2018 Destination Guide: Southeast

Elnicki Wade

Cape Charles, V.a.

We start on Southeast boating guide in Cape Charles, Virginia. On Virginia's Eastern Shore, this exquisite little getaway town awaits your arrival. Located on the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, this dreamy destination delivers rural hospitality eager to slow down the pace of hectic urban life. The beaches provide lazy days and breathtaking sunsets. You can drop a line off the fishing pier or spend the morning crabbing. After a mid-day nap or massage, stroll through town to shop in boutiques or admire the elegant 18th-century buildings.

Eating: As you watch watermen in the marina unload their daily catch of local delicacies such as rockfish, flounder, blue crab and oysters, you might get hungry for fresh seafood. For first-rate Bay cuisine, head for Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery at Kings Creek, or visit The Shanty, Kelly's Gingernut Pub and Hook-U-Up Gourmet for a more relaxed experience.

Docking: At the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Cape Charles Yacht Center is a true megayacht port with more than 1,000 feet of dockage, an 18-foot deep channel, and 300-ton boat lift. Guests of the marina have full access to amenities at nearby Bay Creek Resort & Club, including golf, beach club and pool.

Hampton Roads, V.a.

In Hampton Roads, where the Atlantic's salty waters flow into the Bay, oysters develop a delicious briny flavor guaranteed to please your taste buds. In between feasts of local seafood, you'll discover all kinds of fun activities in the region. Even though Virginia Beach is known for its classic boardwalk, family-friendly beaches and seaside shops, the city has grown into a cultural hub with a new performing arts center, contemporary art museum and scores of refurbished historic sites. Norfolk, influenced by the Navy presence and Southern charm, is a vibrant center of urban entertainment with theater, opera, galleries and festivals. The new Waterside District, a $40 million revitalization project with 150,000 square feet of space, includes a mix of restaurants, shops and entertainment.

Eating: Enjoy high-end dining at Varia, Steinhilber's, One Fish-Two Fish, Saltine and Catch 31. Simply good eats are found at Ocean View, The Lagoon, Buoy 44, and Rudee's Restaurant & Cabana Bar.

Docking: Located at mile marker 0 on the ICW, Tidewater Yacht Marina maintains 300 deep-water slips and several slips for vessels up to 130 feet. Neighboring Ocean Yacht Marina boasts almost 1,500 feet of alongside dockage with modern amenities and a full repair facility. In Hampton, Bluewater Yachting Center can handle yachts up to 200 feet in length, complete with floating docks and two full-service boat yards.

Beaufort, N.C.

The barrier islands off the coast of central North Carolina are called the Crystal Coast. This protective stretch of land creates a border to the Atlantic and attracts sun lovers and beach combers seeking seashells, starfish and sand dollars. Centrally located in this seaside paradise is the delightful port town of Beaufort. With wooden rocking chairs perched on front porches, its historic homes were built by maritime merchants and captains, and its charming streets are laced with shops, galleries, parks and eateries. The area's hidden coves have attracted seafarers for centuries, including the 17th-century scallywag known as Blackbeard, who frequented local taverns to plan his pillaging raids. His famous ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, sank nearby, and relics recovered from archaeological dives are displayed at the local maritime museum. Local pirate festivals pay tribute to the buccaneer way of life.

Eating: For fine cuisine, go to Cedars Inn Restaurant, Aqua and Blue Moon Bistro, and for laid-back fare visit Blackbeard's Grill & Steam Bar, Spouter Inn, Front Street Grill, Beaufort Grocery Company, Old Salt Restaurant & Oyster Bar, and Queen Anne's Revenge.

Docking: Within walking distance of many restaurants and shops in the historic downtown area, Beaufort Docks accommodates vessels up to 300 feet and offers in-slip fueling and a complimentary courtesy car.

Charleston, S.C.

