Capturing the essence of Victoria, British Columbia in words is almost impossible. You have to experience Victoria to fully appreciate it. Located on a protected harbor on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, it is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, settled by the British in 1843, and is known as one of the most British cities outside England. It also ranks as one of the top cities in the world for quality of life. As the capital of British Columbia it is well serviced by airplanes and ferries from multiple points in the U.S. and Canada. One of the most interesting ways to arrive is by float plane Kenmore Air and Harbour Air will both land you right downtown.
Victoria is very walkable, and the most popular attractions are within two miles of the inner harbor. The city has a rich collection of historic buildings, including the Parliament Building, completed in 1897, and the Empress Hotel, which opened in 1908. An interesting assortment of marine architecture can be found at Fisherman's Wharf, where a colorful group of houseboats nestle in a cove.
Victoria has a healthy economy made up primarily of tech businesses, government agencies, and the tourism sector. The internationally diverse population brings with it cosmopolitan offerings restaurants and shops abound, many of which are located in a creatively restored merchant district. The well-established Chinatown neighborhood is almost as old as San Francisco's.
Set on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the city is surrounded by natural beauty, clean air and clear water. It's abundant sunshine and mild temperatures have earned it the nickname the Garden City. It enjoys relatively mild, dry weather in what is otherwise a cool, damp area. Don't miss the Butchart Gardens, about a 30-minute drive north of Victoria. It is one of the world's premier botanical displays.
With a circumnavigation distance of approximately 550 nautical miles, including dozens of marinas and hundreds of scenic anchorages, one could spend years exploring Vancouver Island and not cover the same ground twice. Victoria and Vancouver Island are a boater's paradise.
Where to Dock:
Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel & Marina - Located right in Victoria's Inner Harbour, marina guests have full access to hotel amenities including the fitness center, pool and Wi-Fi.
Causeway Floats, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority - Offering 300 feet of floating dock space for vessels up to 250 feet along with 30 amp electricity.
Where to Dine:
Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill Il Terrazzo - Offering fine dining in a courtyard setting and voted best Italian restaurant in town.
The Tapa Bar - Open for lunch and dinner with a diverse menu of Spanish-style fare
The Flying Otter Grill - Tie up your vessel and sample dishes like the hailbut burger and the wild-salmon wrap. There's an amazing view of Victoria's Inner Harbour.
PICTURE THIS: The sun sets over a lakeside backdrop as you sip a refreshing drink, bask in the warm spring weather, then tie it all together with some tunes. The Great Lakes region is made up of numerous waterside escapes to put you in this scene — if you look in all the right places.
From the northern Canadian border, stretching down through the five Great Lakes, the following outdoor venues, convention centers and concert halls provide a mix of all the things we look forward to this boating season: places to tie up, rock out, relax, mingle with friends and just enjoy life.
BAYFRONT FESTIVAL PARK Duluth, MN These festival grounds are one of Minnesota’s premier lakeside venues. Located next to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the park hosts events ranging from concerts and arts festivals in the summer to ice skating in the winter.
BARKER’S ISLAND FESTIVAL PARK Superior, WI This waterfront setting presents a family-friendly venue and hosts the seasonal Bayside Around Town Concert Series. Grab a lawn chair and camp out during the summer festivities, or bundle up for annual holiday events throughout the winter.
Where to Dock:Barker’s Island Marina
LAKE SUPERIOR BIG TOP CHAUTAUQUA Bayfield, WI This 900-seat canvas tent is a lively event venue situated along a gorgeous backdrop of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Gaylord Nelson Wilderness area. Catch everything from open mic nights to concerts of various music genres.
FOUNDRY HALL South Haven, MI This venue brings in a mix of national, regional and local acts, and also has a strong focus on community programs. Just off the shores of South Haven, its summertime Riverfront Concert Series at Riverfront Park presents everything from rock and roll, jazz and funk, to tejano and reggae.
ROTARY AMPHITHEATER AT DISCOVERY WORLD Milwaukee, WI Boaters love this waterside venue that offers more than 450 feet of dockage along Discovery World’s south side to use while attending concerts. Overnight transient slips are also available through the Lakeshore State Park. The intimate venue overlooking Milwaukee Harbor and Lake Michigan is an ideal summer concert destination.
Where to Dock: Lakeshore State Park
NAVY PIER Chicago, IL Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s bustling port, Navy Pier is a lakefront gem and gorgeous scene along Lake Michigan. The historic landmark is home to attractions and a lively concert venue hosting national and local acts throughout summer shows.
Where to Dock: Navy Pier Marina or Chicago Harbors
VETERANS WATERFRONT PARK Port Austin, MI Catch summer events while enjoying views of the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse at this outdoor venue. The park offers kayak launching, a volleyball court, picnic area and swimming at the beach.
BLUE WATER CONVENTION CENTER Port Huron, MI Overlooking where the Blue Water Bridge crosses over the St. Clair River, this waterfront convention center hosts events ranging from the Port Huron Boat Show to various banquets and galas.
