Travel Destinations

Exploring the Iconic Chesapeake Bay - From Cape Charles to Baltimore

April 2016

The Chesapeake Bay is not only the largest estuary in the contiguous United States, but without question the most diverse. It is less than 200 nautical miles from the southern entrance near Portsmouth, Va., to Baltimore, Md., and there is a lot to see and do along the way. The shoreline of its 4,479 square miles is peppered with cosmopolitan cities, historic seaports, famous battlegrounds, charming small towns, the nation's capital and the world's best crab cakes!

Situated midway between Florida and New England, the bay has long been an ideal layover for ICW travelers. Now, through extensive work by the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, the US Superyacht Association and neighboring states to change government policies, the Bay has become very inviting to large yachts. For instance, a Bay Pilot is no longer needed for a vessel under 200 feet and less than 12-foot draft in Maryland waters. Maryland has become more tax friendly by capping taxes at $15,000 on the sales of vessels for extended stays. Large yachts can enjoy excellent cruising grounds, protected water, superior service, provisioning and major tourist destinations within this concentrated area. Megayacht Captain Paulo Alves can attest to what the area has to offer. "The area's residents are so welcoming," he says. "They treat us like locals -- I will be back this summer."

We put together an itinerary that includes destinations and marinas that accommodate large yachts (more than 80 feet). We hope you will try cruising the Chesapeake Bay this spring and summer!

Cape Charles, Va.

Cape Charles Yacht Center, the newest destination for full service on the East Coast, is perfectly located in a scenic, natural setting within walking distance to the quaint town of Cape Charles, Va. the harbor sits where the bay meets the Atlantic and offers 1,000 feet of face dockage and 18-foot channel depth. Guests have full access to nearby Bay Creek Resort, including its world-class golf. The site is the largest ecosystem on the Delmarva peninsula, making it a paradise for birders and fishermen. Plus, it's just 40 minutes from Virginia Beach and an international airport. The marina can provide visiting yachtsmen service from subcontractors and an on-site maintenance team.

Portsmouth, Va.

A short run across the bay to Portsmouth, Va., is Tidewater Yacht Marina, located at mile marker 0, with slips for vessels up to 130 feet and 11 feet depth at the docks. Just a half-mile south along the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth is Ocean Yacht Marina offering 1,500 feet of alongside dockage (24-foot dock depth) and a state-of-the-art refit and repair yard. The marinas are located in the heart of Portsmouth's Olde Towne District, within walking distance of 18th- and 19th-century buildings, a riverfront park, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the Lightship Portsmouth Museum, the Children's Museum of Virginia and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Yorktown, Va.

Farther north is York River Yacht Haven, at the mouth of Sarah Creek, opposite Yorktown, accommodating visiting yachts up to 160 feet (9-foot dock depth). The marina's 14-acre rural site is in a natural "hurricane hole," protected from every quadrant. You will also be in the middle of what is known as "America's Historic Triangle" covering Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown.

Washington, D.C.

Continue north along the western shore of the bay and wander up the Potomac to National Harbor, with more than 150 shops, restaurants and hotels (including the 2,000-room Gaylord Hotel) in a vibrant resort complex within sight of the nation's capital. Water taxi service is available to explore nearby Alexandria's Old Town and all of D.C.'s sights. National Harbor will be home to MGM Casino by the end of 2016. National Harbor Marina has floating docks for vessels up to 120 feet and its fixed pier can accommodate yachts up to 200 feet (9-foot dock depth).

Solomons, Md.

Heading back up the bay into Maryland, picturesque Solomons Island is situated near the mouth of the deep- water Patuxent River. Once a waterman's village, Solomons has managed to incorporate 12 restaurants and numerous small shops into a two-mile stretch and still maintain its laid-back lifestyle. In the heart of this little community lies an easily accessible five-star marina and repair facility, Zahniser's Yacht Center accommodating yachts up to 150 feet (14-foot dock depth). Transients mingle with locals at the onsite Dry Dock Restaurant and the Pool Bar & Grill.

