When asked to pick our favorite anchorages, it felt like trying to decide which child you like best. So our criterion was holding, protection, things to do ashore, beauty and, of course, location. Some of the anchorages don't meet all of these, but they cover the range of things we look for when cruising. I think we can safely say there are an almost infinite number of anchorages for you to discover and make your own. Here are our favorites.
One of the most charming anchorages in the Southern Cape Cod area is Hadley Harbor. For those transiting from Buzzards Bay to Vineyard Sound, this scenic harbor among the Elizabeth Islands is a perfect stopover for lunch and a swim on a warm day while waiting for the current to change in the narrow opening at Woods Hole. The outer harbor is exposed to the Northeast so it is good for daytime visitors who want to stretch their legs and explore Bull Island. (Dogs are welcome!) Those wishing to stay overnight should continue through the narrow opening past Bull Island to the completely protected inner harbor. Its best to arrive early to guarantee a space to anchor because this little gem is very popular. Most all moorings are privately owned although there are three Coast Guard buoys available for public use. Hadley is close to many great attractions, such as the historic town of Woods Hole, home of the Oceanographic Institution, and a great swimming beach and hiking area known as the Knob.
In the Chesapeake, we would have to say one of our favorite anchorages is Back Creek on the Sassafras River on the Upper Eastern Shore of Maryland. We found very good holding, protection from all wind directions, a beautiful old mansion to explore ashore (Mt. Harmon Plantation) and lovely shoreline with high trees all around. It's also located fairly close to Georgetown, one of the hubs of Eastern Shore cruising. Kitty Knight House, an 18th-century inn, serves some of the best crab cakes around while the long-loved Granary across the river offers the finest sunsets along the river. There are a number of little beaches to land a dinghy to take the dog ashore or just stretch your legs. This is just one of many great anchorages on this river.
Another favorite spot on the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore is the free seawall in Cambridge, Md. along the Choptank River. There is no worry with holding as you tie off to sturdy cleats, but you must fender well against the concrete wall. Located just next to the county building to starboard once inside the entrance to Cambridge Creek, the seawall and basin are well-protected from wind. From here you'll see Snapper's Waterfront Cafe (serving the area's best Southwestern and Jamaican-inspired dishes) and a small bridge that makes regular openings so one can head deeper into the harbor to access more marinas. There are many other restaurants in town including Portside Seafood, a relaxed waterfront venue with divine seafood, and Jimmie & Sook's Raw Bar & Grill, a Fish house. Cambridge is dotted with numerous shops and historical sites within walking distance, and a great Farmer's Market is close by. Cambridge is a pretty little town that requires a stay of a number of days to do it justice.
While cruising along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Carolina Beach in North Carolina is the perfect anchorage. We love the beach, First and foremost, so it's always a plus to be near it. There is easy access off of the ICW with good depths. You can anchor north of the first island with good holding or take a mooring ball operated by the Town of Carolina Beach for a small fee. This anchorage is surrounded by gorgeous beach homes to the north and east, a protective low marsh island to the south and marinas to the west (Carolina Beach State Park or Joyner Marina at the entrance to the harbor is a waterway favorite). A dinghy dock is located at the end of Sandpiper Lane toward the south end of the mooring field (beachside), and the town dock at the head of the harbor gives easy shore access. This is an attractive little beach town with quick access to the Cape Fear River so you can play the tides and currents to ensure a more comfortable ride down this wide and exposed river.
Cumberland Island on the Georgia- Florida border has long been a favorite of ours. There is good holding anywhere along the island, with easy access from the ICW. Anchor anywhere between Greyfield and Dungeness. We prefer the north end near Greyfield. You'll be protected from the west by Drum Point Island and from any easterly quadrant winds from the beautiful forest at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Park. You are right at the beach, just a short walk across the island through lush trees, palms and over the dunes. The beach is never crowded as the island is only accessed by boat. And there is great shelling here. The Dungeness Ruins on the south end are often visited by wild horses whose appearance is always welcome. We never miss a chance to stop here. Bike or hike ashore to your heart's content.
