumblebee Seafood and the tuna sandwich. This town of about 10,000 souls also was an important deep-water port and continues to serve as a trading center for the lower Columbia River Valley. Astoria suffered when the fishing and lumber industries slowed in the 1980s and the mills and canneries closed. This left the waterfront desolate. Now, the town’s industrial buildings have been renovated to serve the growing number of tourists, and the refurbished piers play host to cruise ships. The town’s industrial history, burgeoning artist’s community and stunning location bode well for the future.

Anacortes, WA

Located halfway between Seattle and Vancouver B.C., Anacortes is a must-visit on your way to or from the famously beautiful San Juan Islands. A quintessential yachting town, one of the more popular attractions in Anacortes is whale watching, as it is the home port to three pods of orcas.

Popular activities include fishing, crabbing and kayaking. If a long voyage at sea has you craving dry land, then perhaps one of the many hiking trails may be your adventure of choice. Just 10 miles from downtown Anacortes is Deception Pass State Park, which consists of 4,134 acres of rich wildlife and sprawling ancient trees. Make sure you bring your camera if you hike across the 77-year-old Deception Pass Bridge, which is one of the most photographed places in Washington State, and for good reason.

Bayfield, WI

Bayfield’s official website asks, “How far away is Bayfield?” The answer is “Just far enough.” This tiny town — about a single square mile in physical size and populated with fewer than 600 fulltime residents, as of the 2010 census — dozes on a hillside overlooking Lake Superior and the lovely Apostle Islands. It feels a bit like a New England waterfront town, and being just far enough away means you won’t find any strip malls or drive-through meals. During the summer, residents and visitors stroll the streets to visit the shops and restaurants. Its location at the mouth of Chequamegon Bay gives its boating public quick access to the open lake and all of the Apostles, and anyone who doesn’t own a boat may book a cruise among the islands on one of the tour boats or join a guided tour of the sea caves by kayak. Fishing and sailing are popular among the permanent population and seasonal visitors. Early in October, the town celebrates apples. The annual Apple Festival attracts about 60,000 visitors.

Nantucket, MA

The island of Nantucket lies about 30 miles south of Cape Cod and has one of the richest whaling histories in all of New England. Its many beaches tempt folks to linger far longer than they’d planned. The Nantucket Historic District, comprising the entire island, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 13, 1966. The island features one of the highest concentrations of pre-Civil War structures in the United States and the oldest operating windmill (since 1746). It was the setting for the hit NBC sitcom “Wings.” The Wampanoag Native Americans who lived there called the island Canopache, which means “place of peace.” Could this be why Nantucket has attracted a large summer colony and thousand of tourists? In summer, the population soars from about 10,000 to 50,000. Regular and persistent fog earned hernthe moniker The Gray Lady. Nantucket also is known for its shoals, so yachtsmen of all stripes have to pay attention to their charts, plotters and sounders. As you’d expect of a tourist destination, the island has its share of great restaurants. Black-Eyed Susan’s on India Street is one of those. Its unique cuisine has captivated residents and visitors, and during the season, expect long lines almost every evening.

Port Charlotte, FL

Port Charlotte, at the northern end of the Charlotte Harbor Estuary on Florida’s “quiet” west coast, is a subtropical paradise for anyone who loves boating in its many varieties. The summers are long, hot and humid with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. The winters are mild to warm with a pronounced drop in precipitation. It’s near enough to Punta Gorda to be a rival for best boating town on the Gulf Coast.

Charlotte Harbor is the second largest open-water estuary in Florida and has about 830 miles of coastline. Residents and visitors could spend days exploring the peaceful coves and bays or fishing. Anglers may choose deep-sea fishing in the Gulf or back-bay and flats fishing. The area is home to tarpon, snook, redfish, barracuda, cobia and grouper. Paddlers have hundreds of miles of Blueway trails to experience, starting with the Peace and Myakka rives and out to the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Islands. What’s not to love?

Harbor Springs, MI

Perched on the shore of Little Traverse Bay in northern Michigan, Harbor Springs kind of hugs its residents — and visitors — with the warmth of a favorite aunt. No wonder; it’s only 1.3 square miles in area, has utterly charming 19th century architecture and the friendliest of residents. The town’s short coastal plain gives way to a bluff that rises maybe 300 feet above the harbor and the view from that height takes in the Little Traverse Lighthouse, Walstrom Marine, Petoskey State Park and Lake Michigan beyond. The water off Harbor Springs forms the deepest natural harbor in all the Great Lakes and it changes color to match the subtle hues of the sky.

The town of about 2,000 full-time residents harbors two vastly differing but equally attractive restaurants: Mary Ellen’s Place and New York. Mary Ellen Hughes bought the newsstand that occupied the building in 1988 and turned it into the breakfast and lunch restaurant it is today. She works the restaurant every day, and her bright smile and easy manner no doubt encourage year-round residents of Harbor Springs and summer folks to visit often. At the New York, on State Street, chef and owner Matt Bugera offers his traditional house-made soups, fresh whitefish and prime steaks in a setting that recalls the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His wine cellar contains about 300 varieties, and the food is as good as you’ll find anywhere. Ahh, good people, fine food and a great cruising ground keep the residents and visitors smiling.