Friendship, Md.

Next stop along the Western Shore is Herrington Harbour South in Friendship, Md., accommodating yachts up to 100 feet (7-foot dock depth). Herrington Harbour's resort-like feel will be a perfect stop for recharging your batteries, with an Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts, sauna and fitness center.

Annapolis, Md.

Head 15 miles north to Maryland's capitol, Annapolis, and be right in the midst of everything while docked at one of the city's marinas that can accommodate yachts up to 230 feet (12-foot dock depth). This historic town is home to the United States Naval Academy, the beautiful Maryland State House and the National Sailing Hall of Fame. For fabulous local seafood, visit Boatyard Bar & Grill and McGarvey's Saloon & Oyster Bar.


St. Michaels, Md.

The opposite shoreline is dotted with small Eastern Shore towns like Tilghman Island, home to generations of watermen; the New England-style village of Oxford; and the town of St. Michaels, where large yachts can find a home at St. Michaels Marina (accommodating yachts up to 220 feet (9-foot dock depth) . Learn about the history of the bay at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Historic St. Michaels offers many wonderful restaurant options, such as 208 Talbot, Bistro St. Michaels, and Ava's Pizzeria & Wine Bar. Don't miss the Chesapeake Bay tradition of picking crabs at one of St. Michaels crab houses, such as the Crab Claw or St. Michaels Steak and Crab House. The nearby Inn at Perry Cabin offers a breathtaking waterfront setting and loads of luxury amenities.

Baltimore, Md.

Next stop, Baltimore, often called a "collection of neighborhoods" due to the diversity of its communities. World-renowned hospitals, restaurants (ranked #2 on Zagat's "Best Food Cities" list for 2015), First-class museums, thriving arts districts, sports stadiums and casinos blend together to create Charm City. The harbor entrance is still guarded by Fort McHenry, birthplace of the national anthem. Harbor East Marina, can take yachts up to 200 feet (10-foot dock depth) while BMC at Inner Harbor can accommodate vessels up to 350 feet (22-foot dock depth). The marinas are both in a prime location and within walking distance of the Inner Harbor (aquarium, science center, Camden Yards baseball), Little Italy and Fells Point (a spirited historic waterfront community now filled with restaurants, bars, galleries).

While visiting Baltimore, you will find exceptional marine service at Tidewater Yacht Service accommodating yachts up to 200 feet (18-foot dock depth) in nearby Port Covington. ABYC certified technicians and big boat experience make this a reliable service facility. This deep-water marina and boatyard has a history of dealing with commercial vessels and they can supply a tanker-truck of fuel at a great cost.

This spring try cruising through the Chesapeake Bay to experience its exceptional diversity, historical sites, beautiful creeks, rivers, towns and world-class services for superyachts.

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Explore the Spirited Lakefront of Burlington, VT

A vibrant, compact city hugging the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain, Burlington abounds in scenic beauty, four-season recreation, a college town vibe, arts and culture, and a quirky character all its own.

Burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Eclectic shops named Anjou & the Little Pear or Common Deer, and restaurants called Zabby & Elf 's Stone Soup or The Skinny Pancake dot the urban landscape. A local artist's satirical comment on the bureaucracy of urban planning called File Under So. Co., Waiting for..., consists of 38 filing cabinets welded together to a 40-foot height. Birds frequently nest in the upper chambers.

