Ask any Great Lake boater about their fantasy trip and they will tell you a cruise to the North Channel and Georgian Bay. Known as God’s Country to the avid boater, this waterway covers U.S. and Canadian waters and is beyond comparison in splendor to any other body of water in the Great Lakes. Located at the southwestern entrance of Georgian Bay and at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, Tobermory Canada is famous for its Caribbean blue crystal-clear waters, scenic stone ledges and massive rock formations.
Fathom Five National Marine Park is home to the legendary Flower Pot stone structures, several lighthouses and numerous dive sites. Visit Bruce Peninsula National Park to see the rugged Bruce Hiking Trail on the limestone Niagara Escarpment, Indian Head Cove and the caves of the Grotto. This area is also famous for rare plant and bird species, including 41 species of orchids, bringing nature lovers from all over the Midwest to this region.
If retail therapy is your idea of a vacation, the quaint shops, restaurants and bars in the village of Tobermory will satisfy your appetite. Dine at one of the local fish and chip restaurants for the famous Georgian Bay whitefish and an ice-cold Canadian beer. After an incredible day of sightseeing and exploring Tobermory Canada, the best way to end the day is to grab a cocktail and head to the shoreline to watch the sunset and stargaze late into the night.
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.
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) or at Bar Harbor Municipal Marina (207-288-5571).
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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).
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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:
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).
Also Worth a Visit:
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:
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:
Ask any Great Lake boater about their fantasy trip and they will tell you a cruise to the North Channel and Georgian Bay. Known as God's Country to the avid boater, this waterway covers U.S. and Canadian waters, beyond comparison in splendor to any other body of water in the Great Lakes. Tobermory Canada is a premier travel and boating destination in this great region. This area is amazingly beautiful and is famous for its Caribbean blue crystal-clear waters, scenic stone ledges and massive rock formations. With over 90,000 islands to explore, boaters can access an endless array of things to do. The ideal Georgian Bay trip is an extended vacation with plenty of time to anchor and explore the islands, coves and unique ports.
One of the most popular towns in this area is Tobermory, which is technically in Lake Huron but is also located at the southwestern entrance of Georgian Bay and at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Canada. Tobermory Canada is a nature lover's paradise and has some of the most famous parks and nature trails. Fathom Five National Marine Park is home to the legendary Flower Pot stone structures, several lighthouses and numerous dive sites. And the adventure continues with a visit to Bruce Peninsula National Park, where the rugged Bruce Hiking Trail on the limestone Niagara Escarpment, Indian Head Cove and the caves of the Grotto are the highlights of the trip. This area is also famous for rare plant and bird species, including 41 species of orchids, bringing nature lovers from all over the Midwest to this region.
Filled with hundreds of shipwrecks, many of which are close to island shores, this region is a mecca for scuba divers and snorkelers. You can either bring your own equipment or rent equipment from the local dive shop. Kayaks, canoes and paddleboats are also available.
If retail therapy is your idea of a vacation, the quaint shops, restaurants and bars in the village of Tobermory will satisfy your appetite. Be sure to visit one of the local fish and chip restaurants for the famous Georgian Bay whitefish and an ice-cold Canadian beer.
After an incredible day of sightseeing and exploring Tobermory Canada, the best way to end the day is to grab a cocktail and head to the shoreline to watch the sunset and stargaze late into the night.
Close to downtown, this well-kept, deep-water marina has 38 transient slips, an on-site restaurant and fuel. Kayaks, canoe and paddleboat rentals are available.
Tobermory Marina offers 24 transient boat slips with WiFi, restrooms, showers and fuel. Full marine repair service is close by.
Bootlegger's Cove Pub
Located at Big Tub Harbour Resort Marina, this unique pub offers great food, specialty beers and spirits, and the perfect vantage point overlooking the harbor. Whiskey BBQ ribs, burgers and key lime cake are high on the list of recommendations.
Crowsnest Pub & Restaurant
A pub-style restaurant overlooking the harbor features a large-selection menu, full service bar and local Georgian Bay whitefish.
Tobermory Brewing Company & Grill
The draw is the large selection of beers crafted by the resident brew master. It is open year-round and offers dinner, lunch and weekend entertainment.
One of the most adventurous activities you can do from your boat is to explore the wonderful world right beneath you via scuba diving. If you are not already certified in scuba, it's easy to learn, and even children as young as 10 can get a junior certification, so the whole family can enjoy diving together. As a life-long diver and a scuba instructor of nearly 30 years, I know firsthand the combined pleasures of boating and scuba diving. Whether from our own boat or with a local dive operator, diving has allowed my wife Dori and me to more fully explore the areas we visit aboard our boat.
Many dive sites are accessible from your own boat or dinghy, but caution must be exercised when securing your vessel at a site. Due to the damage anchors can cause to marine life or to historic shipwrecks, anchoring is prohibited in many dive areas. Special dive mooring balls are frequently placed to secure your boat while diving. Consult local regulations about the use of dive moorings and remember to always fly a Diver Down flag when diving below your boat or dinghy.
Another option besides diving from your own boat is to go out on a local dive shop's boat. Frequently, dive shops are located right in the marinas where you are staying, or they will come pick you up if they are nearby. And one of my favorite ways to dive is from shore. There are numerous dive sites you can enjoy just by walking in until the water is over your head. It's amazing what you can see just within a few hundred feet of shore. Here are several of our favorite spots for visiting by boat and enjoying some world-class diving while there.
