Best of Lists

Top Dock & Dines in the United States

Foodies By Land and By Sea

By
Jeanne
Craig

For those of us lucky to have a boat, there's nothing quite like grabbing a good meal at a dock and dine. No matter what sort of shape your ship is in, these waterfront eateries welcome foodies by land and sea and offer the type of friendly and casual vibe that boaters hunger for.

The Cannery - Newport Beach, Calif.

Motoring around the Newport Harbor is one of the great joys of boating, as the eye can feast on pretty homes, playful wildlife (think barking seals) and an eclectic variety of power and sailing vessels. Try the historic Cannery Seafood in the Cannery Village on Balboa Peninsula. This award-winning restaurant has been a culinary standout for some time, but since the arrival of Chef Nicolas Weber in the summer of 2015, there's even more buzz surrounding this harbor-side eatery. The menu emphasizes fresh, locally sourced seafood; regulars like the electric energy in the dining room. (949-566-0060, cannerynewport.com)

Where to Dock: There's a 200-foot dock out front, but you have to reserve a slip well in advance. You can call ahead for dock space, but for the most part, it's available on a first-come first-served basis.

Tides Tavern - Gig Harbor, Wash.

Here's a great place for boaters in search of tavern-style comfort food and the opportunity to hang with the locals. Tides Tavern has been a mainstay in the Puget Sound region for years. It's located on the shores of the downtown harbor and offers some of the best waterfront views in the region, from inside and the outdoor deck. The no-fuss atmosphere is a big draw, as is the friendly staff that can make any tourist feel at home. There's lots of local seafood on the menu including baked halibut and clam chowder, but this is a great burger joint, too, especially when that burger is paired with one of the good artisanal beers. (253-858-3982, tidestavern.com)

Where to Dock: There's a long face dock out front and diners are encouraged to tie up there, but the owners caution visitors to remember the tide levels. Note that rafting up is the policy here. The dockmaster will encourage you to put out your fenders and meet other boaters.

Alley Cat Oyster Bar - Cleveland, Ohio

This contemporary restaurant in the recently developed flats East Bank entertainment district couples a big space with industrial-chic décor that makes for an edgy vibe. Most appealing are the expansive views of the Cuyahoga River, which can be enjoyed from the open-air dining room that also overlooks the area's new boardwalk. The cuisine is another big draw. For the most part, the menu is what you'd expect in a traditional shoreside restaurant, with mainstays like oysters, mussels, clams, lobster and fresh fish (think beer-battered catfish and perch sandwich) alongside chicken, steak, chowders, soups and salads. (216-574-9999, alleycatoysterbar.com)Where to Dock: Dock-and-diners can tie up at the public dock that's just out front of the restaurant, running along the East Bank. Space is available on a first-come basis. The staff says it's not too difficult to get dockage on a Friday or Saturday night in season, but it can be tricky to get a table inside, so be sure to make a reservation.

LuLu's - Gulf Shores, Ala.

It began as a small neighborhood restaurant with a small gift shop and a patch of sand for the kids to pull pails through. Twelve years later, Lulu's has evolved into one of most popular waterfront dining spots in the Gulf Shores region. Located on the ICW, the staff serves as many as 4,000 people per day in high season, but the place is huge so there's plenty of open-air seating. If there is a wait for a table, the crew can find ways to stay entertained: There's a three-story rope climbing apparatus, volleyball nets, retail center, arcade and Fountain of Youth, where the little ones can cool off. The atmosphere is as casual as the menu that features burgers, salads, sandwiches and baskets of grilled, blackened or fried fish. (251-967-5858, lulubuffett.com)

Where to Dock: Lulu's is located beside Homeport Marina, a full-service facility with electricity, restrooms, showers, laundry and fuel dock. There's sufficient space for transients boats available along the concrete floating docks. To reserve a slip call 251-968-4528.

Nervous Nellie's - Ft. Myers Beach, Fla.