History buffs stroll through the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum or the Fleming Museum of Art's multi-era artifact collection while hikers trek the 12.5-mile path at Burlington Waterfront Park, which offers bicycle, rollerblade and kayak rentals. In season, the path connects to the Lake Champlain Islands via bike ferry.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Bike Path | Michelle Raponi on Pixabay

Since the 1800s, the Old North End has been the city's melting pot, and global cuisine from Nepalese dumplings to the African Market can be found here today. Between munches, stroll over to historic Elmwood Cemetery, whose residents include Revolutionary War soldiers. Hear their stories and perhaps have a chance encounter with a local spirit on a Queen City Ghostwalk Tour. Liquid spirits rule when the internationally famous, regionally beloved and hidden gem breweries line up for the annual Vermont Brewers Festival. Year round, enjoy homemade bratwurst and drafts at Zero Gravity Craft Beer. At acclaimed Foam Brewers, the patio faces Lake Champlain waterfront and the Adirondack Mountains. Hop on the Sip of Burlington Brew Tour for a dozen tastings and the sights of this dynamic, energetic city.

Where to Dock

Burlington Community Boathouse Marina


This full-service marina is the centerpiece of a growing waterfront. Amenities include 105 slips up to 65 feet, Splash Café and a fantastic sunset over the Adirondacks.

Burlington Harbor Marina


With 160 slips (60 transient slips up to 80 feet), this new marina's tranquil harbor setting is convenient to downtown amenities and recreational activities.

Where to Dine

Honey Road


Savor sophisticated Mediterranean small plates, cocktails and creative desserts in a comfy tavern setting.

burlington - destinations - marinalife
Burlington Church Street | Needpix

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill


This farm-to-table gastropub dishes up local burgers, charcuterie and innovative specials. Sip on local brews in the beer garden.



According to Irish playwright Brendan Behan, The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you. RíRá fuses classic Irish with pub grub to satisfy the first two.

Leunig's Bistro & Café


Step inside the lush garden courtyard to watch fresh local fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood transform into classic French dishes. Come enjoy a romantic evening meal.

Hen of the Wood


Enjoy a true Vermont dining experience in a romantic, rustic atmosphere adjacent to the Hotel Vermont.

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Discover the Island Charm of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts

Ever wish you could hop in a time machine and go back 50 or 60 years to experience a less frenetic pace of life? It's not as far-fetched as it might sound. There's a place off the coast of Massachusetts where you can do just that ... at least for a weekend.

Cuttyhunk Island - destinations - marinalife
Cuttyhunk Island | tkesner1 on Flickr

"It's like 1960 --you're stepping back in time," notes Captain Jono Billings, who owns and operates the Cuttyhunk Ferry out of New Bedford, about 18 miles north of Cuttyhunk Island, a 580-acre arc of stone and sand that's the westernmost of the Elizabeth Islands that lie between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.

For such a small place, Cuttyhunk has a long, colorful history. In 1602 --nearly 20 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock -- Bartholomew Gosnold sailed from Falmouth, England to establish a colony in the New World, explored the areas near present-day Kennebunkport, Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, and built a small fort on what he christened Cuttyhunk Island.

A 70-foot stone tower was constructed in 1902 commemorating the 300th anniversary of that historic landing. After passing through the hands of several English earls and dukes, Peleg Slocum purchased the island in 1693, and her family continued to live on Cuttyhunk for the next 165 years.

In 1865, a group of Rhode Island fishing enthusiasts bought a large portion of the island and built the Cuttyhunk Club and a few fishing stands, enhancing its reputation as a prime spot for sport fishing. In fact, two 73-pound, world-record striped bass have been caught off Cuttyhunk in 1913 and more recently in 1967.

Local fishermen know all the qualities and quirks of the area's waters, offering their services to visiting anglers and acting as expert navigators for ships sailing into New Bedford Harbor, piloting them through the dangerous Sow and Pig Reef on the west end of the island.

