If you are planning to cruise the southeast between Florida and the Carolinas, you’re in luck. In this post we’ll cover some must-see cities you can access by boat – and you will kick yourself if you don’t make them part of your trip.

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Home to the nation’s second oldest yacht club, Wrightsville Beach deserves its place as one of our five cities to visit by boat. The Carolina Yacht Club was founded in 1883 by avid sailors and yachtsmen.

The ICW travels up the west side of this east coast town that hosts some marinas familiar not only to locals, but those boaters doing the Loop. Traveling through on the ICW will keep you and your boat protected from the open seas and give you a safe way to explore.

Once in town, you’ll have access to all this busy little island has to offer, and when the activities are done and the appetites build to the point where they need to be put in check, you’ll find restaurants like Bridge Tender and Fish House Grill right next to each other, on the water and – did we mention? – accessible by boat.

Charleston, South Carolina5 Southeast Cities To Visit By Boat

Rich in history and home to historic Fort Sumter, Charleston is an old seaport midway down the South Carolina coast. The ICW runs right through this city which means you have a lot to see by boat. USA Today’s 10 Best List will assist with your planning.

As with our other top picks, Charleston is also rich in food, and you’ll find it hard to choose which culinary delight is best – it’s a toss-up between their very abundant seafood dishes and Firefly Vodka. With plenty of marinas to choose from, you’ll be “slipped” only a few minutes’ walk from all the buzz the town has to offer.

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, the oldest U.S. city, was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and Florida’s first governor, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Arriving by boat, one can find a place to drop the hook or tie up in a marina.

When you’re done flemishing the last line, treat yourself by heading on over to Tradewinds Tropical Lounge and Grill for your favorite tropical concoction. Here is where some of the city’s best bands come to play.  Dating back to 1945, the Tradewinds is known for being the oldest lounge in the oldest city. What else can we say other than, let’s hope they rotate their stock – but then again, doesn’t rum taste better aged?

If your boat ride made you hungry, hop on over to Crave. This whacky but delightfully colorful food truck offers happy and healthy food choices right on the water’s edge.

Feeling a bit too healthy after a Crave smoothie? Nothing will bring you back into balance like the creamy taste of a Hoyo De Monterrey Excalibur from Stogies Cigar Shop. One puff and you can forget about any alkalizing effects the smoothie just had on you as you drift back to your old self again.

Finally, no boat vacation is complete without stopping at the local pirate and treasure museum. Here the rest of your family will be able to see – without need for explanation – how your fascination with boats all began when they witness you shoving little kids out of the way until you find yourself taking control of the museum’s firing canon, once again regressing back to a time where you were fighting foes and preventing boardings of your own very tall ship.

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

With over 300 miles of canals in the greater area, it’s no wonder Ft. Lauderdale is often touted as the “Venice of America”. From gondolas to boat tours, there is surely something here for everyone. When visiting by boat, you can check out the local marinas and see which one is a good fit for you.

If counting steps is your thing, and you have one of those smart watches, then the Riverwalk is a great way to explore by foot and get your steps in. However, while you’re strolling the tropical waterfront for your health, you may find your senses tempted and teased by one of the many restaurants that line the area. Too many options to choose from? Consult Trip Advisor and let them help you narrow down your search. 

Two if by sea. If staying on the water is your thing but you don’t feel much like driving your own boat, check out this list of the many cruises and water tours available that take you through the canals. This way you can enjoy the trip instead of looking down at your charts.

Islamorada, Florida Keys, Florida

The next time you find yourself in the Keys, be sure to make this gem-of-an-island one of your stops. When coming in by boat, plan ahead: contact Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina and reserve a slip. This gorgeous marina allows you access to next door Founders Park and its many recreational activities.

With its parks, beaches and preserves, the island allows you to take a breather from that boating-party lifestyle that may by now be taking its toll on you. From its nature trails and lazy beaches to its aquatic center, Islamorada is just what the doctor ordered.