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The Florida Keys

MAGICAL ASPECTS OF FLORIDA lie beyond the gates of Disney's Magic Kingdom. In fact, a wealth of nature's enchantment unfolds in the 110 miles stretching from Key Largo to Key West, and an abundance of fascinating creatures thrive on the 1,700 islands of the coral cay archipelago.The beginning of the island chain, Key Largo, made famous by the movie starring Bogart and Bacall, is known as the Dive Capital of the World. Wreck divers head for the sunken 510-foot USS Spiegel Grove, while reef lovers choose John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Molasses Reef in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has shallow sections perfect for snorkeling. For a unique day excursion or an overnight stay, dive 20 feet below to the only entrance of the Jules Verne Undersea Lodge at Emerald Lagoon.The world-class and private Ocean Reef Club marina on the northernmost tip of the island has slips to accommodate vessels up to 175 feet.

Day 1: IslamoradaKey Largo to Islamorada 15 NM

It's a short leg from the diving hub to the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, which boasts the largest charter fishing fleet per square mile on Earth. At dawn, captains head out on deep-sea excursions or idle through mangrove islands and shallow seagrass flats of the backcountry. The silver flashes in the sunlight at Robbie's Marina dock are enormous tarpon, 50 to 100 feet long, doing daily water acrobatics for snacks thrown by visitors into the clear, shallow water.

Islamorada - weekend warrior - marinalife
Islamorada | romrodinka on Canvas

The Keys have a motley past: shipwrecks, pirates, buried treasure, movie stars and especially luscious Key Lime pie. History reaching back to Native American life is outlined at the Keys History & Discovery Center at the Islander Resort.Downtown Islamorada's patchwork of boutiques and galleries is overflowing with original creations of artists, sculptors and jewelers inspired by life on the islands. The Morada Way Arts & Cultural District is a bustling six-block corridor of shops, restaurants and studio spaces. Thirsty shoppers can duck into the welcoming back garden of Florida Keys Brewing Company. Beside the seasonal beer on tap, they serve a Key Lime cocktail so delectable that it could be counted as dessert.Transient dockage to 100 feet is available at Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina, a premier facility with 15 sprawling acres of white sand beach. Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina, located in the fabulous Founders Park, is ranked among the top marinas in the world and is a designated Clean Marina.

Day 2: Duck KeyIslamorada to Duck Key 21 NM

Tucked into the secluded and intimate isle of Duck Key, Hawks Cay Resort is a 60-acre destination often named the top family resort in the country. After Hurricane Irma in 2017, a $50 million renovation revitalized the entire property. It's the perfect backdrop for Discovery Channel's popular Saltwater Experience, which is filmed on site.Hawk's Cay guests can do everything or do nothing. Interact and swim with dolphins in their natural environment at the Dolphin Connection or rise early for oceanside yoga before wandering to the spa for a Key Lime Mojito scrub followed by a warm body butter wrap with Key Lime essential oils. Come evening, multiple resort dining choices include the new Sixty-One Prime, a Key-style chop house, and the island casual Angler & Ale.Hawks Cay Marina can accommodate boats up to 110 feet with beams to 20 feet in the resort's back basin.

Day 3: Key WestDuck Key to Key West 52 NM

Before adventuring out in the heat to pet the famous six-toed cats at Hemingway House or view the spartan simplicity of the Truman Little White House, grab a Cuban Café con Leche and wander around town absorbing the laid-back, culturally diverse life of island time.Nightly pub crawls guide visitors along Duval Street's legion of barrooms. Much like the revelers doing the Duval Crawl, the Key West chickens strut the streets and crow at all hours. Colorful roosters and mother hens with tiny chicks weave in and out of traffic and through open cafés around town.

ocean reef club - weekend warrior - marinalife
Buccaneer Island, Ocean Reef Club | Ocean Reef Club

Much quieter winged creatures reside in the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, a tropical paradise home to hundreds of species of magical butterflies and birds. More of nature's birding and fishing wonders lie just off the western shore. Accessible only by boat, Key West National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 208,308 acres with only 2,019 acres above sea level. Wading birds, pelicans, shorebirds, sea turtles, manatees and dolphins all live within or visit the refuge.There's an eatery on nearly every corner from the quirky Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe to the beautiful Seaside Café at the Southernmost Mansion and Louie's Backyard for fine dining. It's best to experience Key West on a bike or a golf cart so you can catch the quirkiness of the island including the popular drag show at 801 Bourbon Bar and the famous cemetery. And at the end of the day, join the locals for live music at the Green Parrot Bar.Several marinas welcome boaters with a range of pleasant amenities and convenient locations: Conch Harbor Marina in historic Old Town, Stock Island Yacht Club and The Perry Hotel & Marina.

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Spectacular Spans: A Tour of America's Great Bridges

Travel Destinations
Weekend Getaway
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Spectacular Spans: A Tour of America's Great Bridges
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They come in all shapes and sizes, lengths and locations, ages and angles. For boaters, America's coastal bridges are a fairly common sight, one that often goes unappreciated and undervalued, especially when most of us only get to see them up close from underneath — a unique perspective not often enjoyed by the general public.

Here are the stories of nine of our country's famous bridges that span America’s frequently traveled waterways, along with fascinating facts that you can share as you sail under or drive over them.

Brooklyn Bridge

Perhaps the world's most recognized span, this 139-year-old granddaddy of bridges took about 13 years to construct, linking Manhattan to Brooklyn and comprising the East River’s first fixed crossing. As the longest suspension bridge in the world when it open in 1883, its main span measures 1,595 feet and deck rises 127 feet above the river's surface.

Its building was a true family affair, designed by John Roebling who died unexpectedly after an injury he sustained in the early stages of the bridge's construction. He was succeeded by his son, Washington who suffered a paralyzing case of caisson disease. Unable to supervise construction in person, he directed the work from his nearby apartment using a telescope overlooking the site, while his wife Emily delivered handwritten instruction notes to the engineers.

Located between Piers 4 & 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River is the new ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina with 100 slips for vessels up to 300+ feet. Estuary, the marina's flagship restaurant, features new American cuisine, and the park is home to numerous restaurants, shops and cafes.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge (aka the Bay Bridge)

Soaring above Chesapeake Bay, this dual-span bridge connects Maryland's densely populated Western Shore with the more rural Eastern Shore, running between Annapolis and Stevensville. The original two-way span opened in 1952; a parallel span was added in 1973 to alleviate congestion. It was only marginally successful. 

Especially in summer, the bridge is often referred to as "the world's tallest traffic jam," packed bumper-to-bumper nearly 200 feet above the Bay. Because of its height, narrow spans, low guardrails and frequent high winds, the Bay Bridge is cited by some as one of the scariest crossings in America. But to west-bound travels, the sun setting over its tall towers and curved steel girders is a spectacular sight.