Charleston's unique location on a natural harbor at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers makes this city easy to navigate by boat, with no shortage of first-class marinas to call home while exploring the splendid attractions nearby. Its history can be told through incomparable architecture found in colonial taverns and churches, plantation houses and antebellum mansions with lush gardens, and Civil War forts and monuments. But its vibrant downtown scene shows Charleston isn't stuck in the past. The French Quarter is flush with art galleries, and King Street is bustling with hip boutiques, designer clothing and jewelry stores. Art plays a key role in Charleston's culture. Performing arts events, such as Spoleto and Moja Arts Festival, draw thousands of spectators, and historic Dock Street Theater is a sweet spot to take in a show.

Eating: Don't forget about the food. Charleston chefs are famous for transforming regional bounty from the land and sea to elevate Low Country cooking to new culinary heights. Best bets for high-end dining: Hall's Chophouse, FIG, Oak Steakhouse, Husk Restaurant, Blossom, High Cotton Restaurant and The Ordinary. Easy-going vibe with local flavor: One Broad Street, Hominy Grill and Pearlz Oyster Bar.

Docking: Featuring 19,000 feet of linear dock space, Safe Harbor Charleston City hosts the concrete floating MegaDock equipped for yachts up to 500 feet in length with high-speed fuel dock, floating bathhouse, courtesy shuttle to downtown Charleston and complete marine services. Fully insured and marina compliant to service superyachts in the port of Charleston or travel to the vessel location, Moxy Marine employs technicians seven days a week for dockside diagnostic, repair and installation services.

Savannah, G.a.

Old oak trees draped with Spanish moss and elegant homes dating back to colonial times bolster Savannah's reputation as the Jewel of the South. Add a dash of hospitality, soft-sand beaches and 650+ miles of waterways, and you'll see why it's a favorite port for nautical travelers. Follow the cobblestone streets of the historic district to witness a Civil War reenactment, discover shops teeming with vintage treasures, or simply settle in for a gracious afternoon high tea. Savannah has an active and eclectic nightlife, including music festivals, live bands in City Market and dancing at clubs on River Street.

Eating: For fun where the locals gather, hang out at Tubby's Tank House in the nearby village of Thunderbolt or at Doc's Bar on Tybee Island. Foodies can sample every cuisine from traditional Low Country favorites, such as shrimp and grits or fried green tomatoes, to Japanese fusion, authentic Italian, farm-fresh vegetarian, and everything in between. Notable are North Beach Bar & Grill, Tortuga's Island Grille, The Olde Pink House, Circa 1875, Sorry Charlie's Oyster Bar and Garibaldi.

Docking: Thunderbolt Marine, situated just a few miles from charming downtown Savannah, welcomes vessels up to 220 feet while also providing fuel and complimentary bus passes to local eateries. From canvas and upholstery to hydraulics and electrical, Thunderbolt Marine delivers quality maintenance and repair work for any sized vessel.


Bay Creek Golf Course, Cape Charles, V.A.

On Virginia's Eastern Shore sits Bay Creek, a beach and golf community with exceptional beauty and unparalleled lifestyle. Two miles of private beach, beach club and fitness center surround the award-winning golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Fort Monroe, Hampton, V.A.

Fort Monroe military base was decommissioned in 2011, giving public access to miles of stunning beaches, historic lighthouse and churches, the seven-sided stone fort complex surrounded by a moat, and a museum where Jefferson Davis was imprisoned.

Nauticus, Norfolk, V.A.

At the region's premier maritime museum, you can stroll around the massive deck of the Battleship Wisconsin and then enter the complex to explore exhibits and interactive displays on naval weaponry and ammunition, maritime commerce and trade, underwater parks and aquatic wildlife sanctuaries, nautical history and much more.

Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show, Virginia Beach, V.A.

Naval Air Station Oceana hosts its annual air show, a three-day event that is recognized as the Navy's largest open house in North America. Performances by the Blue Angels, F-18 and F-22 combat jets, aerobatic planes, skydivers and parachute teams make for an awe-inspiring day just minutes from the ocean (Sept. 22-23, 2018).

Charleston Strolls, Charleston, S.C.

