Gorgeous weather, limitless outdoors adventures, and world-class culture. It all starts downtown, along West Palm Beach’s historic Clematis Street. Exquisite shops, fine dining, Broadway-quality shows, a world-renowned art museum are the highlights, with Lake Worth Lagoon serving as a picturesque backdrop.
Outside of downtown West Palm Beach, two distinctive neighborhoods are fun to visit. Northwood Village has a bohemian-like scene for casual shoppers, serious foodies or inspired artists. If you’re looking to add pizzazz to your boat or home, spend an afternoon perusing the elegant shops along Antique Row.
Catch Spring Training at the Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, where the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals play their Grapefruit League games.
Beaches may not be the first thing that come to mind when daydreaming about northern ports. But you better believe that when temperatures rise and those warm summer breezes start to blow, residents and visitors alike make tracks for sandy Atlantic Ocean curves. These 10 favorites, chosen by our Marinalife readers, provide a contrast to their palm-fringed and reef-studded southern siblings. Instead, showing off naturally diverse and sometimes-rugged shores, along with a treasure trove of historic and modern attractions.
Several sections make up this beautiful, 2.5-mile stretch on the east coast of Block Island and everyone has their favorite. The easiest to visit is Surf Beach, just steps from the Old Harbor ferry dock, where small waves lap a tawny blanket dotted with rocks. Baby Beach, to the south, attracts families to its shallow tide pools and mild surf. Town Beach has a pavilion with concessions; Scotch Beach is broad and roomy, with a volleyball game usually under way. Whatever your taste, you can't miss with this varied, wonderful slice of heaven.Where to dock: Champlin's Hotel, Marina & Resort (401-466-7777, champlinsresort.com)
You don't have to be rich and famous to frequent this public beach in Long Island's East Hampton. In fact, it's better that way. A bite-size 300 feet long, Georgica is one of the quieter strands in the area, popular with surfers and kayakers who like to leisurely paddle around neighboring Georgica Cove. There are lifeguards on duty during the summer and restrooms are available, but expect no other amenities here. Plan to bring a fully stocked cooler with you. However, magnificent views of the horizon-swallowing Atlantic Ocean are free and available year-round.Where to Dock: Sag Harbor Yacht Club (631-725-0567, sagharboryc.com)
Down Park Loop Road on the east side of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park, Sand Beach lies hidden between mountains and rocky coasts on both sides. But the discovery is so worth it. The gorgeous, 290-yard swath is comprised mainly of tiny shell fragments that have been beaten into sand by the rough shores and surf. A lifeguard is on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Changing rooms and restrooms are located next to the parking area. One caveat: the water is bone-chilling cold, even in July and August, so enter at your own risk.Where to Dock: Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina (207-288-5033, theharborsidehotel.com)
Being located in a place called Pleasure Island sets a high standard, but Carolina Beach is up to the task. The 1950s-era motels and rental cottages flanked today by upscale condos and hotels evoke a vintage coastal feel. So does the boardwalk, which is a must-see (voted one of the 10 best in the country by Food & Wine magazine). Take a stroll there and peruse the amusements and boutique shops. Drop a line from the fishing pier, or visit the docks to watch the trawlers unloading the day's catch. You can bet there's some great, fresh seafood being served at the eateries right off the beachfront.Where to Dock: Southport Marina (910-457-9900,southport-marina.com)
Perhaps the most picturesque pick on an island known for its magnificent beaches. The soft white sand, transparent water and good surf would put it at the top of many lists already but then there's the backdrop. The multi-colored clay cliffs in Aquinnah are spectacular, enhanced by small stone cairns built by previous visitors. A lookout area above the cliffs offers a few small restaurants that serve sandwiches, burgers and such. The beach is on the western-most part of Martha's Vineyard, often overlooked by tourists, which probably explains the clothing optional area. You have been warned.Where to Dock: Vineyard Haven Marina (508-693-0720, vineyardhavenmarina.com)
Looking for that Key West vibe without having to travel to, well, Key West? This is it. Coligny is Hilton Head's most lively beach, with sand volleyball courts and a giant outdoor bar just yards from the waist-deep ocean water. Here you'll find Hawaiian shirt-wearing musicians, all sorts of beach rentals, lifeguards, outdoor showers, changing rooms, even WiFi. Just a short jaunt north, Coligny Plaza feeds your need for touristy souvenirs, food and frosty beverages. Though this beach can become crowded in season, you have only to walk a few hundred yards north or south to get some elbowroom.Where to Dock: Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina (866-400-7894, palmettodunes.com/ shelter-cove); Harbour Town Yacht Basin (843-363-8335, seapines.com)