Located at the eastern base of the bridge on Kent Island is Bay Bridge Marina, which accommodates boats up to 70 feet. Sandy Point State Park Marina awaits on the west side for day use and fueling. Several other marinas are nearby.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT)

Hailed as one of the great engineering marvels in the world when it opened in 1964, the original CBBT required the construction of four artificial islands, two miles of causeway, nearly six miles of approach roads, two-mile-long tunnels, four high-level bridges and 12 miles of trestle. It crosses the Chesapeake Bay between Cape Charles on the Delmarva Peninsula and Virginia Beach on the mainland.

The CBBT crosses two key East Coast shipping lanes. High-level bridges were initially proposed to span these channels, but the U.S. Navy objected to a bridge over one of the channels, because a collapse could cut off the Norfolk Naval Station from the Atlantic.

Cape Charles Yacht Center and Cape Charles Harbor Marina up the west side of the Delmarva Peninsula put you in the middle of the quaint shoreside town of Cape Charles and its charming shops, restaurants and accommodations.

Florida Keys Seven Mile Bridge

Among the world’s longest bridges when it was built, Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight's Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Actually two bridges, the newer span is open to vehicular traffic; the older is only for pedestrians and cyclists.

The older bridge was constructed in the early 1900s as part of the Key West Extension of Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway. After the Keys section of the railroad was damaged by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Flagler sold it to the U.S. government, which converted it to automobile use. Unsupported sections were added in 1935 to widen it for vehicular traffic, and the railroad tracks were recycled, painted white and used as guardrails. 

Near the center, the bridge rises, providing a 65-foot clearance for boat passage in Moser Channel on the ICW. The remainder of the bridge is considerably closer to the water's surface. Several marinas are on the Marathon end of the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

Named one of the Wonders of the Modern World by American Society of Civil Engineers, the 1.7-mile bridge was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge when it opened in 1937. Originally designed by engineer Joseph Strauss in 1917, the final design was conceived by Leon Moisseiff, engineer of New York City's Manhattan Bridge.

The relatively unknown residential architect Irving Morrow designed many of the bridge's Art Deco features, but his most famous contribution was its unique color, international orange. Others preferred that it was painted aluminum, dull gray, and the U.S. Navy suggested black and yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships.

The water under the bridge is often turbulent, given the clash of the silt-heavy Bay waters and the cold Pacific Ocean currents. Consequently, recreational and commercial traffic are carefully monitored and regulated.

Looking to dock and dine nearby? Try the north end of the bridge. Le Garage at Schoonmaker Point Marina in Sausalito serves innovative French cuisine, and at the casual eatery, Fish, place an order at the counter and sit at one of the picnic tables overlooking Clipper Yacht Harbor.

Mackinac Bridge

The engineering marvel often called "Mighty Mac" is the longest suspension bridge with two towers between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere, with a shoreline-to-shoreline length of five miles. Opened in 1957, it took three and a half years to build, because Michigan's harsh winters limited construction to the summer months. Engineers faced daunting challenges. The Great Lakes freeze during the winter, causing large icebergs to place enormous stress on the bridge’s base.

The total length of wire in the main cables is an amazing 42,000 miles, enough to wrap around the Earth nearly twice. Painting the bridge takes seven years; when workers finish, they immediately start again.

Locals note that the current in the Straits of Mackinac frequently changes direction, and when combined with wind-blown waves, churn from passing freighters and rebound off the bridge pilings, boating under and near the bridge can be challenging.

St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula has a full-service public marina with 136 slips and is close to shops, cafes and restaurants, like the Mackinac Grille & Patio Bar.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

One of Florida’s most iconic sights, the current Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened in 1987 and is the second bridge of that name on this site. The striking cable-stayed span connects the St. Petersburg peninsula to Terra Ceia, just north of Bradenton. The original bridge opened in 1954. A similar structure was built parallel and to the west of it in 1969 to make it a four-lane bridge.

In 1980, the freighter MV Summit Venture collided with one of the bridge's supports during a storm, causing the southbound span to collapse and sending vehicles into Tampa Bay. After the disaster, the northbound span was converted to carry one lane in either direction until the current bridge opened.

If you're headed into Tampa Bay, Terra Ceia Preserve State Park is on your starboard side, a 2,000-acre mangrove forest and wetlands offering kayaking, fishing and nine miles of hiking trails. At the St. Pete end of the bridge, check out O'Neill's Marina near Maximo Park. 

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The name Tacoma Narrows Bridge has been given to three different incarnations of this span connecting the city of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula to the west. The original bridge opened in 1940 and spectacularly collapsed just four months later due to design flaws that resulted in what was termed "aeroelastic flutter." It was replaced by the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1950, which is still used for westbound traffic. A third parallel span opened in 2007 to carry eastbound traffic.

The collapse of the original bridge — nicknamed Galloping Gertie — had a major impact on the field of bridge aerodynamics, which influenced the design of all the world's long-span bridges built since 1940. The newsreel footage of the collapse can still be viewed on YouTube today.

Just south of the bridge you find Narrows Marina with transient docks that offer 375 linear feet of three-hour complimentary guest side ties and 13 overnight moorage slips. The Narrows Brewing Company and Boathouse 19 restaurant are steps away.

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

This massive suspension bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island opened in 1964 after decades of on-again off-again planning and five years of construction. Each tower is made up of more than a million tons of metal, one million bolts and three million rivets. The four main suspension cables are 36 inches in diameter, and each is composed of 26,108 wires totaling 142,520 miles in length. Due to thermal expansion of the steel cables, the upper roadway’s height is 12 feet lower in summer than in winter.

The double-decker bridge carries 13 lanes of traffic, seven on the upper level and six on the lower level. Both the upper and lower roadways are supported by trusses that stiffen the bridge against vertical, torsional and lateral pressure — thanks to lessons learned from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940.

Fort Wadsworth, at the Staten Island end of the bridge, is one of the oldest military installations in America, built in the early 1800s to protect the Narrows. In 1994, the U.S. Navy turned Fort Wadsworth over to the National Park Service.

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Chesapeake Bay Calendar of Events
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Summer is here, and it’s time to soak up the sun, visit bustling beaches, learn about boating history and relish the small-town charm around the Chesapeake Bay. Read on for hidden gems and tried-and-true events along the Bay, all the way from Havre de Grace to Cape Charles. Whether you’re a fan of watersports, arts and crafts, street festivals, or coastal cuisine, you’ll find something worth docking for a while.

July

Yorktown Market Days, Fun in the Sun Market

Yorktown, VA

July 16 - Fun in the Sun Market; August 6 - National Farmers Market Week

Experience a coastal Hampton Roads market on the York River. Check out local produce, meats, seafood, gourmet dog treats, art and more every Saturday this summer, and stop by one of the dates above for a themed, family-friendly extended market.

Spirit of America

Havre de Grace, MD

July 2

Enjoy this beautiful town through a mid-century Americana lens at the Independence Day festival. You won’t want to miss the Patriotic Pooch contest, 50s throwback entertainers and best of all, derby races on Pennington Avenue.