Overlooking Matanzas Pass in the southwest corner of the state, Nervous Nellie's also calls itself a crazy waterfront eatery. The vibe is both low-key casual and lots of fun. If you're traveling with kids, you'll be glad to know service is prompt: Meals come quick so the little ones don't have to wait too long for the gator bites, mahi mahi tacos and coconut shrimp. The menu also has fresh seafood, steaks, a selection of sandwiches and a lobster roll that's stuffed with plenty of meat and minimal dressing. If you're dining with friends, head upstairs to the second floor deck to Ugly's Waterside Bar to hear live music. (239-463-8077, nervousnellies.net)

Where to Dock: The restaurant has its own slips, and a dock attendant should be standing by to help you tie up. Try to call in early to reserve a spot.

Peg Leg Pete's - Pensacola Beach, Fla.

This very chill restaurant located on the east end of Pensacola Beach and overlooking Santa Rosa Sound is the type of place you can pull up to after a day out fishing and swimming. Just throw a T-shirt and shorts over your bathing suit and head to the dining room covered in kitschy but fun nautical décor. Think fish nets on the ceiling, pirate flags flying on deck and signs that read Unruly Children Will be Cooked and Eaten. Regulars come for the big portions and dishes like the Fresh Gulf Coast shrimp steamed in beer and Cajun spices. And yes, you peel your own. The place is jumping by 5:30 p.m., particularly on weekends, so plan for an early arrival to get a slip and a good table. For boaters traveling with kids, there's a sand-covered playground on the lower level. (850-932-4139, peglegpetes.com)

Where to Dock: Lafitte Cove Marina is located directly behind the restaurant, and it has a couple of transient slips for restaurant patrons, plus overnight dockage if you decide to tie up and stay for a while. To reserve a slip, call the marina at 850-934-7112.

Kingfish Grill on the Water - St. Augustine, Fla

Located just two miles from historic St. Augustine is Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor, where visitors can find everything from boat rentals to fishing charters, a canvas shop and restaurants, including the Kingfish Grill. It offers up sweet views of the ICW and plenty of fresh fish, including sushi, which typically gets strong reviews from locals and tourists alike. The fare and venue are family-friendly, too, so bring the kids. Regulars say reserve a table early so you can enjoy the atmosphere in the best light of day and watch as the harbor fills with boats coming in to tie up for the evening. (904-824-2111, kingfishgrill.com)

Where to Dock: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor (904-829-5676) is a completely protected marina that's less than a mile from the St. Augustine Inlet and Atlantic Ocean. The marina can accommodate boats up to 125 feet. There's gas and diesel on the docks, so fuel up before you take off.

Red's Ice House - Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

If you're cruising the bustling Charleston region and want to tuck away to a mellow place for good local seafood, turn the bow toward Mt. Pleasant and then make your way up historic Shem Creek to Red's. What used to be an icehouse and packing shed for local shrimpers is now both a laidback and lively gathering place for local and transient boaters. The view of Shem Creek at sunset from the top deck is particularly spectacular when paired with a cold beer and backed up by the sounds of live music. Some reviewers say the bar is more of a draw than the food, although mainstays like crab and shrimp are typically good. (843-388-0003, redsicehouse.com)

Where to Dock: Red's is a relatively big place and it gets crowded, so arrive early, as dockage is available on a first-come basis. There's room at the restaurant's dock for a half dozen boats.

Waterman's Crab House & Dock Bar - Rock Hall, Md.

Food rarely tastes better than after a long day of boating, and one of the best places to satisfy a skipper'sappetite is on the Chesapeake, at a place like Waterman's. Located on Maryland's upper Eastern Shore, this restaurant evolved from a local seafood market into an award-winning family restaurant specializing in Chesapeake steamed crabs as well as rockfish and oysters. The eatery gets a thumbs-up for the full-service menu available in high season that includes jumbo lump crab cakes. There's a good beer selection and live music on the weekends during the summer season. (410-639-2261, watermanscrabhouse.com)

Where to Dock: Waterman's has 30 slips that are complimentary while dining. Dockage is also available next door at Rock Hall Landing Marina (410-639-2224).