The Great Lakes have more registered boats than any other area in the U.S. or Canada, and it's no wonder, given the clear water and charming lakeside villages. That clear, fresh water we enjoy boating in has also created a divers' dreamland by preserving the ships that have had the misfortune of sinking into it. Tobermory is one of the best boating and diving destinations in the world. Known as the Scuba Diving Capitol of Canada, Tobermory is home to the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Designated as a National Marine Conservation Area, the park was created to protect the rich maritime history contained beneath its waters.
In Tobermory, you have three choices: diving from your own boat; diving with a local dive shop; or entering from shore. Regardless of how you do it, you will experience firsthand the rich maritime history beneath the surface. Boating and diving in Tobermory are summertime activities, but the clear water and perfectly preserved shipwrecks are worth the effort during the area's short season.
Making an entry into the water from shore is one of the easiest ways to dive, but most of the East Coast's shoreline is surf with little marine life, so entering from shore is usually not possible, nor is there much to see. Cape Ann is one of the exceptional areas in the region, where entries from shore are easy, the water is clear and marine life abundant. Cape Ann is a prominent point along the scenic coast of Massachusetts north of Boston. The nearby historic fishing village of Gloucester has numerous marinas and dive shops. You could dive for weeks, never stepping onto a boat or diving the same site twice. Like Tobermory, the water can be a little chilly, but a medium-thickness wetsuit will keep you comfortable in shallow water during the summer months. The sea bed near shore is very rocky, creating the perfect habitat for lobster, starfish and octopus.
The North Carolina coast from Cape Hatteras to Cape Fear is referred to as one of the Graveyards of the Atlantic the other being off the coast of Nova Scotia and each due to the number of shipwrecks and lives lost in these waters.
The shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast provide today's recreational scuba diver a unique window into our nation's maritime past and have become artificial reefs abundant with marine life. North Carolina has also sunken properly prepared ships to act as artificial reefs. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream are very close to North Carolina's coast and with that come many of the tropical fish common in the Caribbean. Also, traveling from the north are the open-ocean pelagic species of fish, so on the same dive you can enjoy French angel fish, spotted moray eels and large schools of tuna, amberjack and Atlantic mackerel. I don't know of anywhere else in the world where all these species can be seen in the water at the same time and typically in 50 to 70 feet of visibility!
Diving in North Carolina is done only from a boat. You can anchor over many of the wrecks and reefs in your own boat or choose to join a local dive shop aboard one of their boats.
The coast of Florida from Fort Lauderdale north to Lake Worth Inlet at Palm Beach is closer to the Gulf Stream than any other area of the state. This means that the warmest, clearest water in all of Florida is along this stretch of shoreline. Centrally located Pompano Beach has become the hub of this active dive area, with numerous dive shops offering lessons, equipment and guided dives. Most dive boats in this area utilize Hillsboro Inlet to access the dive sites.Recreational and technical diving along Florida's east coast has developed into a serious business. Florida has sunk more ships as artificial reefs than any other state. Many are located in deep water for fishing enthusiasts and technical divers, but many are also in shallow water within easy reach of recreational divers. Dive sites can be accessed without problem from your personal boat, or you can dive with one of the local dive shops.
The Bahamian islands are known to have some of the clearest, most beautiful water in this hemisphere. Due to its close proximity to the East Coast, the Bahamas have been a popular destination for boaters from the U.S. and Canada for many years. Diving from your boat or dinghy is very easy in the Bahamas, and dive shops are plentiful for renting equipment or refilling scuba tanks.With over 700 islands, the Bahamas offers a wide diversity of dive sites, from shallow reefs and deep blue holes to dramatic walls full of coral and plenty of shipwrecks. The Bahamas has something for every type of diver. The inexperienced novice will find comfort and excitement in shallow water, with good visibility and plentiful marine life. The technical diver will find challenges and enjoyment in the region's steep sloping walls and deep blue holes. The Abacos are best known for shallow, clear water. The southern shore of Grand Bahama has some amazing wrecks and some of the largest expanses of solid coral in the northern area. The Exumas are a little more remote, with pristine reefs. The Bahamas is working hard to keep its pristine quality by protecting its fragile coral reefs and marine life. At all dive sites, please observe local regulations to help preserve the underwater environment.
The thin band of islands extending southwest from Miami is home to the only coral reefs in the continental United States. It is also the home of the 70-square-mile John Pennekamp State Park, located near Key Largo. This park is the first Undersea Park in the United States and is known for its iconic Christ of Abyss bronze statue.
Recreational divers discovered the Keys very early in the sport's history, as early as the 1960s, and divers have been enjoying the underwater treasures ever since. On Upper Matacumbe Key, in the village of Islamorada, is the History of Diving Museum, which tells the story of mankind's quest to explore the sea and has many cool artifacts and collections. Another major dive spot is General Hoyt S. Vandenberg wreck, located 7 miles south of Key West. This ex-military missile-tracking ship was sunk in May 2009 and is the second-largest vessel in the world to become an artificial reef. Diving is still an important part of life in the Keys. There is a dive shop on just about every key, and numerous dive guides have been published over the years describing all the best dive sites and rules for enjoying them safely.