Once you see the beauty of the Lower St. John's River, you will have to return for more. Hontoon Dead River is one of those spots you won't forget. Its peace and quiet, completely surrounded by forest, is almost unsurpassed. With good depth, holding and protection, as well as quick access from the river channel to the state park, you will find the solitude you seek for kayaking or just resting on the boat. The Hontoon Dead River has a 10-mile paddling trail around Hontoon Island State Park, which is only accessible by boat or ferry and is perfect for the explorer looking to bird watch, hike, fish or take in the abundance of wildlife.
The remote beauty of the Emerald Rock area of Warderick Wells in Exuma Land and Sea Park is probably one of our favorite places on the planet. The water is crystal clear. While open to the west, there are limestone cays at all other points of the compass. If you need westerly protection, there are a number of other spots within the park boundaries to the south where you can find protection from just about any wind direction. From Emerald Rock, you can dinghy to the Land and Sea Park headquarters on Warderick Wells and visit the ranger station. Hike the various trails, relax on the beaches or visit Boo Boo Hill to leave your wooden carved marker and permanently cement your place in history. We never get tired of this place, as it may be one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Keep in mind, this is a no-take zone (you cannot take any fish, conch or shells from the water or from land). Th is rule is strictly enforced.
For unending socializing and access to services and provisions, Marsh Harbour in the Abacos is unrivaled. Th e harbour is large enough for many, many boats and is surrounded by restaurants and shops offering a landing spot for the dinghy. You can have any type of boat work done, stock the boat from the U.S.-style grocery, restock the liquor cabinet or meet up with your friends at any number of restaurants and bars, all lining the harbour. The Jib Room has weekly steak and rib specials, while Curly Tails Restaurant & Bar serves fresh local seafood with a Mediterranean twist. Don't forget about Snappas Grill & Chill pumping with live music every Friday and Saturday night. Marsh Harbour is the hub of the Abacos, and you will not be bored here. And it's a quick hop to many of our other favorite spots, such as Treasure Cay, Man-O-War or Hope Town, just an hour or so away.
On the Gulf Coast of Florida, off the Caloosahatchee River, in Cape Coral is Bimini Basin. Just blocks from downtown Cape Coral, this anchorage wins points in all areas. The approach is well-marked, although you will have to cross a 5.5- foot spot to enter. Once in the basin, there is excellent holding, 360-degrees protection, easy shore access, a short walk to provisions, free WiFi from Four Freedoms Park and beautiful surroundings. The basin is bordered on one side by a lovely park with dinghy docks and surrounded by well-kept residential homes and condominiums. One of the most appealing things is Ice Sssscreamin the newest Cape Coral ice cream shop located onsite at the park known for its gator tracks and heavenly hash flavors. One should never have to walk too far for ice cream.
Another gem of an anchorage on Florida's Gulf Coast is Buttonwood Harbor at Longboat Key. Located at the west end of Sarasota Bay, this anchorage is much better protected than it would appear on the chart. Low-lying scrub keys and mud flats provide protection from the north and east and beautiful homes and tall palms from the south and west. You may be the only boat at anchor here! In the area of the chart marked see Buttonwood Harbor note and dinghy to either the kayak launch to the south or the town dock to the north (a quarter-mile south and a half-mile north respectively). From those locations, you can walk across to the beautiful Gulf beach, catch the bus to the grocery store or back into Sarasota's tourist attractions, or tie up the dinghy or boat at Pattigeorge's a perfect place to end the day with Asian, Caribbean and Latin American dishes.