The Shrimp Box and Patio Bar - Point Pleasant, N.J.

For really fresh fish, dig into the catch of the day at this Jersey Shore favorite. Before the Shrimp Box opened about 75 years ago, this location was all commercial fishing dock. Today, the dock is also home to this casual eatery that lures devout followers who come for dishes that are sometimes prepared with fish that come off the boats pulling into the dock. Sure, there's the somewhat intense smell of fish when you first tie up, but that's part of the uber-salty atmosphere. Before dinner, enjoy a cocktail on the west-facing patio bar that overlooks the Manasquan River as it empties into the Atlantic. There's a limited selection of food to choose from on the patio bar menu, but inside the dining room, the there's a full menu. (732-899-1637, theshrimpbox.com)

Where to Dock: You can pull up alongside the restaurant and put out fenders at the docks that belong to The Shrimp Box. When it gets crowded, the staff will encourage you to raft up.

Boat House Restaurant - Tiverton, R.I.

Because it looks out over the Sakonnet River in a pretty New England port, the Boat House has been ranked by OpenTable as one of the top 100 restaurants with scenic views in the U.S. for four consecutive years. The menu at this casual-chic eatery features the freshest seafood and freshly farmed produced. The owners say the mission of this restaurant is to elevate the treasured seafood shack to a new level of innovation and excellence. Menu will typically feature New England classics with a twist, such as chowder made with Maine baby shrimp, chorizo and corn. The wine list is also quite good and service is always professional. (401-624-6300, boathousetiverton.com)

Where to Dock: The restaurant has one long floating dock that can accommodate three or four boats up to 30 feet. A dockhand might be available to grab your lines on a summer holiday weekend, but typically, boaters are on their own. Space is available on a first-come basis, and it fills up fast.

Baxter's Boathouse - Hyannis, Mass.

Located in Hyannis Harbor since 1967, this is one of the oldest watering holes in the area and also one of the busiest. Yes, it's filled with tourists, but locals adore the place too as it sits waterside and offers excellent views of the busy waterway plied by recreational vessels, charter fishing boats and commercial ferries headed out to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The atmosphere is laidback: Drinks are served in plastic cups on the open top deck (bring a jacket), and food is served on paper plates. Regulars say don't leave without sampling the fried oysters, although the whole belly clams are supposed to be quite good, too. (508-775-4490, baxterscapecod.com)

Where to Dock: The restaurant has its own slips and can accommodate as many as 20 boats at a time. The dockmaster says they'll make room for boats of almost any size. Hyannis Marina (508-790-4000) is anotheroption in town.

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Back to School Bucket List
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The days are growing shorter, and the final weeks of summer are upon us. So, before the school bell rings, Marinalife is wondering if you’ve checked off everything on your must-do list this season. If you’re looking for ways to wrap up summer, consider the following ideas for last-dash, fun activities.

- Learn how to do a back dive, canon ball or jump off the back of the boat into the water.  Rope swings are also an invigorating option.

- Have a tiki party on a boat and serve your guests tropical blender drinks. Bonus points for Hawaiian shirts and grilled pineapple or savory Polynesian snacks.

- Pick a dozen crabs on your boat or at a waterfront dock bar, along with all the classic fixins’ of corn on the cob, hushpuppies, coleslaw and a cold brew.  If crabs aren’t your preference, a lobster, clam or crawfish boil will do just fine.

- Ride down a giant slide, roller coaster or death-defying ride at a waterpark while letting out a mighty yell.

- Body surf in the Atlantic waves or build a sandcastle strong enough to withstand the tide.

- Explore a hidden cove or a dream destination that you’ve never visited before on your boat.

- Go fishing and catch something big enough for dinner.

- Get pulled on a raft or inflatable behind a boat or learn how to waterski.

