Being with my parents who had a 17’ Boston Whaler. I was probably four or five years old, and we were fishing for redfish and trout. My dad gave me a rod with an artificial lure and taught me how to cast. I don’t think he expected that I would catch a fish — but I did — a 13-inch trout!
If you could spend a day on the water with anyone, who would it be?
Other than my family, it would probably be Michael Jordan. From what I hear he is a pretty serious fisherman, and he also has a famous 80’ Viking Sportfish, Catch 23, that I would love to see and fish aboard.
What is the top attraction you recommend to visitors in your area?
If a boater comes to visit us, one of the first places we send them is across the street to Palmetto Dunes, which offers a wide range of activities such as golf, tennis, pickleball and bike trails.
Where is your favorite body of water to anchor and relax?
My favorite place used to be in a creek behind Bull Island, but I’ve recently been spending a lot of time in Mackay Creek exploring the north end of the island.
If you didn’t work at a marina, what would be your dream job?
It’s hard to imagine not working at a marina, but if I had to choose another occupation it would involve water and boats. I would probably go into yacht sales.
What book do you believe every boater should read and why?
I would recommend The American Practical Navigator. It’s a great book to read if you’re starting to learn about navigating in open water. I think every boat should have one onboard. Describe the perfect meal.
What would you eat and where would you go?
My idea of the perfect meal is sashimi and ceviche as an appetizer followed by a thick-cut ribeye steak topped with lobster and béarnaise sauce, a Caesar salad and a baked potato.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you while boating or working at the marina?
Boating around Hilton Head Island, you are almost guaranteed to see a dolphin every time you go out. A year or so ago, I decided to take my dog on the boat for the first time. He was great at all points of the trip except when we saw dolphins. He would get so excited and just jump out of the boat anytime we saw them. Needless to say, he hasn’t been back on the boat much after that.
What is the nicest compliment a boater said about your marina?
Our most frequent compliment and the one I am most proud of is our exceptional customer service. Everyone on my team takes pride in going above and beyond for guests that stop into our marina.
Between the Rosario Strait (along mainland Washington State) and Haro Strait (bordering Vancouver Island) is an archipelago called the San Juan Islands. These islands are a hot spot destination for delicious food, rugged coastlines and beautiful water. The largest island, Orcas, is the ultimate outdoors getaway to experience the pristine natural landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.
The main town on the island, Eastsound, has everything you need, from a supermarket to watersports and bike rentals and waterfront views from the heart of downtown. Arguably the most popular destination on the island is Moran State Park, which aside from the 30+ miles of hiking trails and multiple freshwater lakes, also encompasses Mount Constitution, the highest point on the island. At 2,409 feet, Mount Constitution also has an observation tower at the summit built more than 100 years ago.
From the tower, hikers can feast their eyes on stunning water vistas, the rest of the San Juan Islands and even a few cities in Canada.
Yet another state park on the island, Obstruction Pass State Park is one of the few places on the island with an accessible public beach, located a half-mile from the trail head. Make a point to explore off island in the surrounding waters. The islands are a stunning natural habitat. Fishing and wildlife tours, including whale watches where you’re likely to see orcas, bring visitors closer to the endemic aquatic life.
The island has a strong community culture, accessible through the farmers’ market at the Eastsound Village Green, art galleries and studios speckling the island, and the Orcas Island Historical Museum. The historical society relocated six original homestead cabins to the new location in Eastsound, which also holds more than 6,000 artifacts, documents and photos.
The arts scene is encapsulated in two centers for the arts on the island. Orcas Island Artworks in Olga is a co-op of 45 island-based crafts people. Orcas Center is the performing arts venue that produces more than 40 shows a year.
Located on the southwest side of Orcas Island, this full-service marina is an ideal stop for transients as it provides moorings, amenities, a fuel dock and The Barge Gift Shop. The marina is close to attractions, hotels and dining options.
