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The Top 40 Boating Destinations in America

Post by Adrian Mott - Published on 6/25/18 2:44 PM
Welcome to our first nation-wide list of favorite boating destinations. Rather than hand-pick a subjective ranking of locations, we honored our tech startup roots and ran the numbers on which marinas and harbors were searched for the most on our site and app, to compile a lineup of America's most sought-out harbors.

This week we took a look under the hood to see which marinas and harbors boaters search for the most on Dockwa. Check out our Top 40, and weigh in on Facebook to share stories of favorite harbors you've visited and ask questions about the ones still on your bucket list.

We wanted to be as objective as possible with this list, so we leveraged anonymous user and search data from Dockwa to keep our eye on the mooring ball. In short, these are the destinations that get the most searches on our app and website. Also note: this is not a "ranking" per se (e.g. Block Island is not "#1"). We found it to be a pretty compelling list, so we wanted to share. 

We know this list is missing some great harbors, which we attribute to our still-growing footprint of marina partners in certain regions; adding new marinas helps get the word out boaters in the area, who then search the site for more!) As always, if you'd like to see a particular marina or location on board, please let us know

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top harbors in america

Block Island, Rhode Island

Just 13 miles from Newport and the Connecticut coastline, Block Island remains a haven for those seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

Whether you're rafting up at Payne's Dock (where there's always room for one more!) or anchoring in the Great Salt Pond, Block is a classic New England summer stopover for anyone cruising Long Island Sound.

Click to Explore Block Island

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Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City! Sitting on the southwestern bank of Lake Michigan, the combination of Chicago Harbors's 11 municipal marinas plus the handful of privately-operated gems gives you access to an international hub rich with culture, nightlife, history, business, and technology.

Home to Belmont, Dusable and Monroe Harbors among others, anywhere you dock in Chicago gives you access to roam downtown, catch a Bears game or check out Navy Pier.

Click to Explore Chicago Harbor


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Edgartown, MA & Martha's Vineyard

Situated just four miles across Vineyard Sound from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard is known for its scenic beaches, sailing, and laid-back culture.

On the east side of the island, Edgartown stands as one of the most popular yachting destinations on the East Coast, steeped with history of whalers, smugglers, and pirates.

This island getaway is a haven for celebrities and politicians, and is a bucket-list destination for many boaters.

Click to Explore Martha's Vineyard

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Charleston, South Carolina

Founded in 1670, Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina and has the historical landmarks to prove it.

A must-see stop along the Intracoastal Waterway, Charleston is known for its colorful houses, cobblestone streets, and southern charm – not to mention great restaurant scene.

Charleston is home to a thriving sailing scene, with many regattas throughout the year including Charleston Race Week!

Click to Explore South Carolina

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Greenport, New York

Located on the inner coast of the Long Island's North Fork, Greenport offers everything you would expect from a historical maritime village: bed and breakfasts, old-timey entertainment, and museums to share their maritime history.  

Pair this with the acclaimed restaurants and vineyards in the area, Greenport is a wonderful stop on the Long Island Sound and gives boaters access to explore Shelter Island and the Hamptons.

Click to Explore the Long Island Sound

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Newport, Rhode Island

Home to Dockwa HQ, Newport is a yachtsman’s dream with more than 22 marine facilities and 1000+ moorings.

Known for its extravagant Gilded Age mansions, Newport is a beautiful place to walk along the waterfront before exploring town center to find a multitude of dining and drink options.

Click to Explore Newport

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Annapolis, Maryland

Home to the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis has a strong maritime culture and history dating back to the Second Continental Congress. 

Annapolis is also a great jumping off point for the rest of the Chesapeake Bay, whether it's exploring the Eastern Shore and all it has to offer, or heading south to Virginia and the Southern Chesapeake. Annapolis is a must on any Bay cruise.

Click to Explore Annapolis

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Nantucket, Massachusetts

A picturesque example of an early 19th-century New England town, Nantucket is a beautiful island community 25 miles south of Hyannis Harbor.

Nantucket’s population swells in the summer when it welcomes boaters with beautiful weather and marine services to accommodate the influx.

As for docking options in Nantucket: you're either getting a slip at Nantucket Boat Basin or a mooring in the harbor. Either way and you're setting yourself up for some of the best boating New England has to offer.

Click to Explore Nantucket

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Atlantic City, New Jersey

Located on the Jersey Shore, Atlantic City is a favorite destination for many boaters. You can go ashore for access to casinos, beaches, world-class dining, the historic boardwalk, and vibrant nightlife.

AC is unique in that one of the largest marinas is literally at a premier hotel and casino, so you don't have to go far from your boat to get in on the action.

Click to Explore New Jersey

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Miami, Florida

A premier yachting and tourist destination, Miami is a thriving city in southeastern Florida with dozens of marinas catering to all boaters.

Known for its diverse culture and beautiful beaches, Miami is an excellent destination for boaters looking to go beyond their every day exploring.