- Catch lightening bugs in a jar to make a glowing lantern.  But be sure to poke holes in the lid and release them when the fun is done.

- Under the stars, go to an outdoor movie, music festival or seafood feast.

- Learn how to shuck an oyster, clean a fish or pick a crab, then invite friends over to taste dishes made from the fruits of your labor.

- Invent a nautical cocktail to commemorate the summer of 2022.

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Nauti Shopper: Identify your new discoveries with these apps and guides
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RESOURCEFUL APPS


FISHVERIFY

Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Galaxy Store

This fish finder app lets anglers discover saltwater and freshwater catches with the snap of a picture. Take a live shot or import photos and the AI technology works its magic. Learn about marine habitats and check weather conditions including winds, tides, water temperature and barometric pressure. (Free download; premium subscription is $29.99/year) fishverify.com

SHELL MUSEUM: IDENTIFY SHELLS

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store
Take photos of your shoreline discoveries and this innovative app helps you figure out what they are and the sea creature that built it. Thanks to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, FL, beachcombers can now identify most common shells found across Florida beaches in seconds. ($1.99 download) shellmuseum.org

ARGO: BOATING NAVIGATION

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

This navigation and social boating app offers satellite, terrain and NOAA map features, depth and contours, trip planning, voyage tracking and a captain’s log for itineraries. Find points of interest such as fuel docks, anchorages, marinas and restaurants. The social boating features helps you connect with the boating community (Free download) argonav.io

SPECIES GUIDEBOOKS

REEF FISH IDENTIFICATION — FLORIDA, CARIBBEAN, BAHAMAS

By Paul Humann and Ned Deloach

Whether you’re a southern angler or marine wildlife documenter, you’ll love combing through 1,000 photographs of more than 683 species in this book. Designed as a reference guide, this new 4th edition identifies fish and aquatic creatures throughout the waterways of Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas. ($44.95) reef.org/products/reef-fish-identification-florida-caribbean-and-bahamas-4th-edition

KAUFMAN FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA

by Kenn Kaufman Kaufman Field Guides

This guide has been a leading birdlife guidebook for decades. Vibrant photos, detailed descriptions and range maps illustrate a lively key for bird-watching excursions. The book is compact, easily portable and studies most species in North America. (Prices vary)
kaufmanfieldguides.com/birds.html

THE TRACKER’S HANDBOOK: HOW TO IDENTIFY AND TRAIL ANY ANIMAL

By Len McDougall

Whether you’re hunting for dinner, hiking or being an avid nature lover, this guide makes animal tracking easy. Discover North American species such as the American Elk and Whitetail Deer. Identify footprints, habitats and range. This book isn’t just for hunters; it’s for explorers of all kinds. ($34.56)

barnesandnoble.com/w/the-trackers-handbook-len-mcdougall/1118940778

JUNIOR EXPLORER

SKY GUIDE APP

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

Point a smartphone to the sky and suddenly you appear in your own planetarium with this stargazing app. Sky Guide locates your position and follows the stars in real time while superimposing constellations and figures interactively. Find planets in rotation, discover where Pisces is currently rising or catch the next meteor shower.($1.99 download) apps.apple.com/us/app/sky-guide/id576588894

OCEAN ANIMALS COLLECTION SERIES

National Geographic Kids
Children will become overnight marine biologists with this fun learning series. Young readers can spot sea otters, manatees, turtles and much more. Teach your kids about aquatic habitats with photography and unique fun facts on each species. ($17.99)

barnesandnoble.com/w/ocean-animals-collection-national-geographic-kids/1123056379

OUTDOOR SCIENCE LAB

SmartLab Toys

This outdoor set brings out kids’ inner scientific explorer. Examining bugs, plants, dirt, weather and more. Activities include testing various samples and tracking findings in a science log. Kids can enjoy after-dark exploration with the UV night scope. ($45)

shopsweetthreads.com/products/smartlab-toys-outdoor-science-lab-bugs-dirt-plants

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Top 10 New England Sailing Regattas
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What do a media mogul, movie maker and American President have in common? Taking part in yacht racing, one of our nation's oldest sports, and New England, the cradle of this sport in America. Ted Turner won the 1977 America's Cup in Newport. Roy Disney sailed from Newport to Bermuda with record-breaking speed in 2002. And in 1936, JFK earned a winner's cup racing Stars in the Hyannis Port Yacht Club race to Edgartown.

