A lot of travel-related companies and major airlines are predicting that summer 2021 could see more people hitting the road following the mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
Even though more people might be traveling this summer than last summer, when it came to a complete halt, for the most part, a lot of people are still looking for trip ideas that involve social distancing.
Boating is a great way to social distance and still have fun. The safety of recreational boat outings is an important consideration, not just from a social distancing standpoint, however. You need to make sure that you’re a responsible boater and that you follow all protocols.
With that in mind, the following are some of the best boating destinations for travelers this year.
Best Boating Destionations
The Florida Keys offer some of the natural beauty of the Caribbean without leaving the country.
There are a lot of protected areas, and the Keys are truly a boater’s paradise.
Some of the most popular specific places for boaters in the Keys include Key Largo and Islamorada.
In Key Largo, which is the northernmost of the Keys, you’re just about 18 miles from Miami. If you’re boating in Key Largo, you can’t miss John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which has the only living coral reef in the country.
In Islamorada, you’ll find yourself in the midst of the sportfishing capital of the world. There are two state parks nearby, which are Windley Key Fossil Reef and Indian Key.
There are great restaurants in Islamorada, and it’s one of the more high-end of the Keys in terms of the houses and rental options.
Marathon is close to the Middle Keys, giving you a jumping-off point to explore the whole chain. Marathon is very relaxed, and you can fish, snorkel or scuba dive. Marathon is also where you’ll find the Dolphin Research Center.
Bahia Honda Key is known for Bahia Honda State Park, which has one of the best public beaches in the Keys. Bahia Honda Key is serene and has unspoiled natural beauty.
Of course, if you’re someone who likes a good party, you might go far south to Key West.
The sandbar gatherings could be an appealing option if you want a little more action, and Key West has nightlife too, which isn’t something you’ll find in many of the other keys.
The Keys, while being one of the country’s best-boating destinations, can also be a bit tricky. For example, it’s common to ground your boat in seagrass, in which case, you might need to call for help. It’s common in the Keys for water to get very shallow before it gets deeper, and along with seagrass beds, there are also sandbars and reefs throughout.
It can be advisable to take a boating course before you try your hand at traveling the Keys if you’ve never done it before.
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island has a sailing and boating history that makes it so special to visit.
You get a feel for classic New England life and a taste of what it was like in the Gilded Age. For example, Newport is known for its Cliff Walk, which spans more than three miles and features the summer cottages, aka the massive mansions of some of the wealthiest families in American history.
The area, with more than 400 miles of shoreline, is often referred to as the Classic Coast.
For boaters, the Newport harbor has been around since the 1600s. The depth ranges from six feet to more than 100 feet in the outer harbor. Once you get past Goat Island, the depth goes to more than 150 feet.
One reason that boaters may find Newport especially appealing is that it’s so close to the open ocean.
If you like sailing, you might also find a lot to enjoy in Newport. There are also extensive boating services available onshore for vessels of all types.
Lake Havasu, Arizona
Lake Havasu is a naturally beautiful area that’s got a lot more to offer than what its party reputation might indicate.
There are hills and mountains for hikers and many of the best activities in Lake Havasu center around the water.
If you like fishing, the conditions are ideal year-round. There are more than a dozen fishing tournaments held in Lake Havasu throughout the year, and you might catch striped bass, large-mouth bass, and channel catfish, to name a few.
Lake Havasu with its 45 miles of lake shoreline is actually a dammed part of the Colorado River. There are less than four inches of rain a year, so you’re pretty much guaranteed good weather.
You can rent fishing boats, houseboats, jet skis, and more, and there are RV parks, campgrounds, boat-in campsites, hotels and motels. You can also golf or play tennis, and the downtown area has some more upscale dining options.
There are 16 boat launches around Lake Havasu as well.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
In Fort Lauderdale, life revolves around the water and boating. There are 23 miles of beautiful beaches and more than 300 miles of inland waterways.
The city always has tens of thousands of yachts parked there, and you can head out for scuba diving, fishing, and snorkeling.
In Fort Lauderdale, there’s not just saltwater fishing but also freshwater fishing.
If you rent a boat in Fort Lauderdale, you can go to the local lighthouses, or you can take a longer trip to the Bahamas or Key West. It’s also common to take a day trip to Miami.
If you want to anchor and visit a beach, Dania Beach is one of the quieter hidden gems in the area. If you want more action, go to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, which has a coral reef system within swimming distance.
There are also quite a few restaurants where you can pull up in your boat for dining, including Coconuts and Shooters.
Knoxville might seem like an unlikely boater’s haven, but thanks to its location on the Tennessee River, it’s just that. Located to the north of the Smoky Mountains, the Tennessee River goes through downtown.
MasterCraft, Bayliner, and Sea Ray all have their headquarters in Knoxville.
Marina Del Rey, California
Marina Del Rey is a southern California beach town that’s both exclusive and relaxed at the same time.
The Pacific Ocean is the focal point, and you’re close to Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
One of the many reasons Marina Del Rey is popular is because it offers the easiest access to watersports in the Los Angeles area, plus the weather is almost always ideal.
You can rent a powerboat, go on a fishing charter or rent a jet ski in the area.
The water is calm for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking a well.
In addition to water-centric activities, Marina Del Rey features the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, or you can just watch the boats at Fisherman’s Village.
Marina Del Rey is conveniently located just six miles north of Los Angeles International Airport.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island is a throwback to a bygone era. This Michigan gem has no cars and no chain hotels. The architecture is stunning, and there are horse-drawn carriages for transportation.
When you’re on Mackinac Island, you can visit the state park with forests and rock formations. There are bike rentals and there’s also Fort Mackinac, which was a home for soldiers and also a hospital at one point.
Since there are no cars, boats are the primary way you reach Mackinac, which is in the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
If you have your own boat, you can find your way, or you can use the commercial ferry service.
Mackinac Island State Dock has dozens of transient slips, and St. Ignace Public Marina has a modern pump-out, utilities and 136 slips. There’s also Mackinaw City Marin.
Seattle might not be the first place you think of when you think of boating, but the reality is that the Pacific Northwest city has an active boating culture.
For example, in the summer, you’ll often see the Lake Union filled with boats into the evening.
There is also a huge event known as Sea Fair where you can dock on the log boom and watch the hydro boats and plants with friends and family.
There are a number of city residents who actually live-aboard houseboats in Seattle.
Sag Harbor, New York
Sag Harbor is between East Hampton and Southampton. It was originally settled in the 1700s, and it feels very much like a quintessential early American town. The bulk of Sag Harbor is on the National Register of Historic Places, and before you can make changes to a structure, it has to be approved by the local Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review.
Sag Harbor is considered a wealthy enclave for Manhattanites who want to escape the hot summers in the city, and with that in mind, it’s not uncommon to see yachts and other impressive watercraft in the area.
You do have to be careful when you enter Sag Harbor to avoid the rocks, and in the summer, it’s very busy.
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