Click to Explore Florida

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Sag Harbor, New York

An important location for East Coast boaters, Sag Harbor sits in the Hamptons on the eastern end of Long Island offering different marine services and plenty of locations to restock ashore midway along Long Island Sound.

Previously a whaling community, boaters flock to Sag Harbor to learn more about maritime history on the East Coast.

It's unique location – on the shore of Shelter Island and just north of the Hamptons – make Sag Harbor a magnet for city-dwellers and Sound cruisers alike.

Click to Explore Long Island

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Destin, Florida

Located on the Florida’s Emerald Coast, Destin is home to beautiful white sand beaches and sparkling emerald waters. This popular tourist destination began as a small fishing village and has stayed true to its roots, still boasting one of the largest fishing vessel fleets in Florida.

A trip to these famous white beaches is a must for all boaters.

Click to Explore the Gulf Coast

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Saint Michaels, Maryland

Saint Michaels is one of the most popular boating destinations on the Chesapeake Bay.

Cruisers can explore its rich nautical history by checking out local art galleries, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, or by chartering a fishing boat to head into the bay with the pros!

Click to Explore Maryland

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Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown sits on the inside of Cape Cod's distinctive hook, and is the original landing ground of the Pilgrims.

"Ptown," as it's affectionately called, offers several marinas, including a well-maintained mooring field in the harbor, as well as beautiful homes, beaches, and a variety of shops ashore.

Provincetown is a wonderfully inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly community, and is home to one of the oldest continuous art colonies in the world.

Click here to Explore Cape Cod

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San Diego, California

Home to a boater-friendly climate year round, San Diego is a one of boaters' favorite Pacific Coast stops in Southern California. There are awesome beaches, surfing and protected dockage for all boaters to enjoy.

This vacation destination is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo and has recently been dubbed the Craft Beer Capital of America!

Click here to Explore Southern California

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Montauk, New York

This tourist destination finds its roots in the fishing industry, as Montauk is home to the largest commercial and recreational fishing fleet in New York.

“The Last Resort” is a proper nickname for this summer destination as it marks the end of Long Island in beautiful Suffolk County.

Click to Explore Long Island

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Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Harbor sits at the heart of New England’s largest city and each of the harbor's marinas and piers is a short walk from the famous historical attractions that bring tourists to Boston from around the world.

Home to some of the world’s top universities and engineering startups, Boston is also an intellectual hub on the East Coast that offers all the attractions of a large, diverse city.

Click to Explore Boston

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St. Petersburg, Florida

Situated between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, this year-round vacation destination is appropriately named “The Sunshine City” for its average 361 days of sunshine per year.

St. Pete is a common stopover for boaters traversing the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) who rave about the vibrant art scene which accompanies the beautiful beaches of the area.

Click to Explore the Gulf Coast

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Key West, Florida

Known as “The Conch Republic” due to residents’ laid back attitude and unique approach to political tension, Key West has become a popular tourist destination for more than 3 million visitors a year.

After finding a spot at one of the many marinas, moorings, or anchorages, visitors can easily find fishing, sailing, parasailing, snorkeling, dining, drinking and scenic beaches.

Click to Explore the Florida Keys

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Gloucester, Massachusetts

Gloucester (pronounced gloss-ter for non-native New Englanders) is a major Northeast fishing hub with plenty of services available for transient boaters.

Gloucester experienced a recent peak in fame by the novel “The Perfect Storm” and its resulting film adaptation, which tells the story of the Andrea Gale, a swordfishing boat lost out of Gloucester Harbor in 1991.

Just 25 miles north of Boston, this peaceful fishing locale is just the thing for boaters looking to get a taste for a working Northeast harbor.

Click to Explore Massachusetts

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Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May sits on the southern tip of New Jersey between the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, making it a popular stop among boaters who are passing through.

Known for its Victorian-style homes and beautiful beaches, Cape May is also a birder's paradise with an ideal location in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway.

Click to Explore New Jersey

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Portland, Maine

Known for its small-town feel – despite holding the third of the population in Maine – Portland Harbor is the second-largest oil port on the East Coast and is teeming with activity from commercial fishing vessels, cargo and cruise ships, and pleasure crafts.

With a growing foodie culture and easy access to nearby hikes and campsites, Portland has something to offer for every boater.

Click to Explore Maine

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San Francisco, California

Situated in the middle of the Pacific Coast, San Francisco is the international hub for northern California with an active sailing community.

Visitors to the city will immediately recognize the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

After finding a spot to leave your ship, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and nightlife.

Click to Explore San Francisco Bay

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Marblehead, Massachusetts

Sitting on the Atlantic Coast just 15 miles north of Boston, Marblehead is historically known for its fishing and shipbuilding.

Today, Marblehead boasts a modern harbor with anything from old service yards to luxury marinas.

For visitors to the area, Marblehead and neighboring Beverly offer a traditional New England town experience.

