The Getaway
These Are the Best Boating Towns in the U.S.A.

People who enjoy boating say they love the freedom and the sense of adventure it provides. There aren't any traffic lights on the water and no defined roads you must follow like there are when you're behind the wheel of a car. The best way to enjoy your boating experiences to the fullest is to find the best boating towns in the country. These are places where there is a celebrated mariner culture, others who understand the lure of the water, and an array of boater-friendly services.


01 Santa Catalina Island, California

A Young Male Scuba Diver Begins a Dive at the Casino Point Underwater Park at Santa Catalina Island in California

White sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and warm waters are just a few of the idyllic gifts Mother Nature bestowed on this island. Santa Catalina lies about 22 miles off the California coast. Around 4000 people live and work here, so the small town vibes are strong. Community rules allow only 400 cars on the island at any time. Residents get around via golf carts, bicycles, mopeds, or walking. They share a love of the ocean and a healthier outdoor lifestyle, including recreational boating, fishing, and other water sports.


02 Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Colorado river at Lake Havasu City scenic mountainous summer landscape background. White buoys and boat silhouette in clean water. Vintage filter with muted blue green, earthy yellow and brown colours

People might be surprised to learn that Arizona is home to one of the most boater-friendly towns in the country, Lake Havasu City. Years ago, this was a top-rated spring break destination for students. But since then, things have settled down, although visitors will still find plenty of fun here, especially in the summer. The beautiful Lake Havasu provides 60 continuous miles of waterways, several launch ramps and marinas, and a lineup of restaurants, cafes, bars, and food stands. And boaters can access them via a water vessel. Travel the serene Bridgewater Channel through town, then under the London Bridge, and continue south to land at the city's popular sandy beaches. Enjoy year-round water events, including festivals, speedboat races, poker runs, jet ski racing, and more.


03 Annapolis, Maryland

A bucket of steamed blue crabs pulled from the Chesapeake Bay, with a marina in Annapolis, Maryland as a backdrop. Kevin Fleming / Getty Images

The port city of Annapolis stays connected to its maritime history and retains its kinship with seafarers, just as it did centuries ago. The city hosts several sailing events throughout the season and provides a safe harbor for all types of vessels. There are 12 full-service boatyards here, along with 18 marinas, a huge array of restaurants, and 533 miles of shoreline, making Annapolis a top-favorite boating destination for mariners.


04 Finger Lakes, New York

A beautiful sunrise on the shores of Lake Cayuga, Finger lakes region of New York state. A row boat sits on the side of a pier that leads out to a boat shelter and a deck for watching the sunrise.

Locals say life here revolves around the water. With 11 glistening lakes to choose from, it's easily understandable why this is a famous boating destination. And there are several boat-friendly towns in the region. Watkins Glen, on Seneca Lake, is the second-largest of the Finger Lakes and seems to have everything natural beauty, a state park, cascading waterfalls, and inspired hiking trails. The outstanding lakefront views in Trumansburg along the Cayuga Lake shoreline, along with the local wineries, galleries, and specialty shops, make it another great place to dock your vessel.


05 Naples, Florida

Dock and Boats overlooking Naples Bay area with condominiums and shops in background. TerryJ / Getty Images

With an abundance of lakes and canals in the area, Naples attracts lots of boat lovers to this paradise on the Gulf of Mexico. Long stretches of beach, parks, oceanfront resorts, a 35-acre coastal habitat and preserve, the Everglades, and gorgeous sunsets, come together to provide an adventure-filled destination for boaters. Fish for grouper and tripletail in the warm Gulf waters, or pack a lunch and head to a sandbar. Eight marinas around the city's shoreline provide water access. You'll also find an abundance of vacation rentals with private docks.


06 Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Boats beached from distance on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, USA, August 2010 Gary D Ercole / Getty Images

This peaceful, beautiful island has a rich maritime heritage, tying its residents to the same lifestyle and histories their families passed down. A popular saying in this community is that the waters in Vineyard Haven Harbor connect with all of the water in the rest of the world. Living in Martha's Vineyard is a seafaring way of life, and its residents are keen observers of its natural surroundings. Early risers say it isn't unusual to see the sun rising in the east and, at the same time, the moon setting in the west. The views of the coastline from the water are spectacular.