A family-owned full-service marina complete with dry storage and a repair crane. Close to the Turtleback Mountain Preserve, it’s the largest marina on the island and open year-round with six transient spaces.
Brandt’s Landing Marina
One of the few marinas located on the north side of the island, Brandt’s offers family-run services. A canal was excavated to form this marina, which is a good location to explore the northern San Juan Islands and Canadian Gulf Islands.
The Mansion Restaurant at Rosario Resort & Spa is tucked away on a woodland peninsula. Enjoy the menu of local seafood and produce in a dining room overlooking Cascade Bay. Check out the Moran Lounge in the mansion’s original living room and Cascade Bay Grill & Store overlooking the marina.
Traditional French techniques and dishes are married with local ingredients at the cozy cafe in Eastsound. The two partner bakers are graduates of the San Francisco Baking Institute and churn out small batches all day to ensure freshness.
Crystal River is a cool Florida destination to explore. With nicknames like “Water Lovers’ Paradise” and “Home of the Manatee,” we might also add “Boaters’ Dream.” This is Old Florida, with southern hospitality, deep history, fun watersports, classic seafood shacks — not just broad sandy beaches, though they have those, too. Crystal River is teeming with wildlife, parks and preserves, and a myriad of interconnected waterways stretching seven miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
Most Great Loopers and pleasure boaters cut the corner and skip this special section of Florida’s Gulf Coast due to its challenging shallow navigation. But intrepid captains willing to venture up the Crystal River are in for a real treat. These waterways are U.S. Coast Guard marked for navigation and a sanctuary in winter for over 1,000 manatees munching on the abundance of healthy seagrass.
A convenient way to boat the inlets of beautiful Citrus County is to trailer your own boat or rent one to explore Crystal River, Ozello Keys and Homosassa just south. We enjoyed 72 hours in Crystal River, exploring the waterways, meeting manatees, touring lush parks and nature preserves, and feasting on delish local fish, crab and scallops. Folks in this part of Florida are genuine, friendly and proud of their seaside scene.
Starting the journey in Old Florida style
Arriving in Crystal River, we checked in to the Plantation, a grand old hotel and resort on the waterfront where our room overlooked the lawn and inlet leading to the river. The Plantation has its own marina where you can dock, launch or rent a boat, kayak or paddleboard, or hop on a scenic tour from manatee encounters to sunset cruises.
We chose to stretch our legs by biking 1.8 miles to the historic downtown of Crystal River, riding the scenic designated Three Sisters Springs Crosstown Trail and passing the Mermaid House. We poked around unique boutiques on Citrus Avenue, such as Amy’s on the Avenue, Salty Girls Beach Shop and Fishhook Outfitters. Hand-painted murals throughout the colorful village add to its vibrance, along with manatee sculptures, Crystal River’s mascot. From the town center, Crystal River Preserve State Park is just 4 miles north and west to a peaceful waterfront setting with dramatic ancient burial mounds dating back to 2,000 A.D.
Back at the Plantation, we refreshed with a swim in the resort’s expansive riverfront pool and drinks from the Tiki Bar. Dinner that evening was extraordinary at Vintage on 5th in town. Sitting on the veranda of this 1940s church- turned-gourmet bistro was sublime, so was the She Crab soup and fried green tomatoes smothered in goat cheese and bacon. Live music from next door Norton’s Riverside Sports Bar & Grill was our entertainment.
Get Up and Go Kayaking was our calling next morning, just south in Homosassa. Following our guide, we paddled up the “Chaz” in clear bottom kayaks through a maze of mossy oak-shaded canals. The Chassahowitzka River (aka the Chaz), is teeming with waterbirds and marine life. Schools of fish swam under our clear kayaks, massive manatees floated lazily by, and turtles sunned on rocks. Passing one alligator, I paddled a little faster.
Soon we reached the glittering deep-water pools of Seven Sisters Springs and then the dramatic “Crack” where we swam in an iridescent fissure in the rock bottom where millions of gallons of freshwater pump into the river every minute. Magical.