Sea Glass & Beach Crafts Market at Annmarie

Solomons, MD

July 2

Kick off the holiday weekend at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center’s annual beach-themed market. Browse all things crafty and sea glass at over 50 booths!

Kent County Waterman’s Day

Rock Hall, MD

July 3

For the first time since 2019, stop by and celebrate watermen who dedicate their lives to working on the Chesapeake! Enjoy a day of family fun, including anchor tosses and a raffle, culminating in the infamous boat docking.

Tuckahoe Steam & Gas Association’s 49th Annual Show

Easton, MD

July 7-10

Calling all car, truck and train enthusiasts! This multi-day show will be packed with steam and gas engines; antique tractors, trucks and cars; live steam train models; and even a horse pull.

Chesapeake Stand Up Challenge

Annapolis, MD

July 9 

Sponsored by the Eastport Yacht Club, this open water race has something for all levels. Experienced paddlers can fight it out in the seven-mile Challenge, and recreational paddlers will enjoy the 3.5-mile Challenge or one-mile Just for Fun race.

Plein Air Easton Art Festival

Easton, MD

July 17-24

Plein air painters express their craft from life instead of the studio, so you’ll see artists from across the country painting all around town. Also attend lectures and workshops, and buy art and other goods downtown all week. 

14th Annual Hampton Heat

Hampton, VA

July 23

Dock at the transient slips in downtown Hampton, then join the landlubbers at Langley Speedway, one of NASCAR’s best weekly tracks, for the annual Hampton Heat races.

Southern Maryland Boat Club Bash on the Bay

Leonardtown, MD

July 29-31

Since the Calvert Marine Museum opened an exhibit on the golden era of powerboat racing in 2013, this vintage boat club has put on several races a year. Make your way to the historic Leonardtown Wharf to see vintage powerboats in action.

2022 Snakehead Summer Slam

July 30

Annapolis, MD

Things are sure to heat up at the fourth of five tournaments in the 2022 Snakehead Championship Series at Anglers Sport Center. Anglers in kayak/shoreline and boating divisions will be up for all kinds of prizes, including one from the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland’s Great Chesapeake Invasive Count.

Annapolis Yacht Club Two Bridge Fiasco Race

Annapolis, MD

July 31

Cruise to the southern Chesapeake to witness this pursuit style race starting between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Severn River Bridge. Look out for all types of boats in the competition, and even a foiler or two if you’re lucky.

August

Annual Chesapeake Bay Balloon Festival

Cordova, MD

August 5-7

Embrace the Eastern Shore summer lifestyle at this family-friendly festival. Feel the adrenaline rush of hot air balloon rides and keep the thrill going on the mechanical bull and bouncy house on land.

A Day of Celebration & Remembrance of Harriet Tubman

Cambridge, MD

August 6 

Celebrate Harriet Tubman’s life, bicentennial and antislavery activism on the Underground Railroad just miles from where she lived as a child. Join the commemorative parade through the streets of Cambridge and enjoy local vendors and entertainment at the festival.

Pirates & Wenches Weekend

Rock Hall, MD

August 12-14

Presented by Main Street Rock Hall, you can dock at a local bayfront marina ready for an immersive, family-friendly weekend. The whole family will love the marketplace on Main Street, pirate and mermaid performers, and costume contests, and there will be no shortage of grub and grog.

Solomons Dragon Boat Festival 2022

Solomons Island

August 13

Cruise to scenic Solomons Island to watch 30 dragon boat teams compete for glory on the Patuxent River and explore the local vendor village. Arrive the week before and you might catch a Dotting of the Eye Ceremony or even a flash mob.

Leo Wardrup Memorial Cape Charles Cup Regatta

Cape Charles, VA

August 20-21

Make your way to Virginia’s Eastern Shore for two days of racing on the Chesapeake. While you’re there, lounge on the Cape Charles town beach, stroll around the retail district and check out Victorian homes in the historic district.

7th Annual Coastal Craft Beer Festival

Virginia Beach, VA

August 27

Spend your Saturday at the waterfront Neptune’s Park, tasting your way through 60+ beers, ciders and seltzers from 30 breweries. Learn about all Virginia breweries have to offer or branch out with some regional or national craft brews.

September

The Waterfront Festival

Havre de Grace, MD

September 9-10

Cruise to the northern Bay to round out your summer with this annual festival, kicking off with a lighted boat parade. Enjoy fun for the whole family with fresh crab and seafood, beer gardens, live music, hot air balloons and a youth fishing derby!

2nd Annual Portsmouth Paddle Battle

Portsmouth, VA

September 10 

Whether you kayak or paddleboard as a novice or a pro, or enjoy waterfront live music, food and drink, there’s a place for you in the Paddle Battle on the Elizabeth River. Proceeds will support the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and Lightship Portsmouth Museum.

TrawlerFest Baltimore

Baltimore, MD

September 27-October 1

Close out your summer season with Passagemaker’s annual boat show held at Harbor East Marina in the heart of downtown Baltimore. The show hosts impression in-water selections of new and pre-owned long-rang cruisers, coastal cruisers and of course, tons of trawlers. Free seminars and educational demonstrations are held throughout the weekend.

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Find a Heavenly Hideaway - Secluded Atlantic Beaches
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Some of the best summer getaways require only the bare essentials: a few towels, sunscreen, and a cooler of cold drinks and snacks. If venturing away from the crowds, unplugged and ready to unwind, is what you’re dreaming about, Marinalife has found idyllic places for you. The following beaches will help you reconnect with nature and discover your happy place in the sun.

DAMARISCOVE ISLAND, ME

As the first island to be inhabited by European fishermen in the 1600’s, Damariscove Island lies six miles from Boothbay Harbor. Because of nesting birds and a fragile ecosystem, the northern half of the 210-acre hourglass-shaped island is restricted. On the southern portion, trails wind along the water’s edge through coastal tundra. The freshwater pond, salt marsh and a cobble beach are perfect for picnicking. At the head of the harbor, a small museum showcases Damariscove’s rich history. A stone pier on the working waterfront welcomes local fishermen. Tie-ups are not permitted here, but the tiny, protected harbor has two courtesy moorings.

BOSTON HARBOR ISLANDS, MA

Many of the three dozen islands spread over 50 square miles of the greater Boston Harbor basin were populated in the 1800s and later deserted during urban migration. Partial foundations and stone walls remain as relics of long-gone days.

Each spot of land has its own appeal. Anchor off Great Brewster Island and trek to the top of 100 foot bluffs for a view of lighthouses across the harbor. The rugged New England coastline and tidal pools of Grape Island, and gorgeous wildflowers on Rainsford Island make brag-worthy photos. Four islands within the park offer moorings, but reserve a spot well in advance. Spectacle Island has a lifeguarded beach as well as breathtaking views from the top of North Drumlin. Graceful granite archways of Civil War era Fort Warren greet visitors to Georges Island. Peddocks Island is appealing for being off the beaten path. Once home to Native Americans, militiamen and prisoners of war, it was used for shooting scenes for the film Shutter Island.