With more than 6,000 miles of shoreline, survival built on the sea from olden days of fishing and trading to today's seasonal tourist dollars, it's a natural that racing sailboats is a time-honored tradition and rite of passion for most New Englanders. Many sailors here boast blood as blue as the surrounding seas, yet everyone can find a home to race. Here's a sampling of some of the region's best-known regattas.

MAINE

Camden Classics Cup - new england regattas - marinalife
Camden Classics Cup | Alison Langle

Camden Classics Cup

July 28-30

Competition and camaraderie combine in this relative newcomer event sailed in Penobscot Bay and celebrated shoreside in downtown Camden. Over 100 sailboats, everything from vintage yachts to very fast one-designs like J/46s and J/42s, race. Classes are available for day sailors and cruising yachts, too. Dockage at Lyman-Morse is included in the race fee, so the party starts ashore when the racing ends, says organizer Mackenzie Lyman, who adds the marina operator and boat-builders have rebuilt the waterfront after a fire in 2020. Spectators can have just as much fun. Maine's Wind- jammers offer two-hour tours to view the racing, while landlubber's best bet is watching the parade of sail as dressed yachts with costumed crew parade through Camden harbor on the morning of July 30.

Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club Annual Regatta & Shipyard Cup Classics Challenge

July 23-24

A trend toward classic yacht racing and a nod to the area's deep sailing roots combined for the first time last year at the Shipyard Cup. This new addition to the nearly 50-year-old annual regatta put lots of eye-candy on the water. The 1926-built NY-40, Marilee and 1937-constructed 12-meter America's Cup contender, Gleam, plus classic Boothbay Harbor one-designs like the 21-foot, Geerd Hendel-designed, 1938-launched sloops, are expected back this year along with contemporary race yachts. We invited several America's Cup contenders to join Gleam this year on the start line, says co-chair Bob Scribner. Spectators can observe from Spruce Point, McKeown Point or Southport. A narrated parade of participants in the inner harbor starts at 10:00 a.m. on July 24.

MASSACHUSETTS

Marblehead Regatta - new england regattas - marinalife
NOOD Marblehead Regatta 2021 | Bruce

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Marblehead

July 28-31

The 1889-founded Marblehead Race Week joined with National Offshore One-Design concept a few years back, and the result is close to 200 boats racing. We now have all our regular classes like J/70s, Rhodes 19s and Viper 640, plus there are usually one or two guest classes like RS21s, Skuds, 2.4's and J/24s, that hold regional championships as part of the week, says Leslie Rousseau, race committee chair for the host Boston Yacht Club. We expect to see the return of Jud Smith, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and local J-70 favorite. Spectators on land can get a bird's eye view of the racing from Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. Those with a fast center console can watch the boats line up to start off Turkey Point in Middle River or set their chutes at the windward mark in Middle River.

Edgartown Race Weekend

June 23-25

Since 1938, celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard is home to this week of combo coastal, offshore and round-the-island racing hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club. The history, charm and summer activity on Martha's Vineyard is a meaningful draw, in addition to fantastic wind and ideal sailing conditions, says Alex Nugent, one of the event's co-chairs. Plus, we typically host a big welcome party that's sponsored by Mount Gay Rum. New is the ‘Round-the-Sound series of races, which features 20-some nautical mile coastal sprints around Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound and replaces the around-the-buoy series. There's monohull and multihull, racing and cruising, double-handed and many-handed entrants including teams from state and federal service and maritime academies.

