Best of Lists

13 Top Summer Boating Destinations

From the San Juan Islands to Manitoulin Island


Irvington, Va.

Sited on the banks of Carter Creek where it flows into the Rappahannock River, Irvington boasts deep, protected waters and a quaint Colonial ambiance. The village once thrived as a stop for steamboats carrying goods and travelers across southern Chesapeake Bay, which is why The Steamboat Era Museum here is so popular today. For more history, head to Christ Church (finished in 1735), where you can tour one of the nation's finest examples of Georgian architecture. Hit the farmers' market for fresh seafood, meat and vegetables or visit one of the vineyards in the area. Dock at The Tides Inn Marina.

St. Michaels, Md.

Chesapeake Bay possesses a seemingly endless array of temptations for boaters, yet St. Michaels remains a perennial favorite for its sheer beauty and well-roundedness. Yes, it has picturesque streets lined with vintage homes leading to a gorgeous harbor. Yes, is has charming storefronts, trendy retailers and fine art galleries. Yes, it has spas and retreats for pampering and relaxation. Yes, it has fine dining from waterfront crab houses to gourmet brasseries. And yes, it even has the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the St. Michaels Museum on St. Mary's Square. What's not to love? Dock at St. Michaels Marina or at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, a members-only marina.

Cape May, N.J.

The entire city of Cape May is designated a National Historic Landmark due to its unprecedented concentration of Victorian buildings. It's also called the nation's oldest seashore resort and has all the trappings to back it up, including a two-mile boardwalk paralleling the beach with arcades, seafood joints and shopping galore. Cape May makes a great base for outdoor fun bird-watching, boat tours, dolphin cruises, kayaking and canoeing and the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is just a short cab ride away. Dock at South Jersey Marina or Canyon Club Resort Marina.

Greenport, N.Y.

This village at the eastern end of Long Island's North Fork is modest and casual with the look and feel of an authentic whaling town. Vessels of all sizes are moored in the deep-water harbor, seagulls soar overhead, and, occasionally, there's a whiff of fried clams on the air. From the waterfront, you can walk to restaurants, shops and even a vintage carousel. Visit the East End Seaport Museum & Marine Foundation and the famous S.T. Preston and Son Chandlery for some nautical seasoning. Dock at Mitchell Park Marina or Brewer Yacht Yard at Greenport.

Mystic, Conn.

Well known as an old shipbuilding town, Mystic is also home to some of the finest modern marine facilities on Long Island Sound. There's plenty to do, particularly for those cruising with kids. The waterside streets are lined with shops, galleries and restaurants, and there's also a planetarium and children's museum. No trip here is complete without a tour of Mystic Seaport, the nation's leading maritime museum or the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration. Dock at Mystic Shipyard, Brewer Yacht Yard at Mystic or Seaport Marine.

Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

The Vineyard, as locals call it, is the bigger, more outgoing sister of Nantucket. The island is closer to Cape Cod, making it a more convenient, and is adorned with picturebook beaches, elegant inns, and upscale dining and shopping, which draw celebrities and serious vacationers alike. Brightly painted gingerbread cottages line the streets of Oak Bluffs (also the home of the Flying Horses, the oldest working carousel in the U.S.). Visit Aquinnah Beach to see the famous color-streaked cliffs there. Dock at Oak Bluffs Marina, Vineyard Haven Marina or Edgartown Town Docks.

Nantucket, Mass.

The world's former top whaling port is now a remote summer vacation spot with a serene seaside look and feel. Restaurants and boutique stores line the streets of Nantucket Town, where you will also find the majority of dining and nightlife options, and the Museum of Nantucket History includes exhibits on the history of the island. Beachcombing, swimming, surfing and fishing are all glorious ways to spend a day, or a week, here. Bring your bike, too, as that is the best way to get around the 50-square-mile island. Dock at Nantucket Boat Basin.

Boston, Mass.

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and has an amazingly rich history and culture. You can still visit where many of the crucial events of the American Revolution occurred along the Freedom Trail, which is marked by a red line of bricks embedded in the ground. The Inner Harbor is home to the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard as well as the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum at Fort Point Channel. It also offers the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area and numerous waterfront restaurants. Dock at The Boston Yacht Haven, Constitution Marina or Marina Bay.

Camden, Maine

It's the Maine coast as it was meant to be. Lobster boats and schooners ply the harbor in front of a charming downtown studded with locally owned shops, galleries, seafood eateries and cafes ” there's even a beautiful public library right on the waterfront. Take a day-trip to the outlying islands and their 18 lighthouses, or head inland and experience Camden Hills State Park, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts featuring 30 miles of scenic hiking and mountain biking trails, breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and lakes and well maintained campgrounds. Dock at Wayfarer Marine.

Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Dotted with historic homes and featuring the nation's third-tallest monument, the 352-foot Doric column Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, this village on South Bass Island is Americana at its best. It ranks in the top five confectionary destinations in the state, and its largest souvenir shop reportedly has 1,000 items with the town's name on it. Enjoy winery tours, park tours, cave tours and home tours via rented golf cart, or spend your days kayaking, parasailing, fishing, biking, hiking or golfing. It's the quintessential choose-your-own-adventure family vacation spot. Dock at Miller Marina or The Crew's Nest.

Manitoulin Island, Ontario

The world's largest freshwater island, Manitoulin in northern Lake Huron has been called a place of convergence. Indeed, history, culture and natural beauty merge in the two-dozen settlements spread across its 1,000 square miles of boreal forest, bluffs and meadows. The Holy Cross Mission and Ruins in Wikemikong commemorates early Jesuit visits to the island, which began around 1648. Sheguiandah holds a prehistoric quarry that has yielded stone pools and arrowheads dating back 9,000 years. Gore Bay, one of the larger communities, offers modern amenities such as shopping, restaurants and facilities for tennis and golf. Dock at Spider Bay Marina in Little Current.

Chicago, Ill.

With its megawatt downtown and world-famous attractions, it's not surprising to see the Windy City listed here. Navy Pier, once a shipping and military training facility, is now a major tourist draw with 50 acres of promenades, shops, eateries and amusements. Shoreline Sightseeing operates nine touring boats and 11 water taxis that offer guided skyline tours, fireworks cruises, and special events such as Brew Cruises and Wine Tasting Cruises. Then, of course, there's Michigan Avenue, Shedd Aquarium, Millennial Park, the Field Museum of Natural History and much more. Dock at DuSable Harbor, Burnham Harbor or 31st Street Harbor.

San Juan Islands, Wash.

The hundreds of islands breaching the sparkling blue waters here are everything you've heard rugged, wild and richly fertile in scenery. May through September is the ideal time to visit, when the weather is mild and the whales (orcas, mainly) are on the move. You can take advantage of the many lovely resorts and lodges, the attractions of the charming seaside towns, or simply find your way to remote anchorages and deserted bays. Dock at Port of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island or Deer Harbor Marina on Orcas Island.

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Back to School Bucket List

The days are growing shorter, and the final weeks of summer are upon us. So, before the school bell rings, Marinalife is wondering if you’ve checked off everything on your must-do list this season. If you’re looking for ways to wrap up summer, consider the following ideas for last-dash, fun activities.

- Learn how to do a back dive, canon ball or jump off the back of the boat into the water.  Rope swings are also an invigorating option.

- Have a tiki party on a boat and serve your guests tropical blender drinks. Bonus points for Hawaiian shirts and grilled pineapple or savory Polynesian snacks.

- Pick a dozen crabs on your boat or at a waterfront dock bar, along with all the classic fixins’ of corn on the cob, hushpuppies, coleslaw and a cold brew.  If crabs aren’t your preference, a lobster, clam or crawfish boil will do just fine.

- Ride down a giant slide, roller coaster or death-defying ride at a waterpark while letting out a mighty yell.

- Body surf in the Atlantic waves or build a sandcastle strong enough to withstand the tide.

- Explore a hidden cove or a dream destination that you’ve never visited before on your boat.

- Go fishing and catch something big enough for dinner.

- Get pulled on a raft or inflatable behind a boat or learn how to waterski.

- Catch lightening bugs in a jar to make a glowing lantern.  But be sure to poke holes in the lid and release them when the fun is done.

- Under the stars, go to an outdoor movie, music festival or seafood feast.

- Learn how to shuck an oyster, clean a fish or pick a crab, then invite friends over to taste dishes made from the fruits of your labor.

- Invent a nautical cocktail to commemorate the summer of 2022.

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Nauti Shopper: Identify your new discoveries with these apps and guides



Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Galaxy Store

This fish finder app lets anglers discover saltwater and freshwater catches with the snap of a picture. Take a live shot or import photos and the AI technology works its magic. Learn about marine habitats and check weather conditions including winds, tides, water temperature and barometric pressure. (Free download; premium subscription is $29.99/year)


Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store
Take photos of your shoreline discoveries and this innovative app helps you figure out what they are and the sea creature that built it. Thanks to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, FL, beachcombers can now identify most common shells found across Florida beaches in seconds. ($1.99 download)


Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

This navigation and social boating app offers satellite, terrain and NOAA map features, depth and contours, trip planning, voyage tracking and a captain’s log for itineraries. Find points of interest such as fuel docks, anchorages, marinas and restaurants. The social boating features helps you connect with the boating community (Free download)



