Travel Destinations

Plot a Course for One of These Parks Along the US and Canadian Shores

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April 2015
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By
Bobbye
Miller Kenyon

The arrival of spring, with its mild temperatures and nature-scapes dressed in pastel colors, signals the long-awaited start of the boating season. It's the perfect time to chart a course to one or more of these splendid gems designated a State or National Park, all found along the shorelines of the U.S. and Canada.

New England

Described as a national treasure, the 47,000-acre Acadia National Park in Maine extends from Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island to Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula. It draws nearly two million visitors annually and is home to the 1,530-foot pink granite summit, Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the East Coast. The stunning park provides a scenic mix of ocean views, island lakes and pine forests for hikers and bicycle riders to enjoy along with the nearly 40 different species of wildlife that call the park home. Dock at Bar Harbor Regency Hotel & Marina (207-266-5857, barharborregency.com) or at Bar Harbor Municipal Marina (207-288-5571).Also Worth a Visit:

  • Rocky Neck State Park (Conn.) The gently sloping beach, picnic areas, diverse trails and salt marsh viewing platforms make this 710-acre park ideal for relaxed family outings. Dock at Saybrook Point Marina (800-243-0212, saybrook.com), just a 15-minute drive from the park.
  • Cape Cod National Seashore (Mass.) Picturesque lighthouses, sand dunes, pine barrens and wild cranberry bogs offer a glimpse of Cape Cod's past and continuing ways of life. Dock at Long Point Marina (508-487-8899, marinaprovincetown.com), located in Provincetown on the northernmost tip of Cape Cod.
  • Rye Harbor State Park (N.H.) Enjoy breathtaking views of Ragged Neck (Rye Harbor), a peninsula of rocky coastline and green grass. Dock at Wentworth by the Sea Marina (603-433-5050, wentworthmarina.com), located five miles north of the park.
  • Beaver Island State Park (N.Y.) On the Niagara River outside Buffalo, the park features a half-mile swimming beach, bike and nature trails, and adjacent marinas with boat launches and fishing access. Dock at Beaver Island Marina (716-773-3271, gichamber.org) or Big 6 Mile Creek Marina (716-773-3271, nysparks.com).

Mid Atlantic

Opposite the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Liberty State Park is an ideal location on Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, New Jersey. It provides visitors easy access to the sights and sounds of New York City and also features the Liberty Science Center, Liberty National Golf Club, picnic areas, a two-mile promenade, fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking and ferry service. The park's 36-acre designated state nature preserve is home to Communipaw Cove, one of the few tidal salt marshes found along the Hudson River estuary. Dock onsite at Liberty Landing Marina (201-985-8000, libertylandingmarina.com).Also Worth a Visit:

  • Delaware Seashore State Park (Del.) Swim, fish, boat, surf and sailboard. Burton's Island has a hiking trail with views of the bay islands, home to gulls and terns for their summer nesting. Dock at Indian River Marina (302-227-3071, destateparks.com/marinas).
  • Assateague State Park (Md. and Va.) The only oceanfront park in Maryland is located on Assateague Island. The bay side invites visitors to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak. Dock at Snug Harbor Marina. (757-336-6176, snugharborva.com)
  • Kiptopeke State Park (Va.) Capt. John Smith explored this area, which is on the southernmost point of the Chesapeake Bay. There's a boat launch, fishing pier, hiking, biking, playground, bathhouse and beach. Dock at Cape Charles Yacht Center (757-331-3100, ccyachtcenter.com).

South East

Cayo Costa State Park on Florida's southwest coast is accessible only by private boat or ferry service. It's home to nine miles of pristine beach paired with a mix of pine forests, oak-palm hammocks and mangrove swamps. A variety of activities make this an outdoor lover's ideal locale: swim and snorkel in the clear tropical waters; off-road bike along shoreline nature trails; or canoe, kayak and explore. Other natural treasures you may encounter include manatees, dolphin pods frolicking in the surf and a dazzling array of birds. You can anchor out, or take advantage of bayside park for overnight dockage; reservations are recommended (941-964-0375, floridastateparks.org).Also Worth a Visit:

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Fla.) The first undersea park in the country in Key Largo is a must for any diving enthusiast. It boasts coral reefs and countless tropical marine species. Dock at John Pennekamp Park Marina (305-451-6325, floridastateparks.org) or at Ocean Reef Club (800-741-7333, oceanreef.com), just 15 minutes north.
  • The Cumberland Island National Seashore (Ga.) The seashore is composed of over 9,800 acres of congressionally designated Wilderness, a pristine locale with an abundance of amazing wildlife. Shore tying is acceptable (beware of oyster beds and tidal changes), but overnight docking is not allowed (912-882-4336). For an overnight stay, dock at Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island but call ahead for reservations.
  • Fort Macon State Park (N.C.) The 389-acre park is North Carolina's second most visited park. It's home to Fort Macon, a completely restored brick and stone bastion from the Civil War. Dock nearby at Morehead City Yacht Basin (252-726-6862, moreheadcityyachtbasin.com).