Cuttyhunk Island - destinations - marinalife
Cuttyhunk Island | Ben McLaughlin

Fishing isn't the only way to interact with nature on Cuttyhunk. Half the island is a nature preserve, home to a variety of birds and mammals, as well as wildflowers, sweet peas, bayberry and a host of other flora. Plenty of hiking trails wind through the landscape that's largely craggy and reflects Cuttyhunk's glacial origins. It's covered with the same kind of rocks and stones found in the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Although largely a day-tripper destination, visitors can overnight on Cuttyhunk with some advance planning. Most boaters prefer to stay aboard their own craft if properly outfitted, but limited accommodations are on land as well. Avalon, the Inn on Cuttyhunk Island, offers seven rooms, while Cuttyhunk Fishing Club has eight. A few cottage and house rentals are also available through Pete's Place Rentals.

Where to Dock

Cuttyhunk Marina


The marina offers 50 transient slips that can accommodate vessels up to 110 feet and have freshwater hookups and 30- and 50-amp electricity capability. About 50 moorings accommodate vessels up to 50 feet. Pump out, ice, picnic area and restrooms are available.

Frog Pond Marine Moorings


This mooring field is located in the outer harbor off the port side of Bell 6 upon entering Cuttyhunk. Bright white balls mark the moorings, which are first-come, first-serve. Tie up to any mooring that doesn't say PRIVATE, and the mooring collector will come to your boat to collect a $45 rental fee.

Jenkins Moorings


Located in the outer harbor to the right of the channel's entrance, moorings are first-come, first-serve during the high season. If you spend the night, call and they'll deliver fresh oysters and raw-bar items to your boat.

Where to Dine

Cuttyhunk Café


This coffee shop is located on the town fish dock. Start your day with coffee and pastries, pick up chowder and sandwiches for lunch, and finish the day chowing down on fresh lobster boils with corn, potatoes, onion, chorizo and steamers.

Cuttyhunk Fishing Club


Just south of town on Cemetery Road, this B&B offers the best breakfasts/brunches on the island, and you don't have to be a guest to enjoy it. They don't take reservations, so grab a cup of coffee and an Adirondack chair while you wait for your table and enjoy the porch with a million-dollar view.

Cuttyhunk Island Market


Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., this rustic spot offers all the essentials: dry goods, sundries, bread, dairy, fresh veggies, plus 10-inch subs with a bag of chips. We may be small, but we have it all.

Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms


This floating raw bar provides fresh Cuttyhunk oysters and clams, along with stuffed quahog and hot clam chowder to boaters during the summer, delivered right to your boat. Call them on VHF Channel 72 or stop in at their shack on the fish dock during the day to place your order.

Soprano's Pizza


The only sit-down restaurant on Cuttyhunk, this in-season eatery serves gourmet brick oven pizzas and seafood specials. Think a pizza oven held hostage in a garage, four picnic tables in a driveway lit by tiki torches, and a croaking bullfrog in the pond! Can't beat that kind of ambiance.

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Savor the Southern Charm in Wilmington, North Carolina

Like its neighbors to the south Charleston and Savannah Wilmington, North Carolina, has become a magnet for tourists and transplants looking for authentic Southern culture, cuisine and climate.

Bald Head Island - wilmington north carolina - marinalife
Bald Head Island Harbor | Wikimedia Commons

Many boaters are familiar with the area's barrier islands and beaches such as Topsail, Wrightsville, Carolina, Kure, Bald Head, but not so much the city itself, located about 30 miles upstream from where Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean.The Eastern Siouan people occupied the area when the first Europeans arrived in the early 1500s and Giovanni da Verrazzano explored the North American coast. His maps and travel accounts comprise the earliest description of North Carolina's land and people.The city of Wilmington (then called New Carthage) was founded in 1739 on the banks of Cape Fear River. Its name comes from Sir Richard Grenville's 1585 expedition when he sailed to Roanoke Island and his ship was stranded behind the cape. The crew was afraid they'd wreck, giving rise to the name Cape Fear.Also known as the Port City, Wilmington is experiencing a building boom and renaissance, with its well-preserved downtown and a bustling Port City waterfront area augmented by new condos and reclaimed riverside acreage that has been turned into parks, piers and promenades. Across from the city's Riverwalk you can find the Battleship North Carolina Memorial and tour this famous warship.Front Street, Wilmington's thriving commercial thorough-fare, is lined with chic shops, bars and restaurants populated by a mix of locals, UNC Wilmington college students and out-of-towners looking for R&R after a day of shopping, sight-seeing or cooling out at the beaches. Looking for lunch or a light alternative to a full-course dinner? Try Fun Bowl for ramen and poke bowl, Slice of Life Pizzeria & Pub for pizza, wings and subs, or Beer Barrio for Mexican dishes.