By Paul Humann and Ned Deloach

Whether you’re a southern angler or marine wildlife documenter, you’ll love combing through 1,000 photographs of more than 683 species in this book. Designed as a reference guide, this new 4th edition identifies fish and aquatic creatures throughout the waterways of Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas. ($44.95)


by Kenn Kaufman Kaufman Field Guides

This guide has been a leading birdlife guidebook for decades. Vibrant photos, detailed descriptions and range maps illustrate a lively key for bird-watching excursions. The book is compact, easily portable and studies most species in North America. (Prices vary)


By Len McDougall

Whether you’re hunting for dinner, hiking or being an avid nature lover, this guide makes animal tracking easy. Discover North American species such as the American Elk and Whitetail Deer. Identify footprints, habitats and range. This book isn’t just for hunters; it’s for explorers of all kinds. ($34.56)



Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

Point a smartphone to the sky and suddenly you appear in your own planetarium with this stargazing app. Sky Guide locates your position and follows the stars in real time while superimposing constellations and figures interactively. Find planets in rotation, discover where Pisces is currently rising or catch the next meteor shower.($1.99 download)


National Geographic Kids
Children will become overnight marine biologists with this fun learning series. Young readers can spot sea otters, manatees, turtles and much more. Teach your kids about aquatic habitats with photography and unique fun facts on each species. ($17.99)


SmartLab Toys

This outdoor set brings out kids’ inner scientific explorer. Examining bugs, plants, dirt, weather and more. Activities include testing various samples and tracking findings in a science log. Kids can enjoy after-dark exploration with the UV night scope. ($45)

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Top 10 New England Sailing Regattas

What do a media mogul, movie maker and American President have in common? Taking part in yacht racing, one of our nation's oldest sports, and New England, the cradle of this sport in America. Ted Turner won the 1977 America's Cup in Newport. Roy Disney sailed from Newport to Bermuda with record-breaking speed in 2002. And in 1936, JFK earned a winner's cup racing Stars in the Hyannis Port Yacht Club race to Edgartown.

With more than 6,000 miles of shoreline, survival built on the sea from olden days of fishing and trading to today's seasonal tourist dollars, it's a natural that racing sailboats is a time-honored tradition and rite of passion for most New Englanders. Many sailors here boast blood as blue as the surrounding seas, yet everyone can find a home to race. Here's a sampling of some of the region's best-known regattas.


Camden Classics Cup - new england regattas - marinalife
Camden Classics Cup | Alison Langle

Camden Classics Cup

July 28-30

Competition and camaraderie combine in this relative newcomer event sailed in Penobscot Bay and celebrated shoreside in downtown Camden. Over 100 sailboats, everything from vintage yachts to very fast one-designs like J/46s and J/42s, race. Classes are available for day sailors and cruising yachts, too. Dockage at Lyman-Morse is included in the race fee, so the party starts ashore when the racing ends, says organizer Mackenzie Lyman, who adds the marina operator and boat-builders have rebuilt the waterfront after a fire in 2020. Spectators can have just as much fun. Maine's Wind- jammers offer two-hour tours to view the racing, while landlubber's best bet is watching the parade of sail as dressed yachts with costumed crew parade through Camden harbor on the morning of July 30.

Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club Annual Regatta & Shipyard Cup Classics Challenge

July 23-24

A trend toward classic yacht racing and a nod to the area's deep sailing roots combined for the first time last year at the Shipyard Cup. This new addition to the nearly 50-year-old annual regatta put lots of eye-candy on the water. The 1926-built NY-40, Marilee and 1937-constructed 12-meter America's Cup contender, Gleam, plus classic Boothbay Harbor one-designs like the 21-foot, Geerd Hendel-designed, 1938-launched sloops, are expected back this year along with contemporary race yachts. We invited several America's Cup contenders to join Gleam this year on the start line, says co-chair Bob Scribner. Spectators can observe from Spruce Point, McKeown Point or Southport. A narrated parade of participants in the inner harbor starts at 10:00 a.m. on July 24.


Marblehead Regatta - new england regattas - marinalife
NOOD Marblehead Regatta 2021 | Bruce

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Marblehead

July 28-31

The 1889-founded Marblehead Race Week joined with National Offshore One-Design concept a few years back, and the result is close to 200 boats racing. We now have all our regular classes like J/70s, Rhodes 19s and Viper 640, plus there are usually one or two guest classes like RS21s, Skuds, 2.4's and J/24s, that hold regional championships as part of the week, says Leslie Rousseau, race committee chair for the host Boston Yacht Club. We expect to see the return of Jud Smith, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and local J-70 favorite. Spectators on land can get a bird's eye view of the racing from Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. Those with a fast center console can watch the boats line up to start off Turkey Point in Middle River or set their chutes at the windward mark in Middle River.