Crisfield, MD

Located on the Chesapeake Bay off Tangier Sound near the mouth of the Annemessex River, and bordered to the south by the Pocomoke River, Crisfield enjoys the reputation of being “The Crab Capital of the World.” More important, it’s the home of Chesapeake Boats Inc., likely the only shop building deadrise boats, stock designs and custom, of wood for work and play. This little city of about 2,700 folks exudes Revolutionary era ambience. It’s nearly 300 years old and has served as a haven for working watermen during its entire history. Although fishing for blue crab and dredging for oysters have declined, the fishery still supports a small commercial fleet. Any town that has drawn its livelihood from the water attracts tourists, and a significant portion of Crisfield’s economy comes from tourism and seasonal residents. Few towns are able to retain their cultural heritage under the pressure of 21st century technology and economy, but Crisfield has. It appears in the buildings, streetscapes, residential communities, churches, landscape and the faces of the people that live and work in the area.

Crisfield has a protected harbor, and many crabbers and oystermen bring in their catches to seafood packing plants in the area. The downtown rests directly on the waterfront, where a large city pier offers visitors a chance to experience the true flavor of the Crisfield. The municipal wharf and much of the town that rests on the shoreline is built on a foundation of oyster shells. Somers Cove Marina is the largest state-owned marina in Maryland and has 485 slips, a large pavilion, a hotel, swimming pool, comfort stations, laundry facilities, three launching ramps and a shuttle service. Crisfield may be the quintessential Chesapeake town.

Amelia Island, FL

Nestled like the period at the bottom of an exclamation point Amelia Island is the southernmost of the Sea Islands chain, which stretches from South Carolina to Florida. It’s only 13 miles long and 4 miles wide at its broadest, but it packs all the charm of old Florida in its small area. Amelia Island’s appeal as a tourist destination and retreat for folks who spend the winter hiding from cruel northern climes doesn’t detract from its small-town ambience. Everyone gets to enjoy the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival; the jazz, chamber music and blues festivals; and the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, one of premier charitable automotive events in North America. The Isle of Eight Flags refers to the variety of flags that have flown over the island since 1562: France, Spain (twice), Great Britain, Patriots of Amelia Island, Green Cross of Florida, Mexico, Confederate States of America, and the United States. Fernandina Beach is the largest municipality on the island and is the home of a newly renovated city marina. The area has new docks, a new welcome center with all the amenities a cruising yachtsman needs, and the city dredged the marina’s basin to a depth that leaves six feet of water at mean low tide. This new facility combined with the cultural variety makes Amelia Island a must-stop and a wonderful place to live.

Darien, GA

Anyone who has even a spark of romance in his soul, can’t help but fall in love with Darien. It is one of the jewels of the low country between Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida, and has earned the credit for coining the term “Golden Isles.” Located near the mouth of the Altamaha River, Darien offers an unexcelled view of one of the most important tidal estuarine environments anywhere. This quiet little town isn’t very far from the open Atlantic Ocean, but you have to know where you’re going or trust your GPS, because at high tide the variety of tortuous meanders off the river are like a maze. In many places, you have to get out before low tide sets your boat on the bottom. Darien’s economy depends mostly on shrimping, and in the spring, the town stages a blessing of the fleet, which draws residents and visitors to Waterfront Park. The area is great for birding in the Altamaha State Waterfowl Management area or Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge, both of which require a boat to reach. You may visit Fort King George (Revolutionary War period) and the Butler Plantation rice fields. Darien is a paradise for naturalists who also love boating.

San Francisco, CA

From San Francisco, a yachtsman may cruise for weeks without exhausting the area’s variety of stopovers — Sausalito, Alameda, Oakland and Redwood City — and interesting backwaters. A total of fifteen rivers — the two largest of which are the Sacramento and San Joaquin, which form the delta of the same name — and creeks drain into the Bay, and many of these are navigable for a substantial distance inland. This city earned its fame from many things — the Gold Rush in 1848, devastating earthquake of 1906, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, “Summer of Love” countercultural movement of the 1960s, great music and seafood — but yachtsmen love it for the challenge of boating on the Bay. The hills, mountains and large bodies of water in the Bay area create a significant variety of microclimates. Near the Pacific Ocean, variations in temperature are slight during throughoutthe year, so foggy and cool summers followed by mild and rainy winters are the norm. Inland, the temperatures in summer can be as much as 40 degrees warmer than on the coast. This causes strong pressure gradients and brisk winds, and when the wind blows through gaps in the coastal mountain ranges, it picks up speed — a boon tot stalwart sailors on the Bay. Currents, too, run swiftly, especially as the tide ebbs and floods through the narrow Golden Gate. The unusual climate, varied waters and Mediterranean ambience of San Francisco touch a yachtsman’s soul.

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