Cruising Stories

ICW Southbound: Virginia to Florida


The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway  (Atlantic ICW) is a continuous and mostly protected navigable route from Norfolk, Virginia, to Miami, Florida. Originally conceived in 1802 for commercial use, today it is primarily used by recreational vessels. However, light-draft commercial vessels, along with small tugs pulling barges, will make use of the ICW to avoid exposed open-ocean passages. The ICW is made up of natural rivers, bays, and sounds, connected by a series of man-made canals where necessary. The route is maintained by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and is measured in statute miles at 1,090 miles long, beginning at mile marker zero (MM 0.0) in Norfolk, Virginia. When combined with the Chesapeake Bay, a boater can cruise from Baltimore, Maryland, to Miami, covering a total of 1,282 statute miles, or 1,114 nautical miles.Through the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic ICW, a boater will experience scenic natural beauty, interesting pieces of our nation's history and some of the Southeast's most vibrant cities.

The following legs will enable a boater to make leisurely stops along the way, taking in the best each area has to offer.

Starting Point - Tidewater Yacht Marina, Portsmouth, VA

Tidewater Yacht Marina is located in the heart of Portsmouth's Olde Town District, within walking distance of 18th-century 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. Home to mile marker 0 on the Intracoastal Waterway, Tidewater Yacht Marina is ideal for transients beginning theirICW journey.

Leg 1 - Estimated Mileage: 42 nm - Coinjock Marina, Coinjock, N.C.

Located conveniently on the Intracoastal Waterway at mile marker 50, the Coinjock Marina has been a longtime favorite for transient yachtsmen traveling north and south along the waterway. With all the amenities you would expect from a world-class facility, the staff of Coinjock Marina accommodates guests' every need.With an easy approach, alongside dockage, an active fuel dock, and a highly acclaimed waterfront restaurant, you'll soon see why so many boaters return to Coinjock Marina again and again.

Leg 2 - Estimated Mileage: 111 nm - River Dunes Marina, Oriental, N.C.

River Dunes Marina has one of the most protected basins along the Southeast coast. The award-winning, well-protected facility is tailor-made for boaters, with floating docks, wide gangways, and full-length finger piers. Outstanding onshore amenities include a Harbor Club with fine and casual dining, plus a pool and fitness center. Thanks to the marina's courtesy car, it's just a 15-minute drive to the village of Oriental, the Sailing Capital of North Carolina and home to all the provisioning and marine services a boater could need.

Leg 3 - Estimated Mileage: 123 nm - Southport Marina, Southport, N.C.

Southport Marina is set directly on the Waterway and is a short stroll to the Southport town center. Recently named America's Happiest Seaside Town by Coastal Living magazine, picturesque Southport is steeped in history and charm, and has attracted not only visitors but film crews for such movies as Safe Haven, A Walk to Remember and The Secret Lives of Bees. Fronting the Cape Fear River and the notorious Frying Pan Shoals, Southport has been a port of haven for sea captains since the 1700s. Wander the docks and sample such local specialties as crab cake sandwiches and steamed shrimp at the restaurants along the water.

Leg 4 - Estimated Mileage: 39 nm - Barefoot Landing Marina, North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Barefoot Landing Marina is located on the ICW in the heart of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina's preeminent summer vacation destination. The marina is an easy walk to the sprawling Barefoot Landing entertainment complex, which is packed with family attractions, exciting theater shows, endless restaurants and premier shopping. There is something for everyone to enjoy at Barefoot Landing.

Leg 5 - Estimated Mileage: 103 nm - Charleston City Marina, Charleston S.C.

It's no surprise that Charleston has been voted a top destination city by numerous leading travel magazines. The city defines classic Southern charm, overlaid with an interesting international feel, and boasts some of the best restaurants in the world. The MegaDock at the Charleston City Marina is a great place to tie up and see some of the finest cruising yachts around.

Leg 6 - Estimated Mileage: 82 nm - Harbour Town Yacht Basin, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Harbour Town Yacht Basin places you right in the heart of boot-shaped Hilton Head Island. Marked by a distinctive red-and-white lighthouse, Harbour Town Yacht Basin offers a full suite of services along with luxury accomodations. While docked, explore the paradise that is Hilton Head, nestled along the South Carolina coast. From beautiful beaches and world-class golf courses to exceptional restaurants and high-energy water sports, Hilton Head has endless options for whiling away your time.

Leg 7 - Estimated Mileage: 105 nm - Morningstar Marinas at Golden Isles, St. Simons Island, Ga.

St. Simons Island is the hub of the Golden Isles, which is one of Georgia's scenic barrier-islands, known for beautiful beaches and summer resorts. Located just off the ICW on the Frederica River, Morningstar Marina at Golden Isles will make you feel right at home with its immaculate facilities, top-notch onsite restaurant and full-service maintenance facilities. Spend a day at East Beach, the perfect place to unwind, collect shells and go for a relaxing bike ride. The social hub of St. Simons Island is the Pier Village along Mallery Street, which is dotted with tempting boutiques, cafes and restaurants. The island is also a prime fishing location, for offshore excursions as well as inland water outings.

Leg 8 - Estimated Mileage: 133 nm - Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, St. Augustine, Fla.

Cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards and alluring cafes help define this historic district of Saint Augustine the oldest continuously occupied town in the U.S. Jump on the Old Town Trolley Tours to explore the major attractions, including a highly rated wildlife reserve and the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century Spanish stone fortress. Foodies can choose from more than 400 eateries. Also enjoy 43 miles of fine, golden sand beaches for shelling, sunning, surfing and swimming. Dockage is available at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor on the ICW accommodating vessels up to 130 feet and a fuel dock, on-site restaurant, and a full-service yard with supplies.

Leg 9 - Estimated Mileage: 164 nm - Fort Pierce City Marina, Fort Pierce, Fla.

Fort Pierce is one of the most promising cities on Florida's Treasure Coast, with a newly rebuilt first-class municipal marina and one of the best marked, most predictable inlets on Florida's east coast. The pet-friendly Fort Pierce City Marina has recently completed an extensive renovation and offers fuel, showers and laundry and two on-site restaurants, and is just steps away from downtown. Stop in at the 2nd Street Bistro for the lively daily happy hour, an extensive craft beer list and gourmet burgers. Cobb's Landing, next to the marina, offers fresh seafood dishes and a signature Pineapple Mojito.

Leg 10 - Estimated Mileage: 93 nm - Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

With more than 300 miles of waterways and one of the world's permiere boat shows, beautiful Fort Lauderdale has matured from a destination for spring-breakers to a major manufacturing, maintenance and recreation center for yachts. Bahia Mar is the ultimate marina destination, with restaurants, shops, a swimming pool, tennis and a pristine beach just across the street. The marina offers 250 slips capable of handling vessels up to 300 feet, plus high-speed fueling, free WiFi, cable television, in-slip sanitary pump-out, a marine store and a dive shop. Also, the Pier Sixty-Six Marina offers dockage for vessels up to 350 feet. Explore the city's rich dining scene by enjoying a meal at Boatyard on 17th Street, or one of the many spots along Las Olas Boulevard.

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