Edgartown Race Weekend

June 23-25

Since 1938, celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard is home to this week of combo coastal, offshore and round-the-island racing hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club. The history, charm and summer activity on Martha's Vineyard is a meaningful draw, in addition to fantastic wind and ideal sailing conditions, says Alex Nugent, one of the event's co-chairs. Plus, we typically host a big welcome party that's sponsored by Mount Gay Rum. New is the ‘Round-the-Sound series of races, which features 20-some nautical mile coastal sprints around Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound and replaces the around-the-buoy series. There's monohull and multihull, racing and cruising, double-handed and many-handed entrants including teams from state and federal service and maritime academies.

Nantucket Race Week

August 13-21

Nine days of racing, parties and awards ceremonies take the concept of race week to the extreme. There's something afloat for everyone: kids in Optis and 420s, women in Rhodes 19s, kiteboarders, radio-controlled model boats and some of the country's top sailors competing in high-performance big boats and classic wooden yachts. This year we celebrate the 50th Opera House Cup Regatta, the grand dame of classic wooden boat regattas. The Cup, named after a legendary Nantucket restaurant, attracts some of the finest wooden boats on the East Coast and Europe. There is a big awards party on the beach after the race, says Diana Brown, chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. The Parade of Wooden Boats offers a brochure that describes each participating boat. The public can watch the parade from Brant Point Beach.


Annual Regatta

June 10-12

Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) out of its facilities in Newport, this is North America's oldest continuously held sailing event going on its 168th year. The format features two days of buoy racing, prefaced by a race around Conanicut Island. The sight of 100-plus spinnakers running north in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from Fort Adams, Castle Hill or Beavertail Light is breathtaking. Entries are invited to one-design classes, and boats more than 24 feet race under a variety of handicaps. The Annual Regatta is one of my perennial favorites, says Paul Zabetakis, NYYC commodore and a regular participant on his Swan 42, Impetuous. The race management is impeccable with multiple course configurations. Few other venues offer the perfect combination of offshore racing in Rhode Island Sound and inshore racing on Narragansett Bay. The Saturday night regatta party is one of the biggest occasions of the Newport regatta season with sailors converging on Harbour Court for cocktails and dinner.

Edgartown Race Weekend - new england regattas - marinalife
Edgartown Race Weekend | Daniel Fors

Newport to Bermuda Race

June 17

The lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are ringside seats to watch nearly 200 vessels start in the East Passage on a 635-mile passage south to Bermuda. Fort Adams State Park also provides close-up views of many of the boats as they depart from Newport Harbor. The fleet then sails past Brenton State Park as it clears Brenton Reef and turns to the southeast. Charter boats and private yachts assemble to watch the start from the water as well, says John Burnham. It's one of the oldest regularly scheduled ocean races, happening biennially since 1906. This year, three high-speed multihulls -- two MOD 70s, Argo and Snowflake, and the 78' trimaran Ultim'Emotion 2 -- are entered, and each has a good chance of breaking the elapsed time race record of 34h:42m:53s set in 2016 by the 100' maxi yacht, Comanche.

Ida Lewis Distance Race

August 18-20

The fleet goes where the wind blows. The Ida Lewis Distance Race is like no other in that the Race Committee chooses from among four different courses, based on the weather. Each course incorporates some of the most storied cruising grounds in New England and is just long enough for the fleet to be offshore overnight, yet not so long to prohibit inviting family and friends to join for a first-time adventure, says Anselm Richards, event chair. The goal: get about 60-some teams to compete on race boats 28-foot and longer in double-handed, youth, collegiate and different handicap classes back to the dock in under 24 hours. The start happens off Fort Adams and ends inside Newport Harbor, where each team is handed a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco.


Block Island Race

May 27

Stamford is the start of this Memorial Day weekend regatta that for many sailors kicks New England's offshore racing season. The 186-nautical mile course down Long Island Sound and around Block Island and back also acts as a ‘warm up' for many teams that are racing some two weeks later in the Newport to Bermuda Race, says Kate Wilson Somers, who handles media for the event. The race marks its 75th anniversary this year and is organized by the Storm Trysail Club, based in Larchmont, NY.

Cedar Point One Design Regatta

June 4-5

A 20-year+ tradition on the first weekend in June, this one-design keelboat event hosted out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT, can draw as many as 800 competitors on over 100 boats. The key is that all the boats in a class are the same; no handicap scoring is needed. This makes it easy to watch, as first over the finish line is the winner. Currently, the event is open to J70, J88, J105 and J109, and Beneteau 36.7 fleets, but other fleets are welcome if they meet the requirements, says Joyce Oberdorf, who handles the club's communications.

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