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park was our next stop. Boarding a boat at Pepper Creek, our park guide plied the peaceful waters into the park grounds where we discovered an extensive wildlife park devoted to rehabilitating Florida animals and mammals with various injuries in this protected preserve. From the huge old hippo named Lu to a panther, bear, deer, fox, owl, otter and manatee, this rescue center is the kindest example of a zoo we’d ever witnessed.
That evening, our activity-fueled appetites were perfectly satiated at Wallace’s at the Greenhouse in Homosassa. From the chef ’s scratch kitchen, we ordered the best smoky fish dip with homemade chips, followed by the freshest fish du jour with delicious sides. In this cheerful greenhouse eatery, the locally sourced menu changes daily.
Swimming with gentle giants
Next morning, we boarded our much-an- ticipated swim with the manatees encounter from the Plantation Resort’s own Adventure Center. Our captain and guide told us all about the wildlife-rich Crystal River on our boat ride into the bay. We learned about manatees and soon were floating right next to these most gentle of marine giants.
We had been coached on mimicking the manatees’ behavior in our black wet suits, so they’d approach us, and it worked! We were eye to eye, whisker to snorkel, with these docile but huge sea cows. Amazing! Along our tour, we also stopped to swim in percolating crystal-clear freshwater springs (hence the river’s name, which hosts over 70 springs in its 600-acre bay).
A beautiful swerving seaside drive out Ozello Keys brought us to a fun old fish shack for lunch, Peck’s Old Port Cove. We devoured sweet salty crab, blackened shrimp and the most outrageously tasty thin-sliced onion rings, made fresh daily and complemented by the turquoise water view.
After eating so much delish fish, we wanted to go fishing in this water lover’s paradise! That afternoon Captain Gary Bartell took us on a charter from his family-owned Ozello Keys Marina. He expertly sped us across calm bays to his spot and hooked us up for success, literally.
After a bit of bait, wait and chat about his show Fish Talk Live, we were reeling in redfish, including Greg’s 32-inch trophy fish that was too big to keep. So, we only “caught” the photo before releasing it, proof it wasn’t just a fish tale. Captain Gary cleaned and fileted our keeper fish back at the dock, and sent us to Seafood Seller, where they’d cook our catch.
We found Seafood Seller & Café in a humble strip mall. Locals were lined up at this mom-and-pop affordable seafood joint. Folks were feasting on piles of shrimp, crawfish and oysters. But we brought our own fish, and the chef prepared our redfish perfectly — blackened and served with tasty homemade sides.
On our reluctant departure from a fun-filled Crystal River visit, we passed through Inverness, another idyllic little town and boaters’ heaven. Boaters can launch here into the Tsala Apopka Chain of Lakes to explore a 23-mile-long freshwater haven. Since we had bikes, we rode part of the Withlacoochee State Trail, a 46-mile paved designated pedestrian and bike path that stretches the entire East Citrus County of Florida along old train tracks, beautiful farms and lakeshores.
We vowed to return to the abundant water world of Crystal River and BYOB (bring your own boat) next time.
The waterfront mermaid-inspired house is a rental with a riverfront lawn, firepit and complimentary clear kayaks and bikes for guests. Walking distance to downtown Crystal River, also on the Crosstown bike path.
WHERE TO DOCK
Crystal River is busiest in scallop season, July to mid-September, when docks slips are challenging to find, so book well in advance.
As the largest marina on Crystal River, it offers easy access to the Gulf and Kings Bay, but it is 6 miles to downtown Crystal River. Boat rentals are available, limited transient dock slips, better availability in winter months.
Live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, Gothic Revival architecture and cobblestone streets are just a few charming elements that define historic Savannah.
General James Oglethorpe landed along the Savannah River in 1733 and coined Georgia the 13th colony, establishing Savannah as its first city. Envisioning shaded public places intertwined through open streets, Oglethorpe originally laid out a plan for community squares to serve as business centers and town meeting places. Today, 22 squares flush with greenery, monuments and public parks line a grid of beautiful landscapes throughout the Historic District.