It was hard to pass on many of the other anchorages in the Florida Big Bend and Panhandle, but we have to choose Roberts Bayou in Alabama. Although the entrance channel is narrow, it is easily navigated, passing within feet of the beach just outside Pirates Cove Marina & Restaurant, and the deeper water is clearly visible. Travel at idle speed through the entrance, as there may be a number of boats, people and dogs parked at and playing near the channel. Once inside, you have one of the best protected anchorages you will find anywhere. The tall treeline and well-maintained homes provide all of the protection and views you would need. Dinghy ashore to the park near the anchorage to land Fido or head back to the restaurant for burgers and beers and a little nightlife.
The string of small islands along the north shore of Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron hold more picturesque anchorages per square mile than any other body of water I know. These islands have towering pines and spruce trees growing over clear fresh water along their shores. Many anchorages have deep enough water right up to the shore that you can safely tie a stern line to a nearby tree. The islands such as Croker or South Benjamin have so many bays and insets you can find shelter from virtually any wind. Many of the islands are close enough together to offer literally a dozen different anchorages in less than 2 miles from each other. With the charming town of Little Current nearby, provisioning is easy for a weekend or week's stay. Granted the summers are short, but the beauty is worth it. Take your own or charter a local boat and don't miss the clear water and clear night skies of the North Channel's anchorages.
From the Gulf to the Atlantic and every bay in between, boaters and their families have plenty to look forward to on the Florida coasts this fall. Start the season with a couple of pints at Oktoberfest and spooks at a haunted ghost tour, throw in a boating event or two, and round it out with a lighted boat parade.
Learn about the haunted history in the oldest city in the United States through the lens of the undead. Get tickets for haunted pub crawls, trolly tours and walking tours. You’ll get in the Halloween spirit and learn the stories behind St. Augustine’s most spirited locations from professional storytellers with just the right amount of spook. Kids are welcome on trolly and walking tours, and pets are allowed on walking tours! Check out Ghost Tours of St. Augustine or Ghosts & Gravestones.
Where to Dock: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor
Jacksonville Beach, Tampa
Kick off the fall season with Oktoberfest on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast with Beaches Oktoberfest and Oktoberfest Tampa. With Tampa’s event ranking in the top five in the country and Jacksonville Beach’s being the largest in the state, you’re sure to find the brew for you! beachesoktoberfest.com
Where to Dock: Fort George Island Marina (Jacksonville), Westshore Yacht Club (Tampa)
Just across the Bay from Tampa and St. Pete, Apollo Beach is teeming with wildlife on land and on the water. At this four-day festival, you’ll find a free expo with nature organizations and artwork, daily field and boat trips to sites not accessible to the public, and expert wildlife and conservation seminars. Nature aficionados won’t want to miss this opportunity at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Suncoast Youth Conservation Center.
Where to Dock: Apollo Beach Marina
West Palm Beach
Has your dog always wanted to be an (un)professional racer? Now is Fido’s time to shine! Register your pup for a day full of zoomies, Doggie Costume Contest, and plenty of BBQ and entertainment for the whole family. Proceeds benefit Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch.
Where to Dock: Palm Harbor Marina
No matter your music taste, you’re sure to find something to jam out to at this three-day festival, from smooth jazz and blues to funk and zydeco. You’ll find plenty of vendors at the festival, and Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood offers old-school charm and Latin American eateries. St. Petersburg offers hip breweries, coffee shops and more.
Where to Dock: Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina
Join in a celebration of life at the Water Lantern Festival this fall. Start the day with food trucks, music and family- friendly fun, and end by releasing your personalized lantern on the water at sunset.
Where to Dock: Marina Jack
The largest in-water boat show in the world offers viewings and demos of everything from superyachts to kayaks and fishing gear. Stop by the Superyacht Village to sip a cocktail on one of the most luxurious boats in the world, the Convention Center for watersport and innovative boating gear demos, and take the family to a kid-friendly fishing seminar.