Step back in time before cars and tour buses to walk along Charleston's cobblestone streets and learn the back story of one of America's most enchanting cities. The tour passes through historic churches and grave- yards, antebellum mansions, military defense structures, hidden gardens, and Revolution- ary and Civil War sites.

Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston, S.C.

For about two weeks each spring, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston's historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera, dance, theater, jazz and classical music (May 25 - June 10, 2018).

Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, S.C.

Located at the Sea Pines Resort in the shadow of Harbour Town Yacht Basin, this course is the crowning achievement of famed designer Pete Dye and design consultant Jack Nicklaus. It is a favorite among PGA Tour players, as it places a premium on fitness, imagination and shot making, rather than brute strength.

Savannah Music Festival, Savannah, G.A.

Since 1989, world-class musicians have convened in Savannah to celebrate their art and put on memorable and educational performances. More than 500 artists play in Georgia's largest musical arts event to promote a variety of genres acoustic, bluegrass, blues, Celtic, folk, funk, gospel, opera, R&B, ska and more (March 29 – April 14, 2018).

Related Articles
Beyond Disney: 10 Cool Family-Friendly Places to Visit on Florida's Coasts


These experiences are all part of a dream vacation to one of Florida’s famous theme parks. But the cool thing is that the Sunshine State offers these same topics as real, hands-on, family-friendly adventures. Here’s a Top 10 to try.

1. St. Augustine Alligator Farm & Zoological Park

Kids who love dinosaurs will love this park. Founded in 1893, some of the oldest and largest alligators are in captivity here. Plus, the Land of Crocodiles exhibit features 24 global species including the African dwarf, rare Nile and familiar North American crocodile.

Beyond crocodiles, “Some visitors like the colorful parrots, others prefer our python cave, the nesting wading birds in our rookery, or our wildlife shows,” says John Brueggen, director.“The more adventurous enjoy zip lining over the animals.”

Where to Dock: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor

2 .Daytona International Speedway

race cars on the Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway | Credit DIS

The NASCAR season kicks off on February 19, 2023, with The Great American Race – the Daytona 500. However, any day is perfect for a speedway tour. The hour-long tram ride hits the highlights from an infield stop at the start/finish line to a view from high atop the tower seating. At a stop at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, kids can enjoy a wow moment looking at Michael McDowell’s 2021 Daytona 500 victory car.

“The Magic of Lights returns to the Speedway’s World Center of Racing in November through Jan. 1. It’s a dazzling display of more than 1 million sparkling lights and magical scenes, all viewed from the comfort of the guest’s vehicles,” says Russell Branham, Southeast Region director of track communications.

Where to Dock: Daytona Beach Marina

3. Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex

Chat with a real astronaut. Train on high-tech simulators inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Go behind the gates of a working spaceflight facility. Experience microgravity like inside the International Space Station. The 42-acre complex on Merritt Island brings to life the U.S. space program’s epic story in an up-close, hands-on way.

“Kennedy Space Center is best known for rocket launches like the historic Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Now, it’s known for the commercial companies with rocket launches happening almost every other week,” says Rebecca Burgman, senior manager for public relations and communications. The Visitors Complex offers some of the closest public launch viewing locations in the area.  

Where to Dock: Titusville Marina

4. Mel Fisher Treasure Museum

Lift a real gold bar at the famed treasure hunter’s museum in Sebastian, on the Indian River waterfront. “Kids especially like to look, touch and feel the weight of a solid gold bar from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, the most famous and valuable shipwreck to ever be recovered,” says Nichole Johanson, the museum’s director and Fisher’s granddaughter.

“The bar weighs about five pounds, and you can still see the markings that tell its story like ownership, tax, purity, assayer and weight.” Kids get a fun and educational treasure hunt game to do while exploring the exhibits, with scavenger hunt items and riddles.  

Where to Dock: Sebastian Inlet Marina

5. Countryside Citrus

Children jumping on a "jumping pillow" on a bright sunny day
Courtesy of Countryside Citrus

Oranges are Florida’s top agricultural product, and its freshly squeezed orange juice, soft-serve orange ice cream and orange slushies are some of the kid-friendly draws at this Vero Beach farm. Another is the Fall Festival and Corn Maze in October.

