Destinations to Visit in Your First Year of Boat Ownership

Post by - Published on 02/15/22 5:00 AM

To help you plan, we’re sharing some of our favorite destinations by region, including marinas that you can dock at along the way. 

Each of these marinas is a 2021 Elite Fleet winner from the 2021 Boaters’ Choice Awards. The Elite Fleet tier of Boaters’ Choice marinas represents the marinas that went above and beyond to delight boaters in 2021, maintaining an average star rating of at least 4.7 and receiving at least ten reviews throughout the year. You can learn more about the awards and check out more award-winning marinas here


Now that we’re in the peak of winter in the northeast, many of us are daydreaming of warm and sunny summer days. When it does warm up in the northeast, boaters can rest assured that there is no shortage of places to visit by water. Whether you’re looking to spend the day soaking up the sun on the beaches of Long Island, or you prefer to sail up the coastline of Maine, there’s something for everyone. 


  • Sailors Haven Marina (Fire Island, NY): Fire Island is a favorite spot for not only the LGBTQ community but anyone looking to escape the heat of New York City. You can read more about Fire Island and the surrounding area in our Long Island Marinas Guide. 

  • Sag Harbor Village Marina (Sag Harbor, NY): Located on northern Long Island, Sag Harbor is the perfect spot to spend a warm sunny day exploring the quaint town’s many shops and restaurants. 

  • Boothbay Harbor Marina (Boothbay Harbor, ME): Recently voted the “Best Marina in Maine” by Down East Magazine, Boothbay Harbor Marina is a 32-year-old family-run business and the only marina in the center of downtown. 

  • Cuttyhunk Marina (Cuttyhunk Island, MA): While many folks head to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Cuttyhunk is another excellent area located between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.


Perfect for boaters looking for warmer weather year-round, the southeast offers dozens of beautiful locations to explore. Florida marinas are, of course, a must-stop site for boaters in this area, while places like the Carolinas are becoming a hot spot this year. 

  • Playa Largo Resort (Key Largo, FL): Ranked as the #1 resort in Key Largo by Conde Nast, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this stunning resort property. 

  • Heritage Plantation Marina (Pawley Island, SC): Located on the Waccamaw River and ICW, Heritage Plantation Marina is a deep-water marina perfect for larger vessels. 

  • Carolina Beach Municipal Marina (Carolina Beach, NC): Spend the day charter fishing or simply relax on a pleasure cruise with friends at this beautiful marina.  

  • Harbour Town Yacht Basin (Hilton Head Island, SC): Located in the heart of The Sea Pines Resort, the Harbour Town Yacht Basin is widely recognized as one of the top yachting destinations on the ICW.

The Great Lakes Region:

Not near the ocean, but still have a passion for exploration by boat? The Great Lakes offer a variety of boating adventures. As the largest group of freshwater lakes globally, these lakes provide sea-like boating characteristics with gorgeous horizon views.  


  • Center Pointe Marina (Sturgeon Bay, WI): When making a pit stop here, be sure to enjoy the Marina Clubhouse and its outdoor pool, hot tub, and fireplace. 

  • Harbor Centre Marina (Sheboygan, WI): This marina is a must-visit for those boating on Lake Michigan and is located just a short walk from downtown, the Riverfront, and South Pier Entertainment District.

  • Portside Marina (Kelleys Island, OH): Another family-owned marina on the list, this marina was recently renovated and is located in the heart of downtown Kelleys Island. 

  • North Point Marina (Winthrop Harbor, IL): Situated between Chicago and Milwaukee, this is the perfect place to escape on a hot summer weekend. 


West Coast:

How about a trip along the Pacific Coast? From Washington to California, there is a Boaters’ Choice Marina for everyone. Explore the waterways of Washington’s Puget Sound or head to Northern California to spend the day wine tasting in Napa before traveling down the coast.


  • Port of Kingston (Kingston, WA): Just a short distance from Seattle, Kingston is great for a day of exploring the Puget Sound and its many connected waterways.

  • Deer Harbor Marina (Deer Harbor, WA): Located on Orcas Island, Deer Harbor Marina is centrally located for those looking to explore the San Juan Islands. 

  • Napa Valley Yacht Club (Napa, CA): What better way to celebrate your first trip than with a toast at one of Napa’s many vineyards? Need we say more? 

  • Safe Harbor Ventura Isle (Ventura, CA): Ventura is located just north of LA and is a great spot to soak up the warm California sun. Take off from the marina in Ventura and head out to explore the Channel Islands, National Park. 

Your first trip on your boat is sure to be a memory you won’t soon forget no matter which destination you choose. If you’re looking for even more destination ideas, check out a few of our other destination guides. We have put together guides for every boater from Newport and Miami to the Carolinas and Puerto Rico. 

Be sure to check out our other blog posts to get an inside look at our favorite destinations, marinas, and tips for first-time boaters. Join the conversation on Flipboard, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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