Watch Coast Guard ships come and go from the station around the point as you bask in the all-day glow of this khaki-colored gem. Dunes extend back from the wide cut of sand, with bike trails leading to the parking lot and, further, to Seashore Beach and Herring Cove. Stop by Province Lands Visitor Center before or after your sunning session to check out the short educational films and bookstore. Pilgrim Monument, also nearby, has exhibits about local plants and animals, as well as the Pilgrims' landing in Provincetown.Where to Dock: Provincetown Marina (508-487-0571, ptownmarina.com)
Sometimes you just want a little quiet time. So, after spending a day in Virginia Beach's bustling resort district, head 15 miles south to relax and recharge on Sandbridge Beach, five miles of golden sand along the Atlantic coast. Along with the blissful serenity of the ocean, those craving outdoor adventure can visit the marshes and open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park for great kayaking, hiking and fishing.Where to Dock: Marina Shores Marina (757-496-7000,marinashoresmarina.com)
Let's get something straight right off the bat, this is not Wildwood, the noisier, newsmaking neighbor to the north. No, this is Wildwood Crest, a town known for its family appeal and historic architecture steeped in doowop culture. The beach is soft, white sand, with trained lifeguards and no alcohol, dogs or fires are permitted. Surfers have a designated area called Rambler Road Beach, where they can shred without disturbing swimmers. In the summer, outdoor concerts, fitness events and massive markets enliven this close-knit town.Where to Dock: Schooner Island Marina (609-729-0900, schoonerislandmarina.com)
Rehoboth Beach is Delaware's largest beach resort, yet still spans only one square mile. But, oh, what a mile. The downtown boardwalk is where most of the action is. It's dotted with artsy boutiques and small, funky restaurants, along with a bevy of activities like video games, rides, go-karts and miniature golf. The vanilla-colored shoreline offers up surfing and skimboard lessons, as well as deepsea fishing expeditions. Back from the shore, Rehoboth consists of shady, tree-lined streets dotted with colorful cottages and tranquil parks.Where to Dock: Indian River Inlet Marina (302-227-3071, destateparks.com)
Sunny by day, glittering by night, Florida is irresistible. The 1,350-mile coastline is the longest of any state in the mainland United States, and its unique heritage has had countless influences, with Native American, European, Latino, and African-American cultures among them. From the graceful charm of Fernandina Beach to the casual sassiness of Key West, Florida offers miles of diversity and many facilities for large yachts. In 2016, the regional marine impact for Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties was $11.5 billion. There are more than 8,000 vessels in the world that are 80-plus feet, and 40 percent of them call Florida's East Coast their homeport.
This quaint Victorian village is located on enchanting Amelia Island, which over the years has been inhabited by pirates, bootleggers, shrimpers and Gilded Age millionaires. As power continually changed hands, Amelia Island wound up flying the flags of eight different nations, giving today's Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival (May 5-7) its name.
Notable among the 50 blocks of eclectic shops, restaurants and galleries are Books Plus, a used and new shop rich in Amelia Island stories, and Trailer Park Collectibles, which houses primitive antiques and secondhand treasures. Grab a bite at Mustard Seed Cafe & Juice Bar, or dine on French cuisine by candlelight at Le Clos, nestled in a 1906 cottage. Ever-lively Alley Cat Seafood is a beer house, wine boutique and piano bar.
Fernandina Harbor Marina, in the heart of downtown, has a 25-foot dock depth and accommodates vessels up to 250 feet.
Cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, hidden courtyards and alluring cafes help define this historic district of Saint Augustine -- the oldest continuously occupied town in the U.S.
Jump aboard the Old Town Trolley Tours to explore the major attractions, including a highly rated wildlife reserve. Shoppers head for the markets, both farmers and flea. The Starving Artist consignment boutique is a great place to discover the work of local artists. Foodies can choose from more than 400 eateries, including Crave Food Truck, popular for its healthy, creative offerings, and then head to Stogies Jazz Club for a night cap, some live music and, if the mood strikes, a cigar. As if all this activity weren't enough, the 43 miles of fine, golden sand beaches offer endless shelling, sunning, surfing and swimming.
Dockage is available at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor on the ICW, which has a 7-foot dock depth and accommodates vessels up to 130 feet.
A 47-mile stretch of beach along the coast from Jupiter to Boca Raton encompasses a number of towns called the Palm Beaches. The area, especially Palm Beach, was frequented by foreign aristocracy, prominent socialites and legendary tycoons.