WENONAH PARK AT WORLD FRIENDSHIP SHELL Bay City, MI This bayside amphitheater and downtown park spans over six acres of green space and is home to tons of seasonal events. Vessels of all sizes can dock at the seawall, and guests can enjoy concerts at The Nicklass Family Community Pavilion or the historic State Theatre. statetheatrebaycity.com
HIGHMARK AMPHITHEATER AT LIBERTY PARK Erie, PA This outdoor venue overlooks the southeast shores of Lake Erie’s sheltered waters along Presque Isle. Surrounded by beautiful scenery and recreation, it presents concerts and special events such as the 8 Great Tuesdays Port Erie Concert Series starting in July.
NAUTICA WATERFRONT DISTRICT Cleveland, OH In the heart of downtown Cleveland, this entertainment district is just minutes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and notable attractions. Cruise Lake Erie, shop, dine, sightsee and catch live music at the Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica along the Cuyahoga River.
LAKESIDE CHAUTAUQUA & HOOVER AUDITORIUM Marblehead, OH The Lakeside Chautauqua nonprofit hosts seasonal events along the south shores of Lake Erie. Catch summer concerts at the waterfront pavilion or shows at one of the historic venues including Hoover Auditorium, Orchestra Hall and the Steele Memorial Bandstand.
Where to Dock:South Beach Resort Hotel Cottages & Marina
ONTARIO BEACH PARK Rochester, NY Enjoy events year-round at one of the Great Lakes’ top natural sand beaches along Lake Ontario’s 39-acre park. Experience seasonal festivities, ride the historic carousel, boat along the sandy shores and catch the free series, Concerts by the Shore.
OUTDOORS AT THE SHAW Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, Canada The Shaw Festival Theatre and Royal George Theatre festival grounds make up a gorgeous outdoor venue. The theaters host Broadway musicals, world-class musicians, outdoor plays, concerts and much more.
HARBOURFRONT CENTRE Toronto, ON, Canada In the energetic city of Toronto, this lively center is made up of dozens of outdoor stages, theatres, studios, galleries and parks along the banks of Lake Ontario. Catch year-round concerts and outdoor spring and summer events and exhibits. harbourfrontcentre.com
Straddling the border between Maine and New Hampshire a little more than six miles off the coast, this group of nine small islands has been home to fishermen, lobstermen and other hearty types for more than 400 years.
In the mid-1800s, resort hotels were built on the three largest islands: Star, Appledore and Smuttynose, which was named by fishermen who thought the clog of seaweed at one end made it look like the “smutty nose” of a huge sea animal. These vast Victorian-style retreats attracted vacationers looking for clean, salt air and rugged coastline views.
Only one, the Oceanic on Star Island on the New Hampshire side, is still standing, operating as a meeting and conference retreat for family and youth groups. In recent years, the hotel has also allowed what it calls “personal retreats” where guests not participating in a conference can stay on the island for up to a week. Day-trippers can take the ferry from Rye or Portsmouth on the mainland for a summer “walkabout” on Star Island (along with Appledore, Star is the only publicity-accessible island). For visiting boaters, Gosport Harbor is deep and protected, and moorings are available. Dinghies can tie up at the town dock.
Nearby Gosport Grill serves lunch and dinner, and although the dining room at the Oceanic Hotel is for guests only, a small snack bar is open to the public. Additional dining options can be found in Kittery, ME, and Portsmouth, NH, on the mainland. Check out the local foodie scene at Cure, Massimo’s, Botanica Restaurant & Gin Bar and Bridge Street Bistro in Portsmouth, or Anneke Jans and The Black Birch in Kittery — all highly rated and well-reviewed.
Other attractions on Star Island include Vaughn Cottage, which contains a small library and museum, and Gosport Chapel, built in the 1800s and still in use today. The Star Island website offers this picturesque description: “At the close of each day, [locals] gather at the foot of the hill and form a procession, carrying candle lanterns as the villagers of long ago carried their whale-oil lamps up the same winding path. Inside the chapel, the candle lanterns are hung on brackets from the walls, providing the only source of light.”
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
On the Maine side of the Isles, Smuttynose Island’s chief claim to fame is a bit less family-friendly — it was the site of a famous and grisly murder back in 1873. The story: Norwegian immigrants Maren and John Hontvet lived on the island, and on the night of March 6, they were entertaining overnight guests: Maren’s sister, Karen Christensen, and their brother’s wife, Anethe Christensen. The three women were alone in the house when they were awakened by an intruder who beat and strangled Karen and then used one of the Hontvet’s axes to kill Anethe.
Maren somehow escaped the carnage and hid among the rocks on the island’s edge until first light, when she crossed a breakwater to a neighboring island and summoned help. Maren Hontvet told authorities that a local fisherman named Louis Wagner had attacked them. Wagner had worked on John Hontvet’s fishing boat and was a boarder at their home at one point.
In addition to Maren’s eyewitness identification, other evidence against Wagner included the fact that his boots matched a bloody footprint found on Smuttynose Island, and a bloody shirt was found in the outhouse of the boarding house in Portsmouth where he was then staying. His landlady, Mrs. Johnson, and her daughter both testified they’d seen Wagner carrying a bundle to the outhouse, and Mrs. Johnson identified the bloody shirt as one she’d often laundered and ironed for Wagner.