“There are activities such as a jumping pillow, kiddie zip line and air cannon, not to mention the maze and great food offerings,” says Cheryl Roseland, owner-manager. Kids and parents can U-Pick strawberries from the farm’s patch from December to February. Countryside operates its El Sid Taqueria on Ocean Drive in Vero Beach, a more convenient location to marinas for fresh citrus ice cream and slushies.

Where to Dock: Loggerhead Vero Beach Marina

6. Everglades Safari Park

To ride on the wild side, travel less than an hour west of downtown Miami on Route 41, the Tamiami Trail. The chance to take an airboat tour through the Everglades National Park is well worth the time!

An airboat is a flat-bottomed open-air boat with an aircraft-like propeller in the back and a car engine for power that can glide over the waterways and sawgrass of the glades at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. On a half-hour tour, see wildlife, alligators and anhinga birds. Guides make stops to talk about natural and human history, such as how Native Americans used cat tails to make natural gauze.

Where to Dock: Black Point Park & Marina

7. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The words “under the sea” have a whole new meaning when sight-seeing America’s first undersea park in Key Largo. At 70 nautical miles, it’s a huge natural water park. You can go canoeing and kayaking, fishing and swimming, or choose a glass bottom boat tour, or a scuba and snorkel tour.

“The snorkel tour is an excellent way for families to experience the Park,” says Tim Linafelt, communications manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks. “After a 10-minute coaching session, swimmers can get up close and personal with coral reefs and marine wildlife.” Plan ahead by checking out the park’s new 360-degree coral cam that streams a live feed. Lemon sharks, parrotfish and angelfish have made on-camera appearances.

Where to Dock: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Marina

children snorkeling the shoreline at the Dry Tortugas with crystal clear blue watersu
Dry Tortugas | Credit Yankee Freedom III

8. Dry Tortugas National Park

Play in a 19th century fort in this seven-island park located in the Gulf of Mexico. To get there, book a ride on the Yankee Freedom III, a high-speed catamaran that departs from Key West for the two-hour, one-way trip. Then, have kids watch for Fort Jefferson on approach.

“The enormity of the fort is indescribable. It’s the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere – made with 16 million bricks. It’s fun to explore with its endless halls,” says Piper Smith, VP of marketing for Historic Tours of America. Beside exploring the fort, it’s fun to swim or snorkel around the outside of the moat. The waters are filled with tropical fish, lobster, turtles and game fish.

Where to Dock: Dry Tortugas National Park

9. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Sharks, sea turtles and manatees, oh my! These sea creatures star in exhibits at this marine research organization’s aquarium in Sarasota. “Our resident turtles and manatees are much loved, each with its own personality, and they also provide valuable educational opportunities.

For example, green sea turtle, Hang Tough, resides in a specialty rounded exhibit after being blinded in a boat strike. Families can see and understand how Mote biologists care for her while also highlighting the negative impacts of unsafe boating,” says Sean Stover, communications coordinator. Make the visit extra special with an Adopt an Animal Program, which includes everything from sea turtles to sea horses plus jellyfish and octopus.

Where to Dock: Longboat Key Club Moorings

10. Air Force Armament Museum

Florida’s northwest panhandle is a national center for military aviation. Pensacola is called the “Cradle of Naval Aviation” and is the official home of the Blue Angels. One hour east, this museum sits across from Elgin Air Force Base.

Kids whose favorite toys are airplanes will light up at the number of crafts on display during the drive into the grounds. Look for World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War aircraft, as well as the fastest plane ever built, the SR-71 Blackbird. Inside, please- touch displays include a fighter cockpit simulator.

Where to Dock: Two Georges Marina


palm trees on a minigolf course surrounded by turquoise waters
Courtesy of Fiesta Falls Mini Golf

Playing putt-putt Mini Golf is a ‘must- do’ shore thing on a Florida vacation. Best of all, many courses are near the beach. Lighthouse Cove Mini Golf in Jupiter is one block from the white sands. The two 18-hole courses weave around sea life, waterfalls and boats in a tropical fishing village theme. Play both! A new app lets golfers order drinks without leaving the greens.