FIRE ISLAND, NY

When cruising the Great South Bay, be sure to visit Fire Island, a thin slice of land off the south shore of Long Island. A home for diverse plants, animals and people for centuries, it has pristine beaches, ancient maritime forests, high dunes and frequent glimpses of wildlife.

Activities on this car-free beach haven include hiking the 40-acre maritime Sunken Forest at Sailors Haven, climbing 182 steps to the top of the Fire Island Lighthouse and soaking up nature on Fire Island National Seashore. Take care not to disturb the piping plover, an endangered migratory shorebird that burrows its nests in the sand of the park beaches. Anchor offshore and wade in, or tie up to the floating dock at Talisman (Barrett Beach). Sailors Haven and Watch Hill Marina are in the park itself.

ASSATEAGUE, MD

The 37 miles of Assateague Island on the Atlantic coastline is part of a barrier island chain extending from Maine to Texas. Assateague Island National Seashore has inviting miles of sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and an inviting atmosphere, but the real draw is the wild ponies roaming free along the beaches.


The animals are thought to be descendants of horses brought to several remote islands in the late 17th century by mainland owners trying to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock. Assateague’s horses are tough enough to survive the scorching heat, exuberant mosquitoes, temperamental weather and poor-quality food on this remote, windswept barrier island. They are truly wild and best admired from afar.

SANDBRIDGE BEACH, VA

Just a few minutes south of Virginia Beach’s festive three-mile boardwalk is secluded Sandbridge Beach. A spectacular hideaway of pristine sand dunes and dancing sea oats, it’s perfect for unwinding with nature.


The beach sits near Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, home to sea turtles and various bird species, and False Cape State Park. Both have protected areas but welcome kayakers, hikers and fishermen.

MASONBORO ISLAND RESERVE, NC

Just south of the vibrant coastal town of Wrightsville Beach, one of the great hidden gems of the southeast is Masonboro Island, an essentially pristine barrier island and estuarine system. Masonboro Sound’s nutrient-rich waters are an important nursery area for fish including flounder, pompano, menhaden and bluefish.

The beaches along the north and south sound side of the island are the best landing spots for boats. Trails lead cross-island to the beach where visitors can trek along miles of undisturbed ocean shoreline. Inland on the dunes, grassy flats, marsh grass and eelgrass beds, use care that the vegetation and the habitat of nesting loggerhead and green sea turtles are not disturbed.

HAMMOCKS BEACH STATE PARK, NC

Hammocks Beach State Park, known locally as Bear Island, is an untouched beach area accessible only by boat. Try visiting in the late spring or early fall to avoid sweltering heat and overzealous mosquitoes.

The park rents kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards for exploring the Bear Island Water Trail or just meandering marshy waterways. There are no marked hiking paths, but wander through beautiful maritime forests, secret tide pools and endless mudflats. It’s a great place for shell hunters, bird watchers and dolphin lovers.

MORRIS ISLAND, SC

Morris Island’s secluded 840 acres embody the unique ecosystem of the Lowcountry. Located at the mouth of Charleston Harbor and accessible only by boat, the island is actively protected by naturalists and historians, but is constantly under threat of development.

Some deep drop offs in the channels between sandbars make for great shore fishing around the area. Weekend partiers prefer the northern end, while the southern part has hiking trails, peaceful beaches and prime views of the historic Morris Island Lighthouse.

Morris Island has a violent history. In the 1700s, marauding pirates used it as a hideout. And some of the most heroic and consequential battles of the Civil War took place here. Of all the ghost tales told here, it’s been said that some are whispered by the ghosts themselves.

CUMBERLAND ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE, GA

Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island is located six miles east of St. Marys. Primal maritime forests, wide marshes and unspoiled beaches hum with the tales of previous residents. Indigenous tribes, missionaries, slaves and affluent tycoons have all passed through here.

Over 9,800 acres of Cumberland Island is designated wilderness. You’ll find more than 50 miles of trails for hiking and birdwatching, as well as 18 miles of beach for swimming and beachcombing. Rent a bike and pedal around the island with a stop at Dungeness Ruins, the remnants of steel magnate Thomas Carnegie’s mansion.

The island is only accessible by boat. As the only commercial establishment on the island, Greyfield Inn offers access to 18 miles of beachfront and dockage to its guests.

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Wickford Cove to Block Island, RI
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Our nation's smallest state has big boating opportunities. Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay is prime for cruising picturesque and protected with many beautiful harbors. While not on everyone's chart plan, Wickford is an historic hamlet with delightfully walkable shady streets lined with beautiful colonial homes. From quiet Wickford, you're set for a straightforward passage out to The Bay, then poised to cross the broad blue expanse of Rhode Island Sound to the fun, boat- and bike-friendly Block Island. This Narragansett tour will have you feeling like a bold explorer while landing at easy modern marinas.

Day 1: Wickford Cove

Wickford Cove is the smallest town in the smallest county of littlest Rhode Island. That's not to minimize its quaint downtown full of waterfront gardens, charming architecture and tremendous yachting heritage. Stroll Wickford's self-guided marker tour of historic seaside homes, then pop into some darling boutiques around the harbor like Serendipity and Pink Parasol.Conclude your walk at Wickford on the Waterfront with a salty cocktail, local oysters or stuffed clams (stuffies in Rhode Island lingo). Tate's Italian Kitchen serves hearty classics across the village's main Brown Street. Moorings can be reserved at Wickford Yacht Club or go to Safe Harbor Wickford Cove for a full-service marina with dock space.

Day 2: Block Island

Wickford to Block Island 29 NMCruising down the western shores of Narragansett Bay under the Jamestown Bridge, passing magnificent mansions then Point Judith Light, you are soon on your way across the open expanse of Rhode Island Sound to Block Island. The farthest island from land on the entire Eastern seaboard, Block Island is even more remote than Monhegan in Maine (10 miles out by comparison).

Block Island - weekend warrior - marinalife
Block Island, RI | Greg Burke

Block Island has a vacation vibe, and everything is relaxed, truly on island-time with their moniker of Bermuda of the North. The 1,500 happy humble Block Island residents claim they've been social distancing since 1661, so they've got humor to carry them through the long off-season. Block's pear-shaped 7 x 3-mile island is cool, casual and fun to explore for a few days, yet not so stuffy-chic or celebrity-crushed as Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard.Getting around by bike or moped is the best way to explore Block's entire 16 miles of perimeter roads. Along the undulating country lanes, you may feel transported to Ireland with the lush rolling fields, stone walls, dramatic Mohegan Bluffs and the contrasting blue sea. Passing dozens of unique beaches, you may plan to return later. Highlight sights are Block Island's two impressive lighthouses – North and South East – with the busier main village of Old Harbor in between.Block Island has two boating harbors: the more protected New Harbor in Great Salt Pond, which is preferred by pleasure boaters, and Old Harbor with its primary ferry landing and bustling downtown of shops and grand seaside hotels. Staying at Great Salt Pond overlooking your mooring or dock slip, you should enjoy sunsets, pub fare and a boaters' block party atmosphere at The Oar or Dead Eye Dick's (opens in May). While in the Old Harbor after browsing boutiques, find a perfect chair and cocktail at either grand seaside hotel: Spring House or Atlantic House.For a delicious local dinner, Kimberly's serves littlenecks or calamari followed by lobster mac n' cheese as a beautiful ending to a day of exploring. Live music may be piping out from next door Poor People's Pub to lure you over for a nightcap.Block Island's public moorings in New Harbor are assigned daily by the Harbormaster. Private slips can be reserved at Champlin's Marina, the Boat Basin and Oar House. They book up quickly in prime summer season, which results in boats rafting-up with strangers (friends you haven't yet met!).