Take an Old Town Trolley Tour or walk around town through the grassy squares as you browse streets packed with museums, retail, gift stores and cute coffee shops. A few notable stops include Madison Square, Forsyth Park and Chippewa Square, where the iconic Forrest Gump park scene was filmed. Fun fact: the bench where Forrest sits and recites the famous line, “Life is like a box of chocolates...” was actually a movie prop placed in Chippewa Square. Tourists still love to take photos in the park, and the bench resides in the nearby Savannah History Museum.
The Savannah River flows alongside the North Historic District where River Street’s cobblestone-lined waterfront boasts a lively nightlife. From balconies and rooftop bars and restaurants, enjoy southern cuisine while watching giant ships cruise down the river. Check out everything from crab shacks and food markets to hotels and souvenir shops. Get your sugar fix at River Street Sweets, feast on local seafood at Fiddlers’ Crab House & Oyster Bar or sip on liquor-infused frozen drinks and dance all night at Wet Willie’s. You can even take your drinks to-go and walk around town with a cocktail in hand.
Book with Savannah Riverboat Cruises for the ultimate sightseeing tour aboard the grand Georgia Queen. Boaters enjoy visiting the city’s neighboring islands to explore the local rivers and tie up. Less than 20 miles from downtown, Tybee Island is a lovely place for cruising, fishing and swimming. Cruise the calm waters of Bull River to enjoy scenic marshlands and spot a dolphin or two.
WHERE TO DOCK
Rousakis Riverfront Plaza
This public recreational dock is on the Savannah River in the heart of downtown. Slips are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The East and West River Street facilities accept vessels up to 250 feet, and Abercorn Ramp welcomes boats up to 100 feet.
This deepwater marina is just outside of Savannah’s Historic District on the eastern side of Wilmington Island. The facility offers short- and long-term dockage, amenities, a ship store, boat rentals, tours and private charters.
Adjacent to the Wormsloe Historic Site and surrounded by scenic golf courses and ancient ruins, this full-service marina boasts 4,000 feet of floating docks accommodating vessels up to 200 feet. You also find 60 dry storage spaces for small, trailered boats.
Built in 1771, this gorgeous pink home is one of the oldest (and allegedly most haunted) buildings in Savannah. Dine in one of the regal rooms and visit the spooky basement tavern where ghost activity is frequent according to the staff. The restaurant even boasts a house singer who goes table-to-table gracing your dinner with song snippets.
This swanky rooftop bar and restaurant is in the heart of Savannah’s City Market. Feast on a southern-inspired menu with fun house-made cocktails such as Champagne Pop (Brut served with a juicy popsicle) and Cruel Summer Capri (inspired by the classic Capri Sun drink) made of grapefruit vodka, fresh fruit and mixers served in a plastic pouch.
Located between City Hall and the Old Cotton Exchange building, this eatery offers a lovely dining experience with fresh seafood, a stellar wine selection, and a coffee bar. Feast on everything from crawfish beignets to grilled octopus and oysters Rockefeller.
With cool days just around the corner, it’s time to start planning for autumn excursions in warm waters. If you’re in the mood to get pampered, experience a luxurious lifestyle, or simply relax at sunset with your toes in the sand, Florida’s coastal retreats are the place to be.
As thousands of beautiful resorts reside along the state’s east and west coasts, choosing the right one might be challenging. To help pick your dream destination, Marinalife has assembled a sampling of 10 unique places in the Sunshine State. Some of them bustle with an energetic contemporary vibe; others project a laid-back atmosphere with Old Florida charm. All of them guarantee sun, surf and a memorable visit by the sea.