Azaleas - wilmington north carolina - marinalife
Azaleas in full bloom | Kristina Gain on Pexels

Microbreweries and brew pubs are booming here, and two are worth checking out: Front Street Brewery (craft beers and hand scratched food) and Pour Taproom & Bar (60+ different craft beers and ciders).Wilmington's Azalea Festival in April and October's Riverfest are just two of the local can't-miss events, along with other cultural happenings throughout the year. Popular spots include Greenfield Lake Park (check the live music schedule at the park's busy amphitheater), Arlie Gardens (botanical gardens, trails, birding and events) and the world-class Cameron Art Museum.For an interesting side-trip, visit Bald Head Island at Cape Fear's southern tip. The remote village is only accessible by ferry from nearby Southport, and cars are not allowed on the island. The island is nationally recognized for sea turtle nesting activity. Accommodations are available at the Marsh Harbor Inn and the Inn at Bald Head Island. A handful of restaurants serve everything from to-go meals and pub fare to wine-bar and cantina-style cuisine.

Where to Dock

Cape Fear Marina910-772-9277Part of Off the Hook Yacht Services, this gated 70-slip marina offers water, pump-out and electric hookup at every slip, and the fully equipped dock house has shower and laundry facilities. Repair and refit services are also available.Dockside Marina910-256-3579About one mile north of Masonboro Inlet near Wrightsville Beach, the marina has 180 feet of floating transient dockage and access to shore power, water and wireless Internet. It's close to local grocers, ATMs, laundries, hotels and marine stores, and the highly rated Dockside Restaurant.Port City Marina910-251-6151This full-service marina with 200+ floating concrete wet slips accommodates boats up to 400 feet and is in the heart of downtown. It offers rapid-fill fuel service, electric, free Wi-Fi, gated entrance, video surveillance, pump-out, on-site store and more. Marina Grill is steps away from the docks.Wilmington Marine Center910-395-5055Services include gas, water, electric, pump-out, wireless internet and more. The marina is in an enclosed basin off the Cape Fear River, offering 130 slips with fixed and floating docks for vessels up to 120 feet.

Where to Dine

Caprice Bistro910-815-0810For authentic French cuisine, the chef delivers classics such as escargot, crepes and mussels, as well as boeuf bourguignon, duck confit and lamb shank tagine. Locals flock to this hidden gem that celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.Circa 1922910-762-1922A lush, romantic spot that sources ingredients for imaginative dishes from local farmers and seafood merchants. Serving a mix of small plates (charred octopus, beef carpaccio, tuna tataki) and classics like paella, scallops and short ribs, the emphasis is on seasonal American fare with a European flair.Indochine910-251-9229This Far East café serves a mix of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine: satay, dumplings, pad Thai, nine different curries, bulgogi and braised catfish in an exotic, art-filled setting. Save room for sticky rice topped with warm coconut sauce and mangoes.Pilot House910-343-0200This Wilmington institution serves indigenous seafood and fowl, and the area menu includes everything from down-home cooking to Cajun and traditional Southern fare with a contemporary twist, in a restored 19th century house with a riverside terrace.Seabird910-769-5996Seafood rules at the sleek and chic Seabird, and fish, oysters and shellfish dominate the menu. Try the smoked catfish and oyster pie, or the swordfish schnitzel. Landlubbers can opt for sorghum pork ribs or grilled bavette steak.

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