What was intended to be a yearlong venture and the beginning of cruising the Great Loop turned out to be the voyage of a lifetime. Our crew, consisting of myself, my wife Bonnie Long and our two feline co-captains Sasha and Misty packed up B&B, our 42 Aft Cabin SeaRay and left our hometown in Houston, Texas. We departed from South Shore Harbour Marina and started down the ICW to Clearwater, Fla., with what felt like all of our belongings. After arriving on the west coast of Florida, we found our cruising experience so enjoyable that we decided to delay our Great Loop trip and take the opportunity to experience the ports and anchorages along Florida's coast. We are now enjoying our new home port at Legacy Harbour Marina in Fort Myers, Fla. Throughout our cruise, with the help of Marinalife, we stayed at a handful of great marinas that made our traveling experience better than ever!
Marina:Renaissance Vinoy Resort (727-824-8022, vinoymarina.com)Highlights: Upon arrival at the docks, the harbor master guides you to your slip, secures the lines and provides an introduction to the St. Petersburg area. You are a short walk or bike ride over to the Resort Hotel where you can enjoy all of its amenities including the Vinoy Salon & Day Spa, restaurants and shopping. Our favorite restaurant choices in St. Petersburg include Red Mesa Cantina and Bella Brava (both located in downtown St. Petersburg), in addition to many others.
Marina:Marina Jacks (941-955-9488, marinajacks.com)Highlights: You can enjoy the floating docks, the park-like setting and the restaurants located at the marina, including one of the best Farmers' Markets we've been to! Don't miss the walk along Sarasota Bay and relax as you enjoy one of the fabulous sunsets.We opted to rent a car for easy access to dining at the Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant in nearby Longboat Key, St. Armand's Circle, and our favorite stop the John and Mable Ringling Museum. Well worth the price of admission, you can easily spend several hours touring the Ringling Estate, visiting the art museums, enjoying the beautiful rose garden, and you don't want to miss the world's largest miniature circus. This is a replica of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 1938. It was a work in progress, which took more than 50-years to complete. The marina staff will ensure your stay will be worth a return trip.
Marina: Legacy Harbour Marina (239-461-0775, legacyharbour.com)Highlights: We have been enjoying the luxury of staying at full service marinas where the marina staff is fully dedicated to ensuring your trip goes as planned. Legacy Harbour Marina is a standout among the marinas. Eric, the harbor master, and his team are always there to help you dock and offer great customer service whether you are there to stay for one night or a year. Captain Eric offered great referrals for yacht services including yacht management and maintenance services if you decide to leave your boat for an extended period of time. Historic downtown Fort Myers offers a variety of shops and entertainment venues all within walking distance. Our favorite stop during the trip was dining at the Twisted Vine Bistro. All of the marina amenities are extremely well maintained and ready for your use and enjoyment.
Marina: Sunset Bay Marina & Anchorage (772-283-9225, sunsetbaymarinaandanchorage.com)Highlights: Sam the dockmaster or one of his dockhands will help to secure your boat and introduce you to this great area. Once settled, our first stop was the restaurant located at the marina, Sailor's Return. Thursday nights seem popular among the locals and we enjoyed Thursday's Prime Rib Night and music by a live saxophone player. The marina offers transportation on scheduled days and the local charm of historic downtown Stuart is within an easy walk from the marina allowing you to enjoy many local restaurants, shops and events. The list is endless, but among our favorites were Riverwalk CafÃ©, Osceola Street CafÃ© (a good stop for breakfast), and Flagler Grill, a great spot known to locals in downtown Stuart.
Marina: Melbourne Harbor (321-725-9054, melbourneharbor.com)Highlights: Located just off the ICW, in a basin that is quiet and without currents, your arrival is stress free.When we arrived, the harbor master secured our lines and made sure that we were all settled in he even took it upon himself to make our reservations at the Chart House, the restaurant located at the marina. Visiting this quaint area offered a great opportunity to take in the peacefulness of the city and visit historic downtown Melbourne to view all of the popular shops and restaurants, just a quick walk from the marina.