07 San Diego, California

Public Harbor With Recreational Boats And Lighthouse At The City of Oceanside, Calif. Ron and Patty Thomas / Getty Images

For mariners seeking year-round, boat-friendly weather, look no further than San Diego in Southern California. Boaters will find a huge selection of amenities geared toward life on the open water, including gorgeous beaches, protected dockage, bays teeming with wildlife, and more than 300 fishing and diving spots. A large number of people live on houseboats here, while others enjoy sailing up and down the California coast or into Mexico.


08 Portland, Maine

old docks and boats in Portland, Maine, USA Photo Italia LLC / Getty Images

The growing foodie culture is a huge draw for this coastal city, but the boating lifestyle is also expanding in new and exciting ways. People come here with the intention of an extended vacation aboard their boat and then decide to make it permanent. Many say that once they arrived here, they discovered a connection to the sea that they never realized they had. The area has more places to drop an anchor than most any other spot on the map. And, its enticing, explorable coastline provides opportunities for discovering new ones as well.


09 Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia, USA riverfront promenade at sunrise.

It's the oldest city in Georgia and brimming with connections to its history. The waterfront has always played a crucial role in Savannah's economic, cultural, and social beginnings. For Savannah boaters, the arrival of spring is a sign to get their sailing vessels and powerboats ready and back out on the water. There are lots of creeks, rivers, and sounds to explore here. Boat enthusiasts who don't own a seaworthy vessel will find a variety of riverboat cruises and boat tours to choose from.


10 Beaufort, North Carolina

Beaufort zrfphoto / Getty Images

For aspiring mariners, Beaufort is a dream destination. It's located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, a 3,000-mile route that runs along the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico. The city's marinas cater to recreational seafarers as well as experienced locals and seasonal visitors. True fans of seaworthy vessels will find a working boat-building facility here, the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. Hundreds of vessels anchor at the downtown docks, and marine stores sit next door to specialty shops and cafes in the downtown shopping area, further evidence that this is a sea lover's city.


11 Stonington, Connecticut

Connecticut: Mystic Seaport shunyufan / Getty Images

Four miles northeast of Fisher's Island, Stonington is a welcoming community for boating enthusiasts. This was once a manufacturing hub and a working-class community famous for its pottery, among other products. Today, yachts fill the harbor, and condos dot the shorelines. A beautiful harbor town, it's also an excellent boating base. Stonington is close to several day-trip destinations and excellent fishing locales. Off the water, explorers will discover a town filled with a varied mixture of eating establishments, boutiques, and shops.


12 Tampa, Florida

Colorful Tampa Florida skyline and bay littleny / Getty Images

The Sunshine State has 1,350 miles of coastline and a long list of great boating towns as well. Tampa-St. Petersburg is a destination for all levels of boating enthusiasts, from casual weekenders to luxury yacht owners and all levels in-between. Boating opportunities are everywhere, including fun and popular spots like Tampa Bay, Caladesi Island, and the Gulf of Mexico, where boat fans can test their nautical skills. Coastal businesses are plentiful here, providing easy waterside access to restaurants, gorgeous beaches, and more.


13 Charlevoix, Michigan

Sunset on Lake Charlevoix

No matter what size of watercraft you own, the fresh, crystal-clear lake waters around Charlevoix are among the best in the world. Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix provide endless opportunities for fishing, kayaking, and other water sports. Numerous marinas furnish full services for boat owners and rent water vessels to those who seek on-the-water experiences. The city's main marina is only about 100 yards from its walkable downtown area, where visitors will find unique galleries, boutiques, and specialty food products. Events like the Venetian Festival and Dragon Boat Festivals in July attract big crowds.


14 Mobile, Alabama

The Fairhope pier and Mobile Bay at sunset on the Alabama Gulf Coast George Dodd / Getty Images

With about 20 square miles of water area for every 100,000 residents, Mobile is a great boating town and an affordable place to live and own a boat. Plus, playing on the water is a way of life in this southern city. The area is home to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the largest river delta in the state and one of the largest in the country. Explore the waters and wetlands aboard a kayak, canoe, or airboat.


15 Brownsville, Texas

Alone on the beach earleliason / Getty Images

The town of Brownsville lies at the southernmost tip of the Lone Star State and borders the Gulf Coast. The area enjoys perfect boating weather, semi-tropical, with an average temperature of 74 degrees. Folks here tend to have more of a laid-back atmosphere, unlike many other parts of the state. Boaters often originate their sea journey on nearby South Padre Island and travel through the ship channel to Brownsville. Experts say it is one of the best cities for boat owners, not only due to its easy water access to the Gulf of Mexico, but also its low cost of living in comparison to other states like Florida.


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