Wagner was tried and convicted for the murders, and was hanged on June 25, 1875. The actual scene of the crime isn’t accessible to the public these days. Smuttynose is in private hands, so the closest you can get is to check out the axe (purported to be the one that Wagner used to kill Anethe Christensen) on display at the Portsmouth Athenaeum, a local library, gallery and archive located on Market Square.
ARTS & SCIENCE
The last of the three biggest islands, 95-acre Appledore, is home to the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML), jointly run by Cornell University and University of New Hampshire (UNH). This residential marine field station is occupied from May through August by undergraduate students doing off-campus study and research in marine science. The restored gardens of longtime resident and famed 19th century poet Celia Thaxter at Kittery Point are worth a visit, and the admission fee helps generate revenue for SML.
The lab also hosts an artist-in-residence program each summer, with five or six artists each staying at SML for two or three weeks. While on Appledore, artists are free to pursue their art, but they’re also involved in an arts program that’s integrated with the courses offered by Cornell and UNH.
Known as the “Limestone City” for its many striking 19th century buildings, Kingston, Ontario, is the gateway to the Thousand Islands, offering visitors a rich history that spans more than 350 years from its founding as a French trading post. Kingston was originally established as a settlement for British Loyalists displaced by the American Revolution. A number of those refugees initially settled on Carleton Island just north of Watertown, NY, but when the Island was ceded to the United States after the Revolutionary War, they relocated to Cataraqui, as the area around Kingston was then known. In 1784, they established a camp south of Fort Frontenac, naming the settlement King’s Town, which would eventually be shortened to Kingston.
Strategically located where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, Kingston is home to four of the nine surviving Martello Towers in Canada, fortifications built by the British in the early 1800s to protect Fort Henry and the Rideau Canal that connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario. Murney Tower and the tower on Point Frederick are now museums, open during the summer. Fort Henry, just across the Great Cataraqui River near the Royal Military College of Canada, is also worth a visit.
Locals refer to the city as “YGK” after its airport designation, and it’s reputedly become one of the coolest small cities in Canada in recent years. As proof of its hipness, the internationally known band The Tragically Hip hail from Kingston.
The city’s waterfront is home to numerous hotels, restaurants, interesting shops and boutiques, in addition to marinas, small parks, gardens and a maritime museum. It’s also where you’ll find the Kingston Rowing Club, Yacht Club and the Canadian Olympic Training Regatta (held in August). Bike enthusiasts and walkers should check out the Waterfront Trail that connects downtown to Lake Ontario Park. Bike rentals (as well as canoes and kayaks) are available at Ahoy Rentals on Ontario Street.
Confederation Park near the harbor is the site of concerts in the summer and local hockey games in the winter. The city hosts several festivals during the year, including Kingston WritersFest, Limestone City Blues Festival, the Kingston Buskers Rendezvous and Kingston Jazz Festival. Farmers markets are held three times a week in Market Square behind City Hall, and on Sundays you find a flea market there.
If you’re looking to stock up on gourmet provisions, try Cooke’s Fine Foods & Coffee on Brock Street (a Kingston institution since 1865), where you can select fancy foods, cheeses, fresh-roasted coffees and gift baskets, as well as chocolates, sauces and oils. For a night or two on land, consider the Rosemount Inn, a luxury boutique B&B “nestled within the “Old Stones” district of downtown Kingston” in an historic mansion.
Located in historic downtown Kingston, this spacious 350-slip marina accommodates both power and sailboats up to 100’. Amenities include laundry and shower facilities and easy access to local activities.
This Inner Harbour downtown location north of the Lasalle Causeway boasts both 105 slips for seasonal and transient vessels up to 200’. The marina is in walking distance of provisions and downtown attractions, with on-site amenities such as laundry, shower, fuel, storage, haul-out and repair services.
This full-service marina located just outside Kingston boasts 170 slips offering both serviced and non-serviced docks. The facility accommodates boats from 20’ to 45’ and amenities include fuel and winter storage.
Providing “a fresh perspective on Italian-style cuisine,” Casa Domenico is located downtown on Market Square. Its modern- meets-rustic decor offers the perfect setting to enjoy an extensive wine list, paired with classic dishes like carpaccio, calamari and an assortment of seafood, veal and lamb dishes.
The owner opened Tropicana, his first Kingston restaurant, in 1974 after emigrating from Greece, and the traditions he brought with him are now perfected and reflected in his third venture, Grecos, serving freshly cooked lamb, chicken and seafood, souvlaki, tzatziki, saganaki and other specialties.
This self-described “elegant outpost” draws discriminating diners with its gourmet New Canadian fare and fine wines, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create culinary gems like venison carpaccio and maple bacon cheesecake.
This tapas and wine bar offers unique, exotic cuisine complemented by carefully curated international, Canadian and local Prince Edward County wines. Chef Andrew Smyth came to Kingston from Montreal a decade ago and has built his reputation on signature dishes like foie gras pintxo, avocado tartare and Turkish ravioli.