South Central

Mustang Island State Park lies just north of Padre Island and south of Port Aransas, Texas, and offers a family-friendly atmosphere in a tranquil setting. It welcomes visitors with some 48 campsites that provide electricity, water hookups, barbecue grills, and bathroom and shower facilities. An on-site store stocks ice, firewood and snacks. The park's five-mile beach provides the setting for an array of outdoor activities such as birding, fishing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. Take time to visit the Texas State Aquarium and USS Lexington in nearby Corpus Christi. Dock at Corpus Christi Municipal Marina (361-826-3980, corpuschristimarina.com).Also Worth a Visit:

  • St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (Fla.) Western Florida's St. Joseph Peninsula State Park features cabins, stunning beaches and great biking spots plus incredible snorkeling and marvelous fishing on its namesake bay. Dock at Eagle Harbor Marina (904-621-8362, eagleharboronline.com) or Port St. Joe Marina (850-227-9393, psjmarina.com).

Great Lakes

Situated on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Fathom Five Marine Park in Ontario is Canada's first National Marine Conservation Area. It preserves a rich maritime legacy and features 22 shipwrecks as well as several historic light stations. The deep, yet crystal clear water affords some of the best diving in Canada. Your to-do list should include amazing Flower Pot Island, which is famous for its natural sea stacks, or flower pots. The park offers overnight mooring, or you can dock in nearby Tobermory at the Tobermory Harbour Marina (519-596-2731).Also Worth a Visit:

  • Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Mich.) Located on northwestern Lake Huron, the sanctuary is adjacent to Shipwreck Alley, one of the most treacherous stretches of water in the Great Lakes. Visit the 100 discovered wrecks at your own peril! Dock at City of Alpena Marina (989-356-0551).
  • Mackinac Island (Mich.) Located in Lake Huron, Mackinac Island and its same-named state park, the island is accessible only by boat. Historic sites such as Fort Mackinac and The Grand Hotel provide memorable, back-in-time experiences. Dock at Mackinaw City Municipal Marina (231-436-5269, michigan.org).

West Coast

Deception Pass State Park, just south of Anacortes, Washington, is a 4,134-acre marine and camping park offering three lakes, rugged cliffs and out-of-this-world views. Landside, the park features 38 miles of hiking trails, expansive sand dunes, lots of wildlife and amazing sunsets. Waterside, it's nothing short of a boaters' paradise, with 710 feet of saltwater dock and 450 feet of freshwater dock (on the lakes) and access to great clamming, crabbing, diving and even white-water rafting (360-902-8844, parks.wa.gov).Also Worth a Visit:

  • Channel Islands National Park (Calif.) is located 18 nautical miles west of Ventura (north of Los Angeles). You'll have to anchor out to visit California's Channel Islands National Park, but the payoff is diving among kelp beds, kayaking, bird and whale watching and fishing. There's camping available should you want to bring a tent and stay ashore for the night (805-658-5730; www.nps.gov), or cruise into Ventura harbor and dock at Ventura Harbor Village (805-658-1212, venturaharborvillage.com).
  • Morro Bay State Park (Calif.) Your list of things to do at Morro Bay State Park should include a trip to Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History, Morro Rock Natural Preserve, the Heron Rookery Natural Preserve and the highly acclaimed Morro Bay State Park Golf Course. Dock at the onsite State Park Marina (805-772-2560, parks.ca.gov)
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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.

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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

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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

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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

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

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Burlington Church Street | Needpix

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill

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

RíRá

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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

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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

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

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Cuttyhunk Island | tkesner1 on Flickr

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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.

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Where to Dock

Cuttyhunk Marina

508-990-7578

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

508-992-7530

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

508-996-9294

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.

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Cuttyhunk Café

508-802-8633

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

508-992-5585

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

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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

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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

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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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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

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Where to Dock

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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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