Likewise, you can nearly see the sea from Fiesta Falls Mini Golf in St. Augustine. A 60-foot ship is a focal point, plus eight waterfalls make for cool fun. On the west coast near St. Petersburg, the Smugglers Cove Adventure Park in Madeira Beach is 18-holes around a pirate theme. That’s not all. Golf with gators! Win or lose, afterward you can stop to feed live alligators in an educational exhibit.

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Fun at Florida's Boat Shows

Whether You're Buying a Yacht or Not

Two dark grey mega-yachts docked on the water at the boat show
Credit Informa Markets

The twin sets of upward sloping on the superyacht, Thunder, looked to me like stairways to heaven. To say these were only a small part of the eye-candy features of this 164-foot Oceanfast, one of the largest yachts for sale on display at this year’s Miami International Boat Show, says a lot.

Inside, the master suite boasted a ceiling retractable Smart LG TV, chandeliers in the main salon were part of the $8.8 million asking price, and a 22-foot-long crystal blue pool surrounded by sun loungers on the foredeck proved irresistibly inviting on this warm February day.

Best of all to me was the upper deck dining salon and its floor-to-ceiling windows. I could imagine cruising the world and looking out at breathtaking ports from this perch. And it afforded an incredible view of the enormity of the Miami International Boat Show, which is spread out over six downtown locations. Last year, nearly 100,000 attendees walked the docks, and sales were just shy of $1 billion.

I wasn’t in the market for a new boat. Window shop yes; buy no. Still, I wouldn’t miss visiting the Miami Show and many others held in the Sunshine State each year. That’s because these marine events offer so much more.

“Like a festival for boaters, hundreds of exhibits display a variety of vessels, from kayaks to luxury yachts. Food vendors and entertainment attract audiences of all ages. Several large boat manufacturers or brokers host hospitality events on board luxury yachts or in air-conditioned tents, catering to clientele who love to talk about boats,” says Andrew Doole, president of the U.S. Boat Shows division of UK-headquartered Informa Markets, a leading global exhibitions organizer that owns and operates five major Florida shows. “The shows present a way to see the latest in marine products and how to enjoy life on the water.”

Shows Aplenty

Visitors walking the docks at the boat show surrounded by multiple mega-yachts
Credit Informa Markets

Second to Alaska, Florida boasts the most coastline of any U.S. state at 1,350 miles. Add a year-round climate conducive to boating, and it’s easy to see why the marine scene is big here. Each year, the state hosts close to two dozen boat shows. The calendar runs from September to April, corresponding to the top tourism months for visitors from the north.

In September, there’s the three-day Daytona Beach Boat Show, and the Suncoast Boat Show closes out the season in April. In between, Informa hosts its shows: Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October, St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show and Jacksonville Boat Show in January, the Miami show in February, and Palm Beach International Boat Show in March.

“Record-setting attendance at the St. Petersburg and Sarasota shows in the past year now rivals the big shows in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Miami. In fact, the annual boat show held in downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront is the second largest event in the city, behind the Firestone Grand Prix in terms of attendance, revenue and logistics,” says Cindy Dobyns, president and owner of AboveWater Public Relations & Marketing, who handles press for the show.

What’s Happening under the Tents?

Exhibitor for "Electrosea" discussing the product with a customer

Beyond boats for sale, you can discover so many things to see, do, eat and drink, toe-tap and clap for at Florida’s boat shows.

One of the most fun sights at the Miami Boat Show was watching a professional flyboarder in action at Pride Park in AquaZone. Standing on a skateboard-size board attached by a hose to a jet ski below that powered the water toy, dual jet streams of water propelled the rider some 15 feet in the air above the 40,000-gallon freshwater pool.

Pros also gave the public a wakeboard experience via a simulator. Crystal Kayaks, Seabobs and Hobie Cats were brands featured for a demo at the Fort Lauderdale Show. In Palm Beach, the intercoastal waterway served as the natural aqua zone. eFoil electric surfboards were an especially big hit.