Still a playground for the affluent, the area offers land and water sports for kids of all ages, with one of the largest polo clubs in the world, coral reef and wreck diving on the world's third-largest barrier reef and fabulous shopping. Then there's all the excellent food. For a taste of Old Palm Beach, the chic Ta-boo lends itself to afternoon cocktails and family dinners. Also try Buccan, a high-end bistro located near the famous Breakers Hotel.
Large yachts have three extraordinary marina choices: The Club at Admirals Cove Marina in Jupiter accommodates boats to 130 feet, has an 11-foot dock depth and is considered a natural weather refuge; the resort-style Safe Harbor Old Port Cove, in the heart of North Palm, has a full-service restaurant and dockage for yachts to 200 feet, with a 15-foot dock depth; Palm Harbor Marina, four miles south of Lake Worth Inlet, accepts yachts to 250 feet and has an 11-foot dock depth.
The site of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, this beautiful city has matured from a destination for spring-breakers to a major manufacturing, maintenance and recreation center for yachts. Its hundreds of top restaurants, sophisticated streets such as Las Olas Boulevard, and 165-miles of local waterways and canals have earned it the nickname the Venice of America. The Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk promenade is thought by many to be the most beautiful mile in the state. Auto enthusiasts shouldn't miss the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, which has a Packard from every year they were manufactured.
There are countless options for great food, including Bao Bar & Asian Kitchen and S3 (Sun-Surf-Sand), which has a chic patio overlooking the beach.
The Bahia Mar Resort & Yachting Center offers 250 slips for vessels up to 300 feet and a 17-foot dock depth; Hilton Ft. Lauderdale Marina has slips for vessels up to 350 feet and a 14-foot dock depth; Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort & Marina accommodates vessels up to 460 feet and has a 14-foot dock depth; Marina Bay Marina Resort accommodates vessels up to 130 feet and has a 10-foot dock depth.
A collection of urban districts, charming beach villages, and unique ethnic neighborhoods, Miami Beach has an international flavor all its own.
The Design District sports more than 130 art galleries, antique dealers, high-end restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops. The stand-out Wolfsonian-FIU Museum displays 180,000 objects from the 1850s to the 1950s. The area is showcased during Art Deco weekend in January.
Often called the American Riviera, South Beach's Deco fantasyland is one of the most photographed and filmed areas in the country. Along with the stunning architecture, glamorous nightlife and shopping promenades like Lincoln Road, there actually is a spectacular beach. Nearby Collins Avenue is home to the Miami Salsa Congress, a five-day music and dance event held in July.
No one will go hungry in Miami Beach. Among the myriad amazing options are Taquiza, serving handmade torillas; Lure Fishbar, with oysters and butter-poached lobster; Otentic Fresh Food, for French fare in an intimate setting; and Sunset Harbour's gastropub, Pubbelly.
Three dockage options: Miami Beach Marina has 400 slips for vessels up to 250 feet with a 12-foot dock depth; Sunset Harbour Yacht Club on Biscayne Bay can accommodate vessels up to 210 feet and has an 8-foot dock depth; Island Gardens Deep Harbour, a new marina can accommodate yachts up to 500 feet with an 18- foot dock depth.
Just an hour south of Miami Beach lies Key Largo, the key made famous by Humphrey Bogart. Although most scenes were shot in a Hollywood studio, the background was filmed on location. Key Largo is home to John Pennecamp State Park, which has great diving opportunities. To the west is Everglades National Park and to the east is the only living coral barrier reef in the mainland U.S.
Ocean Reef Club located in Key Largo, is a sophisticated private facility dedicated to boating, birding and golfing. The member-only marina has 175 slips and can accommodate vessels up to 175 feet and up to a 9-foot dock depth.
Family-friendly Marathon Key is noted for its old Keys lifestyle and seafaring heritage, and it has many eco-attractions and education centers. The Turtle Hospital rescues, rehabs and releases turtles back into Florida waters. The Dolphin Research Center houses bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions for research and education. Seafood is obviously very fresh in Marathon. Don't miss the Keys Fisheries for their famous Lobster Reuben and the Butterfly Café at the Tranquility Resort for seafood with a Caribbean flair.
In Marathon there are two dockage options: Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club accommodates vessel up to 130 feet and has a 10-foot dock depth, and Marathon Marina, Boatyard & RV Resort can accommodate vessels up to 130 feet with an 10-foot dock depth.
Last stop is Key West - the footloose exuberance and spirited irreverence that characterize the Keys is amplified in the quirky collection of pastel conch houses and festive atmosphere that define Key West. The blended cultural heritage was inspired by Bahamian wreckers, commercial fishermen, spongers and Cuban cigar makers.