Whether you want to explore nature on a 13-mile barrier island or nurture your senses in the lap of luxury, this Ritz-Carlton offers a cornucopia of amenities in a breathtaking setting. Located just north of Jacksonville, the resort is surrounded by pristine beaches and ancient forests with moss-draped oaks. Balconies on 446 rooms overlook the pool, spa, fitness center, tennis courts, golf course, family game room, shops, and restaurants ranging from fine dining to a dune bar. Guests can go fishing or kayaking, or take eco-field trips to discover coastal sea life.
This beachside beauty promises to please all its guests, including canine companions by offering puppy cabanas and two dog beaches. But being pet friendly does not distract from the coastal elegance of seven acres of oceanfront, lush tropical gardens and a fresh paint job in 2023 that highlights the classic Florida architecture. Enjoy the pool, spa, tennis courts and watersports such as snorkeling and surfing lessons. Loggers Kids Club and play zone offers summer camp and lessons about endangered sea turtles. Eight dining options range from a farm-to-fork steakhouse and Italian cuisine to a breezy beach bar and craft cocktail lounge.
In 1896, railroad magnate Henry Flagler built this opulent Italian Renaissance-style resort on a barrier island now dotted with posh hotels and estates. Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, presidents and royalty have cruised up the palm-lined driveway to the Florentine fountain and stepped inside to marvel at arched ceilings decorated with intricate drawings. Its 140 oceanfront acres host 534 guest rooms and suites, 10 restaurants, six spas, four swimming pools, two golf courses, 10 tennis courts, 13 boutiques, and a family entertainment center.
Five hotels in one stunning location boast an immaculate private beach as the centerpiece of all the action. The resort’s 356-acre property is graced with floor-to- ceiling windows to accentuate the ocean view. Cabanas at eight pools come complete with butler service, and 17 restaurants accommodate every culinary whim from white linen and gourmet plates to a casual burger bar. Kids’ activities, tennis and pickleball, boating, watersports, a fitness center, and shops keep guests busy. Events include holiday celebrations, movie nights, food and wine festivals, full moon yoga, and family bonfires on the beach.
Nestled between Miami and Palm Beach on a lovely stretch of the Atlantic coast, guests are welcomed to a destination of relaxed glamour that reflects a modern spin on the classic yacht club lifestyle. Faena Hotel gilded woolly mammoth Boca Raton Beach Club lounge Think clean contemporary design with a tasteful touch of tropical décor. Arriving is easy thanks to three international airports and several deep-water marinas nearby. Amenities include two ocean view pools, a spa, salon, fitness center, kids’ clubhouse, yoga classes and bicycles. Whether you like snacks at the pool or upscale dishes, expect coastal Florida cuisine that’s fresh and healthy.
With cherry-red umbrellas and lounge chairs poised at the beach and muted earth tones garnishing the interior, this luxurious resort blends the combo of fun and relaxation at the shore. The Mediterranean villa-style property covers 4.5 miles of south Florida that houses 98 oceanfront rooms. Dining options: Italian, Greek, Japanese fusion, tapas and picnic baskets packed with gourmet treats. Guests can stay on-site to play soccer or basketball, swim in the pool or the waves, play beach games, or engage in marine biology activities that explore seashells and other aquatic life. Offsite activities include water sports, jet skis, surf lessons, local arts, shops and world-class golf.
Perhaps the most unique and strikingly beautiful resort on the list, this destination is certain to spark the imagination and creative spirit. A golden mammoth statue is on display in the tropical garden overlooking a white-sand beach. Every space is splashed with vibrant colors, bold designs and distinctive artwork that echo Miami’s eclectic cultural scene. Enjoy water activities, yoga, meditation, and jazz and experimental music concerts. Four restaurants introduce guests to cuisine from South American live-fire cooking and modern Asian cuisine to Tokyo-style sushi and traditional Mexican dishes. Amenities: pet friendly rooms, pool, theater, salon and holistic healing spa.