Where to Dock: 17th Street Yacht Basin, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Pier 66 Hotel & Marina
Join the Old Naples Waterfront Association in the historic center to kick off stone crab season! Eat stone crab to your heart’s content in a prime harvesting location of the tasty crustacean and enjoy plenty of entertainment, from live music to local galleries and craft vendors. floridarambler.com/florida-festivals/ florida-seafood-festivals-calendar
Where to Dock: Naples Bay Resort & Marina
Cruise to the charming Apalachicola, tucked away among expansive wildlife reserves and just a bay away from the Gulf. Along with some of the best oysters and seafood you can eat, the whole family will enjoy a parade, carnival, Blessing of the Fleet, hours of live music every day, and competitions such as the oyster shucking contest and blue crab races.
Where to Dock: Apalachicola Marina
Celebrate the annual return of the North Atlantic right whale to the coasts of Florida and Georgia to give birth and nurse their young in historic Fernandina Beach. Learn about threats and conservation efforts for these gentle giants, participate in a beach clean-up, and enjoy family fun at educational exhibits, athletic events, and food and craft vendors.
Where to Dock: Oasis Marinas at Fernandina Beach
Cruise to Key West for three days of epic racing and a full week of family-friendly fun. Don’t miss the World’s Fastest Boat Parade on the first Sunday, or any three of the races throughout the week: the Truman Waterfront Cup, Southernmost Continental Champion, and Championship. Use downtime to explore the Race Village at Truman Waterfront and try out local pubs, shops and restaurants.
Where to Dock: Conch Harbor Marina
Visit Siesta Key Beach to watch sculptors from around the world turn piles of white sand into sculpted masterpieces. Professional competitors have 24 hours to build their pieces, and visitors have the chance to participate in amateur sand-sculpting competitions and see the masters at work.
Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Siesta Key
Art connoisseurs and amateurs alike will love this boutique art competition and festival in the scenic cultural center of Sarasota. Masters of different media—ceramics, jewelry, graphic art, painting, and more—will put the best of their work on display for patrons to browse and buy to their hearts’ content.
Where to Dock: Marina Jack
November 19-January 31
Ready to get in the holiday spirit? Cruise back to St. Augustine as early as before Thanksgiving for a dazzling display of more than 3 million lights in the historic district. Gaze in awe at the twinkly lights and find photo ops at the Bridge of Lions and the Christmas tree at the center of Plaza de la Constitución. Enjoy the sounds of the All Star Orchestra on the first night and stroll to businesses open later than usual.
Where to Dock: St. Augustine Municipal Marina
Since the 1970s, this annual art extravaganza brings works of contemporary and modern pieces by renowed and emerging artists from around the world to showcase in Miami. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, for three days the public can gaze upon unique masterpieces presented by leading galleries from five continents.
Where to Dock: Sunset Harbour Yacht Club
Key Largo, FL
This annual four-day event showcases classic antique yachts, automobiles and aircraft to celebrate those who restore vintage collections. Experience a full schedule of events kicking off with a welcome party and dinner buffet on Thursday, then a weekend packed with drive-bys, shows, dinners, cocktail receptions, a costume party and more.
Where to Dock: Ocean Reef Club
With so many spectacular lighted boat parades on the coasts of Florida, we couldn’t choose just one! Dock at any of these coastal towns on the first three Saturdays of December to ring in the season on the festive Florida waterfronts.
Daytona Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Palm Coast Yacht Club Holiday Boat Parade
The Seminole Hard Rock Winter Boat Parade
St. Augustine Regatta of Lights
Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade
Northwest Cape Coral 2nd Annual Boat Parade
The Caribbean is well known for its clear blue tropical waters. But as rich as it is in beauty, the islands have an even greater wealth of his- tory. Luckily, museums are located across the region to share the stories and significant events that can provide glimpses of what maritime life was like throughout the years. Their exhibits, relics and archives will have you looking at the region in a whole new light.