Day 3: Newport

Block Island to Newport 25 NMDeparting Block Island, perhaps after fresh coffee and pastries delivered to your boat by enterprising locals, you will be in the company of power boaters and sailing vessels, plus the occasional charging ferry heading to Newport. It's a direct course northeast to the Sailing Capital of Newport.

Bannisters Wharf - weekened warrior - marinalife
Bannisters Wharf, Newport | Greg Burke

No boater worth his Sperry's can miss out on the yachty harbor of Newport, established in 1639. As a visiting boater, contact the Harbormaster or Newport Yachting Center for an affordable mooring or a much pricier dock space in this prime harbor. Water taxis ply the harbor frequently to take you to the town docks.Newport is full of magnificent vessels, lively waterfront pubs lining Bowens and Bannisters Wharfs, and scads of inviting seaside shops on cobblestone streets. Getting off your boat, stretch your sea legs with a scenic 3.5-mile cliff walk by the Gilded Age mansions of our fine affluent families (Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Dupont, Astor and Morgan). Before sunset, head for Newport rooftop drinks overlooking the harbor at The Vanderbilt or the Hotel Viking to toast your good fortunate in this big little state.

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The Florida Keys
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MAGICAL ASPECTS OF FLORIDA lie beyond the gates of Disney's Magic Kingdom. In fact, a wealth of nature's enchantment unfolds in the 110 miles stretching from Key Largo to Key West, and an abundance of fascinating creatures thrive on the 1,700 islands of the coral cay archipelago.The beginning of the island chain, Key Largo, made famous by the movie starring Bogart and Bacall, is known as the Dive Capital of the World. Wreck divers head for the sunken 510-foot USS Spiegel Grove, while reef lovers choose John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Molasses Reef in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has shallow sections perfect for snorkeling. For a unique day excursion or an overnight stay, dive 20 feet below to the only entrance of the Jules Verne Undersea Lodge at Emerald Lagoon.The world-class and private Ocean Reef Club marina on the northernmost tip of the island has slips to accommodate vessels up to 175 feet.

Day 1: IslamoradaKey Largo to Islamorada 15 NM

It's a short leg from the diving hub to the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, which boasts the largest charter fishing fleet per square mile on Earth. At dawn, captains head out on deep-sea excursions or idle through mangrove islands and shallow seagrass flats of the backcountry. The silver flashes in the sunlight at Robbie's Marina dock are enormous tarpon, 50 to 100 feet long, doing daily water acrobatics for snacks thrown by visitors into the clear, shallow water.

Islamorada - weekend warrior - marinalife
Islamorada | romrodinka on Canvas

The Keys have a motley past: shipwrecks, pirates, buried treasure, movie stars and especially luscious Key Lime pie. History reaching back to Native American life is outlined at the Keys History & Discovery Center at the Islander Resort.Downtown Islamorada's patchwork of boutiques and galleries is overflowing with original creations of artists, sculptors and jewelers inspired by life on the islands. The Morada Way Arts & Cultural District is a bustling six-block corridor of shops, restaurants and studio spaces. Thirsty shoppers can duck into the welcoming back garden of Florida Keys Brewing Company. Beside the seasonal beer on tap, they serve a Key Lime cocktail so delectable that it could be counted as dessert.Transient dockage to 100 feet is available at Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina, a premier facility with 15 sprawling acres of white sand beach. Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina, located in the fabulous Founders Park, is ranked among the top marinas in the world and is a designated Clean Marina.

Day 2: Duck KeyIslamorada to Duck Key 21 NM

Tucked into the secluded and intimate isle of Duck Key, Hawks Cay Resort is a 60-acre destination often named the top family resort in the country. After Hurricane Irma in 2017, a $50 million renovation revitalized the entire property. It's the perfect backdrop for Discovery Channel's popular Saltwater Experience, which is filmed on site.Hawk's Cay guests can do everything or do nothing. Interact and swim with dolphins in their natural environment at the Dolphin Connection or rise early for oceanside yoga before wandering to the spa for a Key Lime Mojito scrub followed by a warm body butter wrap with Key Lime essential oils. Come evening, multiple resort dining choices include the new Sixty-One Prime, a Key-style chop house, and the island casual Angler & Ale.Hawks Cay Marina can accommodate boats up to 110 feet with beams to 20 feet in the resort's back basin.

Day 3: Key WestDuck Key to Key West 52 NM

Before adventuring out in the heat to pet the famous six-toed cats at Hemingway House or view the spartan simplicity of the Truman Little White House, grab a Cuban Café con Leche and wander around town absorbing the laid-back, culturally diverse life of island time.Nightly pub crawls guide visitors along Duval Street's legion of barrooms. Much like the revelers doing the Duval Crawl, the Key West chickens strut the streets and crow at all hours. Colorful roosters and mother hens with tiny chicks weave in and out of traffic and through open cafés around town.

ocean reef club - weekend warrior - marinalife
Buccaneer Island, Ocean Reef Club | Ocean Reef Club

Much quieter winged creatures reside in the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, a tropical paradise home to hundreds of species of magical butterflies and birds. More of nature's birding and fishing wonders lie just off the western shore. Accessible only by boat, Key West National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 208,308 acres with only 2,019 acres above sea level. Wading birds, pelicans, shorebirds, sea turtles, manatees and dolphins all live within or visit the refuge.There's an eatery on nearly every corner from the quirky Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe to the beautiful Seaside Café at the Southernmost Mansion and Louie's Backyard for fine dining. It's best to experience Key West on a bike or a golf cart so you can catch the quirkiness of the island including the popular drag show at 801 Bourbon Bar and the famous cemetery. And at the end of the day, join the locals for live music at the Green Parrot Bar.Several marinas welcome boaters with a range of pleasant amenities and convenient locations: Conch Harbor Marina in historic Old Town, Stock Island Yacht Club and The Perry Hotel & Marina.

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Enjoy a Southern Maryland Getaway
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Ready to go beyond the places in Maryland that grab the tourists, the headlines, the buzz? Spend a weekend in the quiet southwest corner of the state and explore the earliest beginnings of Maryland from the first colony on St. Clement's Island to the site of its first capital, St. Mary's City. Along with fascinating history, you'll discover friendly folks, serene landscapes and fresh bay-to-table dining.