The recent $230 million renovation created a Balinise-style paradise with adult-only spaces and a kids’ day camp, so everybody gets to do their own thing. Located about 17 miles from Naples, the resort is known for a gorgeous half-moon- shaped beach and spectacular sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. Attractions include 12 restaurants, two golf courses, four pools, a spa and fitness center, stylish rooms, and an arcade with mini golf, bowling and other games. Hungry guests can opt for a range of meals from breakfast buffets and tiki bar snacks to high-end steaks and seafood.
About an hour south of Sarasota awaits a charming Old Florida gem that overlooks the Gulf ’s warm waters. Plans for the luxury hotel began in 1909 when the state was emerging as a vacation spot for wealthy northern visitors. Over the years, renovations and upgrades transformed it into an idyllic destination for modern travelers while retaining its historic inn designation. The 142 rooms are cozy and cheerful. Guests can stroll around the grounds to soak in the relaxed vintage groove, or engage in activities such as golf, tennis, croquet, sportfishing, sunset cruises, seashell collecting, billiards, backgammon, bike and kayak rides, and much more.
When it opened in 1928, the “Pink Palace” was considered the crown jewel of Gulf Coast resorts, attracting celebrities and A-list guests from around the globe. During its almost 100-year history, it served as a hospital for World War II airmen, fell into disrepair, was saved from the wrecking ball and eventually restored to its former grandeur. Today, this timeless luxury resort wows visitors with 241 exquisite rooms and 36 suites, newly renovated lobby and restaurant, and stunning seaside views. As a hallmark for lavish opulence and superb architecture, it’s a must-visit destination with a delightful history and plenty of activities and amenities to create an unforgettable experience.
By land or sea, it’s hard to miss the colorful lights of the 180-foot-tall Capital Wheel that spins above the waters at National Harbor Marina. As the centerpiece for the 350-acre development along the Potomac River, the Wheel welcomes guests to its vibrant community that’s only 10 miles downstream from the Washington Monument.
Water taxis carry visitors on a short cruise to historic Old Town Alexandria, The Wharf and Georgetown Waterfront, but boaters who stay at National Harbor Marina find a convenient location to enjoy a cornucopia of amenities and attractions.
With 81 wet slips at floating docks, the marina accommodates all kinds of vessels from yachts and catamarans to research boats and dinghies. Two slips are for boats up to 150’, a few are ready for vessels up to 80’ and most of the remaining slips fit boats up to 60’. The marina offers boating essentials, such as a lounge, bathrooms, picnic tables, pump out, fuel, security gates, ice and much more to make boaters feel right at home.
It’s no surprise that 12 million people come to National Harbor each year. Whether they tie up at the meticulously maintained marina, stay in one of the hotels or just drop by for a day, guests are delighted by entertainment that appeals to every whim and wallet.
Nature lovers walk the trails and public parks, ride the waves on kayaks or standup paddleboards, or cruise down the Potomac for bass fishing and birdwatching. Spirit Park, the latest waterfront venue, is home to a massive American flag, amphitheater, event space and unique artwork. The marina is also surrounded by historic sites from the first U.S. president’s home at Mount Vernon and the Jefferson Memorial to the Watergate building and International Spy Museum. The Smithsonian museums can keep you busy for days.
National Harbor is also known for its events and festivals. Highlights include PBS Kids Days, Shakespeare in the Park, Water Lantern Festival, Taco, Beer & Tequila Festival, and Salute the Sunset with military bands playing tunes in the evenings. MGM Hotel & Casino is a hub for games of chance and A-list performers lighting up its stage.
With 40 restaurants and bars, dining choices seem unlimited. Some favorites: Succotash for cocktails and chicken ’n waffles, Fiorella’s for Italian cuisine, Tom’s Watch Bar for sporting events and Walrus Oyster & Ale House for classic Chesapeake seafood. Wondering what to wear for all these activities? Somewhere at all the shops and retail outlets nearby, the perfect outfit is waiting for you at National Harbor.
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Make marina operations easier and more efficient for both your team and customers by utilizing a marina management software that simplifies tasks such as dock reservations, slip assignments, and billing processes.