Click to Explore Massachusetts

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Old Saybrook, Connecticut

Old Saybrook is a boater’s dream, supporting many high-quality service marinas at the end of the Connecticut River.

This happy harbor is home to four Dockwa partner marinas, including Saybrook Point Marina, the Marinas.com 2017 Boaters Choice Award winner.

Click to Explore Connecticut

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Kennebunkport, Maine

Famously known as host to George H. W. Bush’s vacation home, Kennebunkport is also widely known for its active boating community.

Located less than a mile from the mouth of the Kennebunk River, the harbor offers easy access from the Atlantic Ocean with and transient support from four full-service marinas.

Click to Explore Maine

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Rock Hall, Maryland

Originally a tobacco port, Rock Hall has transformed into a bustling tourist fishing village with thriving art, music, and nightlife scenes.

During your stay, watch out for the the many festivals and celebrations held here, which often include fireworks over the harbor.

Click to Explore Maryland

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Seattle, Washington

The largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has an active harbor filled with commercial, pleasure, and vacation crafts.

If boating in the area around July and August, be sure to catch one of the numerous Seafair events that take place.

Click to Explore Washington

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Savannah, Georgia

Located on the Savannah River, this city is the oldest in the state of Georgia and was home to Atlanta's 1996 Olympic the sailing competitions.

Savannah is known for its cobblestone streets, parks, historic landmarks, and Victorian Historic District.

Click to Explore Georgia

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Marathon, Florida

Marathon is the last chance for boaters to restock and refuel before heading to Key West.

One of the premier yachting centers in the Florida Keys, Marathon and Boot Key offer every service needed. While waiting on repairs boaters can take advantage of the area's beaches and bars.

Click to Explore the Florida Keys

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A quick 28 miles north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale has a pleasant average temperature of 75°F and 3,000 hours of sunshine a year.

Constructed like a tourist city, there are seemingly endless restaurants, bars, golf courses, and more in the area for you to enjoy while yachting down the Atlantic Coast.

Click to Explore Florida

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Mackinac Island, Michigan

Located at the northernmost point of Lake Huron, this famous island is a National Historic Landmark.

Mackinac Island has become a summer getaway and is known for its Victorian style homes and lack of motor vehicles.

With a strong history in sailing, it’s only fitting that two of the longest freshwater sailing races in the world.

Click to Explore Michigan

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San Juan Islands, Washington

On the border of British Columbia, Canada, the San Juan Islands are a dream destination for boaters, providing access to countless anchorages in the area within the islands’ many harbors.

Once you’re finished taking in the beauty of this area, go sea kayaking or orca whale-watching to complete your experience.

Click to Explore Washington


Beaufort, North Carolina

Home to some of the most helpful people in the boating industry (NOAA), Beaufort is filled with maritime past and present.

Beaufort is small but mighty, with plenty to keep you busy during your stop along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

Click to Explore North Carolina

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Hatteras, North Carolina

Situated in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Hatteras is the longest of the barrier islands making the chain stretching 50 miles tip to tip.

With beautiful beaches and ample opportunities to kayak, fish, and participate in other watersports, you will find yourself wishing you had more time here.

Click to Explore North Carolina

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Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore is a busy commercial port and business center 35 miles northeast of Washington D.C.

With easy access to Baltimore’s beautiful Inner Harbor and walkable distances throughout the city, visiting any of Baltimore’s historic districts is worth your time as each one brings different culture and cuisine to the city.

Click to Explore Maryland

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Bar Harbor, Maine

Home to the largest expanses of water within Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor has become a popular tourist destination.

With two full-service marinas in the harbor, you can find anything you need to restock while taking in a relaxing break in this beautiful area of Maine.

Click to Explore Maine

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Falmouth & Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Falmouth boats a semi-rural atmosphere with beautiful beaches, freshwater ponds, forests, while still having all of the attractions that a small Cape Cod community brings. Falmouth Harbor is home to many marinas and provides a quiet alternative to Vineyard Haven or Waquoit Bay.

Just four miles west of Falmouth Harbor, Woods Hole is home to many scientific research centers including the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Sea Education Association and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, renowned for finding the Titanic and for the deep diving research submarine, ALVIN.

Click to Explore Cape Cod

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Muskegon, Michigan

Muskegon holds the title of the biggest city on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Inside Muskegon Lake you can find more than a dozen marinas offering everything you would need.

This harbor hosts many festivals and art installations throughout the summer, so check the community schedule for something exciting during your stay.

Click to Exlore Lake Michigan

top harbors in america

Stonington, Connecticut

In New London County, Stonington offers a perfect spot to stop before entering the Long Island Sound as it is just four miles northeast of Fisher’s Island.

With vineyards, maritime museums, and fine dining, Stonington offers everything a boater needs while traveling down the Atlantic Coast.

Click to Explore the Long Island Sound

Post by Adrian Mott

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