Day 1: Solomons Island

Just a sliver of land measuring a mile and a half long, and in some spots it's just the width of a single road, yet Solomons is alive with eateries, shops, a tiki bar, marinas, a scenic sculpture garden and a world-class museum.

Drum Point Lighthouse - weekend warrior - marinalife
Drum Point Lighthouse at Calvert Marine Museum | Wikimedia Commons

Local residents seeking to preserve the maritime heritage of the area began the Calvert Marine Museum as a community project in 1970. It has evolved into a research museum, renowned for local history exploration while actively looking toward challenges of the future, especially environmental issues. Maritime history, estuarine biology and paleontology are brought to life through hands-on experiences. More than 500 artifacts include a 28-foot three-log canoe, a tobacco press and boats from Solomons' long-gone shipyards and oyster industry.

On the surrounding grounds, stroll the marsh walk home of great blue heron, osprey, hermit crabs and more. Nearby is the River Otter Habitat where residents Bubbles and Squeak frolic between naps.

A short distance away, the synergy of art and nature on the grounds of Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Art Center encourages creativity and reflection. Along the walking paths, tiny fairy gardens are dwarfed by rotating artworks on loan from the Smithsonian.

If all the walking makes you hungry, an abundance of dining choices is at hand, from the generous seafood starters at Lighthouse Restaurant & Dock Bar and the savory cheesecake appetizer at CD Cafe to Sunday piano brunch at Charles Street Brasserie. The rooms of Lotus Kitchen, formerly a private home, are decorated with original artwork, and the fresh, elegant food is in itself a work of art. It's a favorite breakfast and lunch stop, and according to locals, it serves Key lime pie rivaling those in the Florida Keys.

Several marinas on Back Creek include the resort-style Solomons Harbor Marina close to the town's center, and the larger, 246-slip Spring Cove Marina that offers a courtesy shuttle to restaurants and shops.

Day 2: St. Mary's City

Solomons Island to St. Mary's City 36 NM

"Where's the city?" is a frequent question from arriving tourists who haven't yet realized they are standing on the archaeological site of Maryland's first capital. Tours of replica buildings bring that era back to life. Trails along this historic exhibit on the St. Mary's River wind past a replica of the Dove (one of the ships that carried Catholic settlers), the Godiah Spray Plantation and a fully excavated 17th century building at St. John's Site.

St. Clements Island - weekend warrior - marinalife
St. Clements Island | Susan Elnicki Wade

After a 90-year search, a fort-like formation the size of a football field was recently uncovered. Ground-penetrating radar scans revealed a brick cellar guardhouse and dwellings -- possibly Native American -- within the walls. Native communities in the area can be traced back 10,000 years, and a quartzite arrow dating back 4,500 years was unearthed.

Eating options are limited but tasty. Tiny Enso Kitchen has amazing breakfast sandwiches and lunch salads, but its fame comes from scrumptious bread and pastries. Although it's located in a gas station, St. James Deli & Spirits is known for excellent take-out pizza and subs.

Boats can dock for the day on site, and the closest full-service facility, Dennis Point Marina in Drayden, offers gas and diesel.

Day 3: Coltons Point

St. Mary's City to Coltons Point 26 NM

Off-season, the pace of life in this peaceful little community on the Potomac is lower than the speed limit. That all changes as warm weather tourists arrive at St. Clement's Island Museum to learn about the 1634 arrival of two ships, the Ark and Dove, whose English passengers sought to establish a new colony based on religious tolerance.

Bald eagle in flight - weekend warrior - marinalife
Bald Eagle in Flight | Frank Cone

A half-mile offshore is the 62-acre St. Clement's Island state park and federal nature preserve. A towering white cross marks where the first Catholic mass was held in the new colony. The park includes a hiking trail, beach, picnic pavilion, and fishing and hunting grounds.

In 1967, local preservation groups organized the annual Blessing of the Fleet, a time-honored traditional benediction for the boats and the St. Mary's County watermen. The event also raises awareness about the island's future, currently one-tenth its original size due to rising sea levels.

Visiting boaters can tie up to the piers for the day or take a weekend water shuttle from Coltons Point. Guest piers are on the north and south shores of St. Clement's Island. Overnight slips are available at Coltons Point Marina and Cather Marine just a few miles from the mouth of St. Patrick's Creek.

Before returning to the usual faster pace, mosey up to Morris Point Seafood on Canoe Neck Creek for just-off-the-boat homemade seafood (start with crab dip Florentine) or Sunday brunch featuring Chesapeake eggs and smoked trout platter.

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Florida's Islands - Marco to Captiva
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IT'S A WATER WAY of life on Florida's Islands on the southwest Paradise Coast. Every beach town has the essentials: brilliant sand, shimmering water and hypnotic allure, and its own unique identity. The mood along the coast shifts with the breeze from sophisticated metro to quirky beachside.

Day 1: Naples

Marco Island to Naples -- 15.7 NM

Marco Island is the largest of the coast's 10,000 islands where nature preserves shelter hundreds of mammals and birds including the American bald eagle.

Naples Florida Boat House Dock - Florida's Islands - Marinalife
Naples Florida Boat House Dock by Michelle Maria

Naples is famous for its sophisticated arts and culture, shopping, and dining. Despite its palpable swank, visitors appreciate the intimate, village vibe while strolling the tropically landscaped downtown streets dotted with sidewalk cafes, boutiques and art galleries.

Fifth Avenue South in Old Naples is one of the nation's most exclusive addresses. Blooming tropical plants grace the walkways, and each shop window showcases chic fashion, jewelry and artwork tagged from reasonable to shocking prices. Mediterranean style Vergina restaurant has an elegant bar perfect for casual dining or sipping sophisticated spirits.

Roseate Spoonbill - Florida's Islands - marinalife
Roseate Spoonbill from Lolame

Since the 1930s, Third Street South has been a browsing favorite. Surrounded by the lovely houses and colorful beach cottages of Old Naples, shops and bistros are tucked among courtyards and antique fountains. Jane's Garden Cafe on Third serves breakfast, lunch and Tea (English owners). The walls of residents' favorite, Old Naples Pub, are covered in local history, and outside tables rest under a vine-covered canopy.

After dining at a posh beachfront resort or a funky bayside bar, head to Naples Beach and the iconic Naples Pier to witness a dazzling Gulf sunset. Nearby, the recently overhauled Port of the Islands Marina has direct access to Ten Thousand Islands, the Everglades backwaters and the Gulf, and accommodates boats to 65 feet. Naples City Dock's new facility has 84 slips and 400 feet of side tie to accommodate various sized vessels.

Day 2: Fort Myers Beach

Naples to Fort Myers Beach -- 16.5 NM

Bygone Florida is still apparent in Fort Myers Beach on six-mile long Estero Island. On the north shore, Times Square has a concentration of shops, restaurants and beach lovers. The Mound House museum reveals the history of the region's indigenous people and early settlers atop an ancient Calusa Indian shell mound. The less crowded, southern end of the island has dozens of public-access beaches.

