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11 Best Boating Destinations For Your Next Weekend Escape

Marina Nazario | February 22, 2021

Boat Friendly Destinations In The United States.

America’s boating business is showing the strongest growth in over a decade. People crave a way to travel or get out of the house safely, and boating is the answer. Boating is one of the best ways to explore a destination. You get to experience a new place from a different perspective while enjoying the beaming sun and fresh air.

If you’re able to trailer your boat, more power to you. Otherwise, you can always charter a yacht or rent a boat at the destination. We gathered the 11 best boating destinations across the United States to help you plan your next weekend getaway or summer vacation. Pack a cooler and slather on sunscreen — the water is calling.

1. Block Island, Rhode Island

While you’re enjoying summer boating in New England, be sure to visit Block Island. The small island is about five miles long by three miles wide, with about 1,000 year-round residents. It has an old history dating back to 1524 and is known for its Victorian houses, beaches, lighthouses, and oysters. Block Island opens up during the summer, and boaters flock there to fish, cruise, or sail. Yet locals strive to keep the island underdeveloped and preserve its charming, coastal atmosphere. Trailer, rent, or charter a boat to enjoy Block Island and its calm waters.

Best boat to enjoy Block Island: Beneteau Oceanis 30.1

2. Hatteras, North Carolina

North Carolina’s Outer Banks is well known for incredible boating. Hatteras is a small fishing village known as the “Blue Marlin Capital of the World.” The shore’s proximity to where the cold waters of the Labrador Current collide with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream results in some of the East Coast’s largest waves. Hatteras, the shipbuilder (not the town), was established 60 years ago when founder Willis Slane envisioned a fishing boat that’s strong enough to tame the waves off Cape Hatteras. Charter a Hatteras in Hatteras to enjoy the best boating and fishing on the East Coast.

Best boat to enjoy Hatteras: Hatteras GT70

3. Mount Dora, Florida

When you think of boating in Florida, your mind may wander to the Keys, Miami, or Clearwater. But did you know that Florida has about 30,000 lakes? Lake County is in the middle of the state and boasts some of the best recreational boating in Florida. A chain of freshwater lakes is connected by miles of waterways and offers plenty of opportunity for spotting wildlife, freshwater fishing, watersports, and bar hopping. Mount Dora is the perfect small town to make your base as you explore Lake Dora, Lake Eustis, and the St. John’s River (the longest river in Florida). Oh, and mind the gators.

Best boat to enjoy Mount Dora: 35′ Monterey 2019

4. Nantucket, Massachusettes

Nantucket is about 26 miles south of Cape Cod, with an original history of being a whaling port (which you can learn about at the Whaling Museum). The island itself boasts a beautiful landscape with beaches, moors, salt marshes, and coastal dunes. The Nantucket Boat Basin is a great place to launch the boat to explore the Nantucket Sound. Plan a full day on the boat while stopping at other nearby harbors such as Martha’s Vineyard, Montauk, or Newport.

Best boat to enjoy Nantucket: 32′ Intrepid 2015

5. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

The Lake of the Ozarks is one of Missouri’s premier boating and lake resort destinations and it’s surrounded by two state parks and plenty of outdoor adventures. Lake of the Ozarks is home to world-class boating, golfing, and fishing, and offers a wide variety of lodging, hiking trails, and watersports. It’s a true summer boating destination with waterfront accommodations, restaurants, and entertainment venues. This midwestern escape can be as lively or as laid back as you want it to be.

Best boat to enjoy Lake of the Ozarks: Beneteau Gran Turismo 36

6. San Diego, California

A mild climate and steady winds make San Diego the ultimate place to get on the water. It’s a playground for all types of boating, whether you’re yachting, sailing, or racing. Pacific explorers first stepped foot in San Diego in 1542. As a favorable natural harbor, the city established itself in the boatbuilding, tuna fishing, and shipping industries. San Diego is an excellent destination for sailing or boating with plenty of charter, rental, dinner cruises, sport fishing, scuba diving excursions, whale watching, and other ocean outings.

Best boat to enjoy San Diego: Excess 15 Catamaran

7. Mackinac Island, Michigan

Create a quick map of the mitten state by holding up your left hand, palm facing out, and sticking out your thumb. The tip of your middle finger is Mackinac Island. It’s a small island in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. You can only get around Mackinac Island by horse and buggy, bicycle, or foot. But boaters flock there because it’s the perfect hub for cruising, sailing, kayaking, watersports, and fishing (in the summer months, of course).

Best boat to enjoy Mackinac Island: 57′ Carver 2001

8. Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is a boater’s paradise, especially from October to April when temperatures are cool and comfortable. Enjoy all of the snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and fishing that you can on a boating trip to the Keys. Key West is one of the best Florida yacht charter destinations and an excellent spot for snorkeling through colorful coral reefs and watching incredible sunsets. If you’re boating around Key Largo, stop at Ocean Reef Club for lunch, golfing, or relaxing by the pool.

Best boat to enjoy the Florida Keys: Bertram 39 CC

9. Charleston, South Carolina

Beaches, harbors, rivers, and tidal creeks make Charleston a unique boating destination. Launch the boat at one of the ramps and explore the South Carolina coastline. Bohicket Marina, between Kiawah and Seabrook, offers about 200 wet slips and a walkable market with restaurants, bars, and shops. Stop there for lunch before continuing on a scenic boat ride around Charleston.

Best boat to enjoy Charleston: 62′ Vicem 2006

10. San Francisco, California

San Francisco has an active sailing community thanks to its location in the middle of the Pacific Coast. Join the assembly of boaters who enjoy San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the coastal towns of Northern California. When you’re boating in San Francisco, be sure to stop in Sausalito, where you’ll find incredible restaurants, quirky architecture, and an active houseboat community. “The Cool, Grey City of Love,” as coined by George Sterling, is one of America’s most attractive, colorful, and distinct places to boat.

Best boat to enjoy San Francisco: Beneteau Oceanis 50.1

11. Chicago, Illinois

As the gateway to the Great Lakes, Chicago offers some incredible boating. Cruise up and down the Chicago River or take a spin around Montrose Harbor. Chicago has plenty of municipal marinas that provide access to the busy downtown area. Otherwise, drop the anchor and enjoy the Windy City’s skyline from Lake Michigan.

Best boat to enjoy Chicago: 58′ Tiara 2009

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