A variety of folks find their own particular paradise here. Begin the day savoring a cafe Cubano or cafe con leche, before visiting the Ernest Hemingway House, the Truman Little White House and the Butterfly Conservatory, or just bicycle around.
Seafood and Latin-inspired cuisine abound at Santiago's Bodega, Garbo's Grill, and El Siboney. After dinner, indulge at the dark and mysterious Better Than Sex for dessert and wine served in a chocolate- dipped glass. From midday until late at night, live music drifts out of the myriad saloons and breezy waterfront bars on Duval Street.
In Key West, Conch Harbor Marina located in the historic bight area, accepts vessels up to 185 feet with a 10-foot dock depth, plus there's a West Marine store on-site. Key West Bight handles boats up to 200-feet with a 12-foot dock depth. The largest deep-water in the keys, Stock Island Marina Village accommodates vessels up to 300 feet and has a 17-foot dock depth and high-speed fuel.
This is my fourth annual north-to-south repositioning for the winter season from Charleston, South Carolina, to Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While I enjoy the ease of cruising the ocean on my 58-foot Ocean Alexander, Lady Gigi, this year I wanted us to slow it down and take our time by cruising the ICW as much as possible, and staying a few extra nights in my favorite cities along the way. Waking up knowing you're relaxing each day truly makes a huge difference in your trip.
This year marks my sixth time visiting the Sea Pine Resort's Harbour Town Yacht Basin (843-363-8335, harbourtownyachtbasin.com). It's conveniently located on the ICW and offers easy access to the ocean via Calibogue Sound. The dockhands, Cindy and Leslie, helped us navigate Lady Gigi through the sound, as it can be a little tricky. Docking is easy, with no current, and the wind is usually blocked by the surrounding condos.CQ's Restaurant is just a three-minute walk from the marina and has been a local staple for years, offering an array of freshly caught seafood, but my favorite dish is the beef short ribs! There is a small market within the marina complex for provisioning. To ease into my trip, I played a round of golf at Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage Tournament, and enjoyed a quick bite to eat at the cafÃ© overlooking the course.
Lady Gigi accessed Fernandina Harbor Marina (904-310-3300, fhmarina.com) through the St. Mary's Inlet, three miles north. Easy docking is available in the current, because they dock all transient vessels on the long face dock. The marina offers high-speed pumps for both gasoline and diesel, a captain's lounge and laundry and shower facilities. A courtesy car isn't necessary because the marina is located just a stone's throw from Main Street, which has great restaurants and ample shopping. Don't miss LuLu's for its excellent New Orleans-style food their po' boys are the best! We also ventured to Palace Saloon, said to be the oldest drinking establishment in Florida.
We traveled 80 nautical miles south down the ICW to Conch House Marina (904-824-4347, conch-house.com). It is fairly easy to access the marina from the ICW at the mouth of the St. Augustine Inlet. The inlet is very exposed to wind, so always be aware of the direction it's coming from. The marina staff was very helpful docking Lady Gigi, but we still had trouble with a 20-25-knot wind. Once safely tied, we had a great view back over the sand dunes to the Atlantic Ocean. The onsite restaurant, a local hotspot with a Caribbean flare, also offered live music. We grabbed a taxi to the city's downtown, which is not to be missed. It's the oldest city in America, and wandering the streets you can really absorb the history. We ventured into the candlelit bar Taberna Del Gallo, which was established in 1734 and where all the bartenders wear period dress. Make sure you try the amazing sangria!
Fort Pierce City Marina (772-464-1245, fortpiercecitymarina.com) is the usual stopping point for our journey south. This is the perfect marina stop to decide if the ICW or the Atlantic Ocean is your best choice from this point on. Construction on the 137 new floating docks and new sea wall continues, scheduled for completion in early May. There is a very strong current as you approach the new entrance of the marina, just an eighth of a mile south of South Bridge. The friendly staff changed our slip to one on a face dock. The onsite Original Tiki Bar offers great drink specials and decent bar food. Downtown Fort Pierce is steps from the docks, with seafood and grocery markets just a few blocks away.
One of our favorite marinas in all of Florida is Palm Harbor Marina (561-655-4757, palmharbor-marina.com). They have the most professional staff that we have ever encountered and surprisingly good transient rates. Access is fairly simple through the Palm Beach Inlet. Just make sure to be aware of the current when approaching. Once inside the docks, the current is not an issue. The marina staff is always waiting at your slip to assist you and will then usher you away by golf cart to the office. No need for a car, as you are a block away from all the restaurants and nightlife offered on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. I suggest grabbing a bite at Rocco Tacos and Pistache French Bistro while you're in town. Provisions are an easy courtesy bus ride away. And from West Palm, Fort Lauderdale is an easy cruise.