Fort Myers Beach, FL - Florida's Islands - marinalife
Fort Myers Beach, FL by Brian Tietz

Nature lovers can wander the boardwalk through a live oak hammock and mangrove forest on Matanzas Pass Preserve, an unspoiled 60-acre bayfront sanctuary. The pavilion at the end overlooks Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve's inhabitants leaping fish, wading birds and an occasional bashful manatee.

Kayak the islands to the back bay along the 190-mile Great Calusa Blueway paddling trail. Inspired by the native Calusa tribe, the route meanders through the coastal waters and inland tributaries where the birdwatching is sublime, as are dolphin and manatee sightings.

Graze your day through the local seafood harvest of fresh fish, famous ‘pink gold' (pink gulf shrimp) and delectable stone crab claws. Pause at Heavenly Biscuits for oven-fresh Southern biscuits with toppings or their outrageous cinnamon rolls.

The annual fall Tapa Hop Pub Crawl features several Fort Myers Beach restaurants providing tapas and appetizers to sample along with entertainment and prizes. Snook Bight Marina's new floating slips for vessels up to 60 feet are a 500-yard walk to the beach. Boats up to 100 feet can dock at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina and enjoy amenities from swimming pools and spa to restaurants and a white sand beach.

Day 3: Captiva Island

Fort Myers Beach to Captiva -- 23 NM

Captiva Island is a not-so-far-away exotic paradise where lavender flowers crawl across pristine, powdery sand. With an expansive background of sea, sand and sky, the island is all about the outdoors: biking, cruising, birding, golfing or simply lounging.

South Seas Island Resort - Florida's Islands - Marinalife
South Seas Island Resort from Wikimedia Commons

Quaint galleries filled with resident artists' works give the village an intimate, almost magical feel. The 2 Islands Gallery at Chadwick's Square is a whimsical place to shop for unique custom-made jewelry, pottery and island paintings created by area artisans. Their boutique section has stylish painted clothing, silk scarfs and lots more.

Dining choices range from beach shack to resort chic. The Bubble Room serves classic American cuisine with a side of smiles amid walls papered in memorabilia and the sounds of a working toy train. Linger after dinner at the casual beachside Mucky Duck to watch the sky transform during sunset.

South Seas Island Resort has a 330-acre wildlife preserve and two miles of beachfront. Dockage to 120 feet is available at the Yacht Harbour & Marina on Pine Island Sound. ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa can accommodate boats to 100 feet.

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK protects an unparalleled landscape that provides habitat for rare and endangered species such as the West Indian manatee, American crocodile and the elusive Florida panther. This international treasure is a 1.5-million-acre maze of mangrove islands and waterways. A third of the park is navigable, but a tour out of Marco Island or Naples is the simplest, safest way to explore. Tour options include kayaking, slogging through water on foot, or taking a nature walk with a guide. All visitors thrill to an airboat ride far from land, out over the vast expanse often called the River of Grass.

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Clearwater to Weeki Wachee, Florida
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When my best friend announced that she was moving to Clearwater, my heart stopped. For decades we'd stumbled through life in Washington, DC, raising our boys from diapers to high school diplomas. Not having her nearby seemed unimaginable. But my BFF, who was sick of shoveling snow and wanted to be closer to her family in the Tampa area, was heading south.Frequent phone calls eased the pang of missing each other, but before long we were online comparing plane fares for a Florida vacation and reunion of our families. Our plans were set, and we could not wait to tug off our heavy sweaters during the flight and watch the temperature jump from frozen tundra to balmy tropics.Upon landing at the Tampa Airport, we learned that you can go from baggage claim to sunny waterfront in the blink of an eye. Local beaches are famous for soft sand, warm waters and tall palm trees. Ranked among America's best, Clearwater Beach is a gorgeous 2.5-mile-long stretch of barrier island with gentle waves and seaside activities ranging from scuba diving and charter fishing to bikini volleyball matches and sand sculpture festivals. Strolling along the Beach Walk reveals a variety of unique shops and seafood restaurants. A visit wouldn't be complete without a Frenchy's Café fried grouper sandwich washed down with fruity rum drinks.Those seeking a more secluded side of the sea have superb options. South of Clearwater Beach is Sand Key Park, a 95-acre preserve where sea turtles lay eggs in white sand while humans picnic, swim, hike and run little ones at the playground or dog park. North of Clearwater is Caladesi Island State Park, which is only accessible by public ferry or boat. It provides a pristine haven for seashell collecting, bird watching and kayaking through a mangrove forest. The marina's concession stand only offers snacks and refreshments, so pack a cooler for day trips. Just north of Caladesi lies Honeymoon Island State Park, with four miles of uncrowded beach for sunbathing, fishing and playing fetch at the pet beach.Nestled inside a bastion of natural beauty, Clearwater is not a sleepy beach town. It bustles with theaters, shops, pubs, restaurants, craft breweries and art galleries. Sunsets at Pier 60 showcase nightly music, street performers and local craft vendors, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium encourages interactive learning with dolphins. Clearwater Beach Marina provides a central location for visiting all the attractions.

DAY 1: Palm Harbor, FLClearwater to Palm Harbor

Dunedin Dock Sunset | Clearwater Weeki Wachee | Marinalife

Despite repeated warnings to put on more sunscreen, our crew was glowing red, so we took a break from the sun and began exploring coastal towns near Clearwater. First stop was Dunedin, located north of Clearwater overlooking St. Joseph Sound off the Gulf of Mexico.This charming town is pre-season home for the Toronto Blue Jays. Restaurants, art galleries, craft breweries and stores are hip enough to hold their own against urban counterparts. But the place to be at the day's end is the town pier. Crowdsgather there at sunset to watch the celestial orb cast colors across the water before it moves out of sight. Awed by the spectacular display, people disperse while the nocturnal show features birds at flight and twinkling stars.Palm Harbor awaits up the coastline, flanked by St. Joseph Sound and Tarpon Lake. Whether you cruise into the 100-year-old Speckled Trout Marina or upscale Home Port Marina, you arrive at a family-friendly town with an old Florida vibe. Its main street is lined with historic buildings and eateries serving everything from sushi at the Thirsty Marlin and fine cuisine at Ozone Blue Grill. For parents: Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club, a 900-acre luxury destination with four golf courses, including Copperhead where the PGA Tour holds its Valspar Championship. For the kids: Suncoast Primate Sanctuary for encounters with apes, lemurs and other exotic critters.