You can find this treasure trove of artifacts in the Atlantic Ocean 650 miles east of North Carolina, the nearest land mass to this collection of islands. The museum shows how maritime events shaped the history, people and culture of Bermuda. It is located at the historic Royal Naval Dockyard within Bermuda’s largest fort. Exhibits cover 500 years of the country’s history from how the German U-505 submarine was captured by the U.S. Navy and concealed in Bermuda to how sailing races from North America to Bermuda have influenced the development of ocean-worthy boats and blue water sailing. Be sure to experience the museum’s unique spaces by strolling through the two-story boat loft to catching a dolphin show at the Keep Pond Terrace to taking in the expansive ocean views at the flagpole.
Where to Dock: Kings Wharf or Heritage Wharf
Turks and Caicos National Museum opened in 1991 to store artifacts found in the excavation of the Molasses Reef shipwreck, an unknown Spanish ship that sunk in 1515 on the Caicos Bank. The museum spans two locations: the Guinep House on Grand Turk Island, believed to be more than 180 years old and named after the large guinep tree on its property, and the Village at Grace Bay on Providenciales, where visitors can tour the Heritage House, an historically correct rendition of a typical 1800s Caicos dwelling. In addition to showcasing shipwreck artifacts, visitors also learn about the evolution of The Grand Turk Lighthouse as well as the rise and fall of the island’s salt industry. On Museum Day, the first Saturday in November, visitors can tour the exhibits for free, and in May, the Village at Grace Bay holds a “Back in the Day” event with activities reflecting historical life on the island.
Where to Dock: Blue Haven Resort & Marina
If you like to take in history outdoors, these exhibitions are for you. The trail consists of 36 stops across all three islands (Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands) and is best traveled via car. Each stop is marked by a road sign that shares a notable historic event or contribution related to the maritime industry. Learn how turtling shaped the islands’ early economy, how ships were cleaned and repaired before boat lifts by a process called “careening”, and hear stories of notable shipwrecks. If you prefer to learn Cayman Island history in one place, you can check out the Cayman Islands National Museum, housed in Cayman’s oldest surviving public building, which has a series of permanent and rotating exhibits.
Where to Dock: The Barcadere Marina
Completed 500 years after Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of La Hispaniola, the Faro a Colon (aka The Columbus Lighthouse) is one of the Dominican Republic’s most popular attractions. Constructed in the shape of a Latin cross spanning the width of two soccer fields, the lighthouse was created to recognize the first “encounter between two worlds.” It includes a mausoleum that houses Christopher Columbus’ remains as well as a museum displaying original and replica artifacts from the time of Columbus’ voyage. The lighthouse also has a library containing documents and maps displaying some of the earliest drawings of the Americas.
Where to Dock: Marina Zarpar
The Antigua Naval Dockyard, now named Nelson’s Dockyard, was built in the mid-1700s to serve as a strategic post and support the Royal Navy battle against the French and protect trade routes in the region. The dockyard officially closed in 1889 and reopened in 1961 as an historic site. In addition to exploring the dockyard, take advantage of the park’s 12 miles of hiking trails, two forts, and tours such as the “Rum in the Ruins” where you can listen to stories of the dockyard while sipping on a cocktail. If traveling by boat, get the best view of the gorgeous English Harbour and snag a slip at nearby Nelson’s Dockyard Marina, the only continuously working Georgian Era dockyard in the world.
Where to Dock: Nelson’s Dockyard Marina
Opened in 2020, the Bequia Heritage Museum includes the Boat Museum and Annexe that display and educate visitors about the boatbuilding and whaling industries as well as artifacts dating back to the period of the island’s European settlement. Vessels on display at the museum include a traditional Amerindian dug-out canoe and the decommissioned boat, Rescue, that was originally used for whaling.
Where to Dock: Bequia Marina
Located in a mansion built in 1729 on the Waaigat inlet, the Curaçao Maritime Museum shares with visitors the story and events that influenced Curaçao’s involvement in the maritime industry. Learn how trade ebbed and flowed in and out of Curaçao’s ports, reflective of the events happening around the world to the arrival of the first cruise ship in 1901 from New York, sparking the cruise tourism industry until the 1970s when air travel took over as the primary way for tourists to visit the island. Visitors can explore the museum at their own pace or take a guided tour.