New last year, the St. Petersburg Boat Show partnered with the Annapolis School of Seamanship to offer one-hour on-water training sessions held multiple times daily. Topics included Women at the Wheel, Basic Boat Operator and a Junior Captains Program. All were free. The only catch is buying tickets ahead of time and pre-registering for the sessions.

Seminars are a sought-out reason to attend boat shows. Every show offers them, and many shows invite local celebrity speakers. A good example is the Jacksonville Show, where last year Captain Tim Altman of HooDoo Sportfishing Charters and founder of the Wahoo Junkies brand gave two talks on wahoo trolling with bait and high-speed trolling.

One of the best-known seminar presenters on Florida’s boat show circuit is Captain Don Dingman, star of the Hook the Future TV show. Dingman hosts interactive fishing clinics full of demos for kids ages four to 16. At the Fort Lauderdale Show, each kid received a free Hook the Future/Carolina Skiff custom rod and reel combo. It shows how boat show seminars can hook the whole family.

Fred’s Shed is worth the cost of admission if you’re a DIY fan. Launched over a decade ago by the Chicago- headquartered National Marine Manufacturers Association, this up close and personal educational experience is held at NMMA events like the Miami Boat Show. Topics range from installing marine electronics to detailing and service and maintenance tips.

Food and entertainment make shows extra festive. There’s no need to leave the fun. On-site at the St. Petersburg show, for example, you can gobble up everything from stone crab claws to Greek gyros, street tacos and wood-fired picanha steak.

The Windward VIP Experience at several shows includes an open bar, wine and spirit tastings, gourmet food such as oysters on the half shell, as well as early access to the show and a shady air-conditioned oasis to sit and relax. Most shows feature live bands with oldies, classic rock and top 40 hits on tap.

View the Boats

A center console passing by a big yacht in front of a house on a canal in Florida

Of course, it’s the boats that float these shows. “All types of watercraft are featured, including fishing boats, cruisers, ski boats, pontoons, inflatables, personal watercraft, and more,” says Erin Johnson, administrative director of the North Florida Marine Association that puts on the annual Jacksonville Show.

Vendors, from national brands to local shops, exhibit and sell all the boating go-withs. There are nearly 100 of these at the Suncoast Boat Show, and more than 1,000 at shows such as in Fort Lauderdale.

Mega and superyachts are here too, just like Thunder. You’ll find the bulk of the 100- to 200-foot-plus vessels at the Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami shows. All it takes is the price of a show ticket to walk the docks and dream.

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Florida's Amazing Creatures Challenge
Sea turtle swimming through coral reef in clear blue waters
Sea Turtle | Credit Matt Botha

“WHAT’S THE DEAL with a flamingo wearing a top hat and puffing on a Cuban cigar or a mustached manatee strumming a guitar at a tiki party?” That’s what many travelers wonder when they come to the Sunshine State.

The answer is rather simple. From beaches and coral reefs to everglades and tropical islands, Florida is home to a diverse array of ecosystems. Toss in a balmy year-round climate, and it’s got habitats that spawn a dazzling display of marine life.

These amazing creatures are so beloved by Floridians that they’ve been integrated into the local pop culture in celebration of the state’s indigenous beasts. Native aquatic creatures are elevated into iconic symbols, reflecting the region’s diversity, unique groove and reverence for the water.


close up view of a flamingo
Flamingo | Credit Pixabay

While you roam around Florida this season, you’ll likely visit the state’s many marine sanctuaries, research centers and protected habitats. But Marinalife also challenges you to join the local fun by finding caricatures, logos and iconic symbols that playfully incorporate these unique creatures into images directed at everyday life.

You’ll discover many of them on sports teams’ logos or mascots, bar napkins, restaurant menus, clothing (shirt, hat, etc.), pool floaties, ads for products, road signs, products in stores, souvenir shop merchandise, glassware, food and beverage labels, boats, flags and more.

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