Cruising Stories

One Marinalife Member's Top Ports of Call

Ann Prete's Top Picks


Marinalife wanted to challenge Ann Prete, a longstanding Marinalife member and avid cruiser, to select a few of her favorite ports and destinations from her many voyages at sea. Her story began when she and husband, Harry, sold their house and cars looking for a place to live What began in earnest on a mission to find a place to live ended with the purchase of M/V Cheeta a 34-foot Sea Ray Amberjack. Life on board Cheeta is nothing but simple. No grass to mow, no driveway to plow just the question of where do you want to cruise to next. Cruising the ICW/ GICW (Intracoastal Waterway/ Gulf Intracoastal Waterway) for our first voyage has opened our eyes to beautiful seacoast communities making it difficult to choose one place to settle down. We are only halfway through our adventure and have yet to explore the Eastern Shore and islands along the Chesapeake Bay, which we plan to visit on our return trip north in early May. To pick my favorite destinations is a challenge; each has its own unique history, culture and charm.

Cape May, New Jersey

South Jersey Marina (609-884-2400,

For any mariner traveling the Atlantic ICW, South Jersey Marina is a must-visit destination. What began as a three-night layover, extended to a five-day memorable stay and landed on the top of our list for marinas to revisit. South Jersey Marina's first-class facilities make it an excellent location to visit Cape May's must-see attractions. My first introduction to marina luxury was the women's bath and shower facilities. Harry's, on the other hand, was the oversized omelet special breakfast served at the Salt Water Café. The area's tree-lined streets dotted with Victorian homes painted in a palette of pastels, each with a name dating back to the 1800s. The rainbow of colors makes for an inviting walk to the beach and quaint village shops, including Cape May's popular Washington Street Market.

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore Marine Center at Inner Harbor (410-837-5339,

Next on the list, is BMC at Inner Harbor. The marina is strategically located on Baltimore's waterfront promenade placing you halfway between Federal Hill and Fells Point. BMC at Inner Harbor's facilities are top-notch, with magnificent views stretching along the entire harbor. Baltimore's waterfront (walk or take a water taxi) gives you plenty to do, from exploring Fort McHenry, the historical fort that defended Baltimore against the British invasion in the War of 1812, to visiting the National Aquarium of Baltimore, or spending the day shopping. Also, there's great food! To cure our craving for veal and eggplant parmesan, we had an outstanding meal at Chiapparelli's Restaurant in Little Italy. For the best oysters, head over to the Thames Street Oyster House in Fells Point, excellent!

Beaufort, South Carolina

Port Royal Landing Marina (843-525-6664,

Tough call for South Carolina home to Charleston, Georgetown and Beaufort. A mariner should make stops at all three, but Beaufort tops the list for small-town seaport charm with antebellum homes graced by oak trees draped in Spanish moss. You can see Beaufort's African-American history visible along its back and side streets which are home to churches and gravesites dating back to pre-Civil War. Beaufort's Waterfront Park includes the Downtown Marina of Beaufort and promenade, that's bordered by its main street with shops and Southern hospitality restaurants. We had our first shrimp po'boy and gumbo soup at Plum's Restaurant, located on Beaufort's waterfront. We opted to dock at the Port Royal Landing Marina, being a familyowned and operated marina; its management presence was noticed and welcomed.

Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina (888-906-2853,

Florida has much to offer the exploring mariner. Ports rich in history include Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine and Stuart. If you seek luxury, Fort Myers Beach's Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina tops the list. When staying at the marina you can enjoy full resort access complete with three pools, full-service Aquagene Spa, a fitness center and restaurants. Walking along the soft white sandy beach at sunrise and sunset is heavenly. The Edison-Ford Winter Estates offer visitors tours around the 20 acres of historical buildings, botanical gardens and museums. One of the largest Banyan trees in the United States is located in the gardens dating to 1925. We enjoyed a great meal dining rooftop at the Morgan House Restaurant in Fort Myers. The areas laid-back natural tranquility makes this port of call a place to relax and unwind.

Ann's Top Picks:

Looking for clean restrooms, a great port to shop or a marina destination just a walk away to pick up supplies for your next leg?

The Best Women's Bathroom and Shower Facilities

  • The Marina at Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, Fla.
  • Longboat Key Club Moorings, Longboat Key, Fla.
  • Loggerhead Marina, Vero Beach & Stuart, Fla.

Great Provisioning (10-minute walk or less)

  • BMC at Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Md. (Whole Foods)
  • Marina Jack, Sarasota, Fla. (Whole Foods)
  • Legacy Marina, Fort Myers, Fla. (Publix)

Shop-Till-You-Drop Ports

  • Greenport, N.Y.
  • Port Jefferson, N.Y.
  • Cape May, N.J.
  • Baltimore, Md.
  • Annapolis, Md.
  • Norfolk, Va.
  • Charleston, S.C.
  • Fernandina Beach, Fla.

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