DAY 2: Tarpon SpringsPalm Harbor to Tarpon Springs

We expected fresh seafood and sunshine on this trip but did not anticipate spanakopita and Greek music. The journey north from Palm Harbor brought us to Tarpon Springs along the Anclote River. Strolling up Dodecanese Boulevard, our mouths watered at the smell of lamb souvlaki mixed with a briny breeze. We passed block after block of Greek restaurants, groceries, bakeries and gift shops with sponge displays.While seated at a table on the waterfront deck at Dimitri's on the Water, we learned the town's backstory. In the 1800s, Bahamian, Key West and local black watermen harvested sponges with three-pronged rakes in the plentiful local reefs. In 1905, John Corcoris arrived and introduced the more effective Greek method of sponge diving, and a sponge boom time ensued. As Corcoris brought in scores of Mediterranean divers, the Greek community blossomed, with the elegant St. Nicholas Cathedral as its centerpiece and a statue near the docks that honors the divers. A short distance from the Greek district you find beautiful Victorian homes, dolphin cruises, aquarium, art galleries and museums. Capt'n Jack's Waterfront Grill, across the Anclote River from Dimitri's, serves superb seafood dishes, especially local shrimp.

DAY 3: Weeki WacheeTarpon Springs to Weeki Wachee

Our final destination was due north, upstream from where the Weeki Wachee River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Since the 1940s, tourists have flocked to Weeki Wachee to see mermaids perform a water ballet show while breathing oxygen through a specially designed tube. A splash

Tarpon Springs Street | Clearwater Weeki Wachee | Marinalife

park with water slides, beach and picnic spots are nearby, but manmade attractions were not on our agenda. We were here to see manatees.Near Weeki Wachee State Park, we rented kayaks at the Kayak Shack and started paddling through astonishingly clear water. Plush foliage and palm trees along the shore heightened the sense of adventure. The up-close view of fish, crabs, turtles and other aquatic creatures swimming beneath us was exhilarating, and the cool waters lured us out of the kayaks for a quick dip. Then we met the manatees. Slowly and gracefully, gentle herbivores glided past us, using short front flippers and powerful tails to propel their round gray bodies through the water.It was a magical experience that none of us will ever forget. And building new memories with our dearest friends made the distance seem not so far away.

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Houston to Clear Lake
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Which of these does not belong with the others: a double-decker carousel, a petrochemical refinery, a runaway longhorn, a space center or the country's largest urban wildlife preserve? None of them! Along the 35 miles of Bay Area Houston coastline, they all coexist to create an eclectic tourist hub. Houston City Pass offers nine days of discounted and expedited entrance to attractions in the area.

DAY 1: Houston, TX

Houston to Baytown 25 NM

Houston is easily accessible by land from any town in the bayside region, but captains seeking a unique adventure can cruisethe Houston coastline and Buffalo Bayou, a section of Houston Ship Channel, to the city center. Due to security precautions around petrochemical plants along the route, a special permit is required, and boats are escorted by an armed Coast Guard vessel.

From years as a sprawling oil town, Houston has evolved into the New Capital of Southern Cool with the arts at its core. Museums, theaters, street art and chef creations are flourishing. More than 40 art and cultural powerhouses are scattered within blocks, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Holocaust Museum, Art Car Museum and National Museum of Funeral History.

Art Car Parade | Houston Coastline | Marinalife

As a multiethnic city, Houston is a dining dream. Housed on tree-lined streets and strip malls and in food trucks, award-winning chefs plate exceptional dishes from around the world. Sample your way through the Phoenica Market boasting 15,000 items from 50 countries. Sip a brew at Texas' oldest craft beer maker, Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Its labels were designed by renowned graffiti artist Gonzo247, who has also painted four "art cars" for the annual Art Car Parade.

DAY 2: Baytown

Baytown to Seabrook 13 NM

Baytown is located on the north shore of the ship channel, just outside the marine exclusion zone. The towering spire of San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is clearly visible. Catch the Lynchburg Ferry to the 1836 battle site that expanded U.S. territory by a million square miles. Nearby is the Battleship Texas State Historic Site, which offers onboard experiences such as hard-hat tours to see the inner workings of the last dreadnaught battleship.

The battle fatigued find peace in the 2,500 acres of natural wetlands, forest, prairie and marsh habitats of the Armand Bayou Nature Center, the largest urban wilderness preserve in America. It is home to 370+ species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Armand Bayou Nature Center | Houston Coastline | Marinalife

Stroll through Baytown's arts district, which is peppered with intriguing murals, and shop from local artisans at the Art Center. Anchored by a 1,000-year-old giant oak, Texas Avenue is lined with historic storefronts holding fascinating stories within their walls. Finish the day with a premium wine from Texas-grown grapes at Yepez Vineyard, an adobe-style winery with a vivid Southwest atmosphere.

Slips from 35' to 55' are available at the recently renovated Bayland Marina. Transients are welcome; larger vessels require reservations in advance.

DAY 3: Seabrook

Seabrook to Kemah .5 NM

Clear Lake has the most populated boating waters in Texas. Multiple attractions and marinas line its shores, but the interior can be shallow for a larger vessel.

On the north shore is Seabrook, a bird lover's paradise, home to about 300 diverse species. The guide for Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail suggests bird watchers look for pelicans, ospreys, waxwings, warblers, sandpipers, buntings and migrant songbirds.

NASA's Space Center Houston | Houston Coastline | Marinalife

Birds aren't the only ones in flight here. NASA's Space Center Houston provides an out-of-this-world journey at its "edutainment" complex. Peek at a mock spacecraft, touch an actual moon rock and get a behind-the-scenes tour of human space flight.

More wings and fins are found at local festivals. The Wings Over Houston Air Show at Ellington Field (October 19-20) showcases vintage World War II aircraft alongside modern aviation. Visitors to Keels & Wheels (May 2-3, 2020) moon over 300+ classic cars and boats from around the country.

Post-flight food options vary from fresh seafood markets on Waterfront Drive to Habanero's, a family-owned dive with authentic Mexican-Caribbean flavors, to the Seabrook Waffle Company serving Belgian-style breakfast or dessert waffles and lunch items in a small European café.

Seabrook Marina & Shipyard | Houston Coastline | Marinalife

Transients are welcome at Seabrook Marina & Shipyard, which has 650+ slips to 125 feet, including multihull and catamaran slips. Its repair facility can handle boats to 80 feet.

Kemah lies on the southern shore of Clear Lake. Get a true Texas experience at League City Butler Longhorn Museum to discover how a few ranchers saved the longhorn, with horns as wide as a man's height, from extinction.

Then head for Kemah Boardwalk, the entertainment center housing waterfront restaurants, amusement rides, summer concerts, fireworks and Salsa Sunday dance lessons. Experience bottom of the sea decor at the Aquarium, where guests dine seated around a 50,000-gallon tank centerpiece, home to fish, sharks and stingrays.

There's a festival for everything here including Cinco de Mayo, crawfish and zydeco, wine, Tejano, Boo on the Boardwalk, and a holiday lighted boat parade. Prior to Fat Tuesday, boats festooned with lights and regalia parade through the Kemah-Seabrook channel for Yachty Gras.

Kemah Boardwalk Marina, located bay side of the south-end base of the Kemah-Seabrook Bridge, has 414 deep-water, floating dock slips with wide-finger piers.

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