Nantucket Race Week

August 13-21

Nine days of racing, parties and awards ceremonies take the concept of race week to the extreme. There's something afloat for everyone: kids in Optis and 420s, women in Rhodes 19s, kiteboarders, radio-controlled model boats and some of the country's top sailors competing in high-performance big boats and classic wooden yachts. This year we celebrate the 50th Opera House Cup Regatta, the grand dame of classic wooden boat regattas. The Cup, named after a legendary Nantucket restaurant, attracts some of the finest wooden boats on the East Coast and Europe. There is a big awards party on the beach after the race, says Diana Brown, chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. The Parade of Wooden Boats offers a brochure that describes each participating boat. The public can watch the parade from Brant Point Beach.

RHODE ISLAND

Annual Regatta

June 10-12

Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) out of its facilities in Newport, this is North America's oldest continuously held sailing event going on its 168th year. The format features two days of buoy racing, prefaced by a race around Conanicut Island. The sight of 100-plus spinnakers running north in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from Fort Adams, Castle Hill or Beavertail Light is breathtaking. Entries are invited to one-design classes, and boats more than 24 feet race under a variety of handicaps. The Annual Regatta is one of my perennial favorites, says Paul Zabetakis, NYYC commodore and a regular participant on his Swan 42, Impetuous. The race management is impeccable with multiple course configurations. Few other venues offer the perfect combination of offshore racing in Rhode Island Sound and inshore racing on Narragansett Bay. The Saturday night regatta party is one of the biggest occasions of the Newport regatta season with sailors converging on Harbour Court for cocktails and dinner.

Edgartown Race Weekend - new england regattas - marinalife
Edgartown Race Weekend | Daniel Fors

Newport to Bermuda Race

June 17

The lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are ringside seats to watch nearly 200 vessels start in the East Passage on a 635-mile passage south to Bermuda. Fort Adams State Park also provides close-up views of many of the boats as they depart from Newport Harbor. The fleet then sails past Brenton State Park as it clears Brenton Reef and turns to the southeast. Charter boats and private yachts assemble to watch the start from the water as well, says John Burnham. It's one of the oldest regularly scheduled ocean races, happening biennially since 1906. This year, three high-speed multihulls -- two MOD 70s, Argo and Snowflake, and the 78' trimaran Ultim'Emotion 2 -- are entered, and each has a good chance of breaking the elapsed time race record of 34h:42m:53s set in 2016 by the 100' maxi yacht, Comanche.

Ida Lewis Distance Race

August 18-20

The fleet goes where the wind blows. The Ida Lewis Distance Race is like no other in that the Race Committee chooses from among four different courses, based on the weather. Each course incorporates some of the most storied cruising grounds in New England and is just long enough for the fleet to be offshore overnight, yet not so long to prohibit inviting family and friends to join for a first-time adventure, says Anselm Richards, event chair. The goal: get about 60-some teams to compete on race boats 28-foot and longer in double-handed, youth, collegiate and different handicap classes back to the dock in under 24 hours. The start happens off Fort Adams and ends inside Newport Harbor, where each team is handed a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco.

CONNECTICUT

Block Island Race

May 27

Stamford is the start of this Memorial Day weekend regatta that for many sailors kicks New England's offshore racing season. The 186-nautical mile course down Long Island Sound and around Block Island and back also acts as a ‘warm up' for many teams that are racing some two weeks later in the Newport to Bermuda Race, says Kate Wilson Somers, who handles media for the event. The race marks its 75th anniversary this year and is organized by the Storm Trysail Club, based in Larchmont, NY.

Cedar Point One Design Regatta

June 4-5

A 20-year+ tradition on the first weekend in June, this one-design keelboat event hosted out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT, can draw as many as 800 competitors on over 100 boats. The key is that all the boats in a class are the same; no handicap scoring is needed. This makes it easy to watch, as first over the finish line is the winner. Currently, the event is open to J70, J88, J105 and J109, and Beneteau 36.7 fleets, but other fleets are welcome if they meet the requirements, says Joyce Oberdorf, who handles the club's communications.

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