Where to Dock: Seru Boca Marina
With a decent internet connection, you can visit the Grand Bahama Museum from the comforts of your remote anchorage or mooring. Bahamian history and culture are explored through digital exhibits ranging from the islands’ natural landscapes and the history of the port authority to the role the Bahamas played during the Golden Age of Piracy. Learn about the first recorded piece of mail sent from the Bahamas in 1761 and the evolution of mailboats. Or savor a dark and stormy while reading about the Bahamas’ role in the rum-running industry during U.S. Prohibition. The Grand Bahama Museum was originally housed at The Garden of the Groves but was unfortunately destroyed by weather and time. To reach a wider audience and share Bahamian history and culture, the museum decided to move to a digital platform.
Where to Dock: Grand Bahama Yacht Club or Flamingo Bay Hotel & Marina
WHICH OF THESE RENOWNED SEAFOOD TOWNS WILL HOOK YOU?
Beaufort lies on an inlet leading south to the Atlantic and is considered part of North Carolina’s “Inner Banks” and the Crystal Coast. The Crystal Coast spans 85 miles of stunning coastline in southern North Carolina, including 56 miles of protected beach of the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Located on historic Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach is the northernmost city on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Visitors will find easy access to Jacksonville, the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, and coastal destinations in southern Georgia such as Cumberland Island.
Established in 1709, Beaufort was originally known as Fishtown, having been a fishing village and port of safety since the late 1600s. In addition to fishing, Beaufort was a hub for whaling, lumber, shipbuilding and farming. The earliest settlers made their mark by building Bahamian and West Indian-style homes, and the Plan of Beaufort Towne can still be seen in a 12-block historic district.
First settled in 1562, this town on historic Amelia Island went through many transformations under eight flags before it became what it is today. After the Civil War, Fernandina Beach became a bustling seaport and popular destination, called “The Queen of Summer Resorts” by many Northerners. Today’s visitors find themselves surrounded by the town’s lovely relics of the past — an historic district, Civil War port and the first cross-state railroad remain.
Beaufort has a thriving scene for anglers. Cast your line off a dock downtown, book a charter or head north to Cedar Island Wildlife Refuge to catch flounder, trout and redfish. Boat tours and private charters are a popular way to experience the stunning views and wildlife of the Crystal Coast. See porpoises, dolphins and wild horses on the beach. Better yet, book with Cruisin’ Tikis Beaufort to imbibe while you observe. Dock at Beaufort Docks.
Pier fishing is huge on Amelia Island, and anglers should head to the George Crady Bridge, which spans one mile of Nassau Sound. Snag a variety of fish in the area, including redfish, whiting, seatrout, tarpon and flounder. Boaters can start aquatic excursions in either the Atlantic Ocean to the east or Amelia River to the west. Go on a solo adventure, or join a tour or charter by boat, kayak or watersport with the likes of Amelia River Tours, Amelia Adventures & Kayak or Riptide Watersports. Dock at Fernandina Harbor Marina.
History buffs will feel right at home in Beaufort. Visit the Beaufort Historic Site to learn the town’s story through nine preserved historic homes in the middle of town. Three different maritime museums, including the North Carolina Maritime Museum, and the Bonehenge Whale Center offer marine merriment for the whole family. And for a taste of Crystal Coast wildlife, head over to the Rachel Carson Reserve where wild horses and countless birds, reptiles and aquatic mammals roam free.
Fernandina Beach is known for its easy living. Amelia Island Welcome Center is a great place to revisit Fernandina’s history and plan your day. Make your way to Centre Street on the water to browse eclectic shops and bustling art galleries, taste wild-caught shrimp at a bistro, or grab a pint at the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest tavern. If you’re in town on a Friday, you might stumble upon Sounds on Centre, a local concert series.
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