You probably have a bucket list, just like the rest of us. If you don’t, you really should make one and get to striking things off of the list. One of those things should be to explore the Great Loop today with a boat rental and meet another side of boating in North America. Imagine taking a boat trip from New Orleans to Quebec or from New York to Mississippi. This is all possible by using the Great Loop. The Great Loop is the waterway that connects the ocean with rivers and lakes and an eastern inside passage with the shorelines of the United States and Canada. Those who have big boating ambitions should take their sailboat rental for a spin around the Great Loop. We recommend you get the Great Loop map, rent a boat, and set sail for another unforgettable adventure.
The Great Loop Boat Route
Imagine sailing more than 6,000 miles with a boat rental at the eastern half of the United States. This waterway passes through eighteen states. Also, there is an option to cruise along some fantastic spots in Canada that are connected with the Great Loop. One stunning fact about boating the Great Loop is that on this trip, you don’t have to make a u-turn to get to the starting point. On this journey, you can meet a different and slightly vintage side of the United States, filled with amazing images, tasty food, and lovely hillsides with vineyards. Great Loop boat trips are for adventurous people of all ages, and if you are a fan of Tom Sawyer’s story, this should be on your bucket list. Plus, boating the Great Loop is the closest thing to time traveling if you could just imagine the boat is your time machine.
Make Your Great Loop Boating Timetable
When the spring comes, you can set sail to begin this boating adventure. The journey starts at the southeast coast of the Atlantic Ocean and continues up in the counterclockwise direction. The timetable of this trip should be made with precision if you want to avoid seasonal weather changes and bad weather conditions in some areas. For example, you should enjoy rivers and other inland passages before the ending of the hurricane season in the Atlantic. Explore the Great Loop today with a boat rental and experience a great variety of amazing sites on the way, from saluting the Statue of Liberty with a New York yacht rental to enjoying the beauty of mesmerizing Great Lakes.
Plan Your Great Loop Boating Adventure Wisely
Exploring the Great Loop is a dream journey, and you don’t have to be rich to go on an adventure with your Great Loop boat rental. This trip is not that much about the budget. The main thing here is about having enough spare time to do it. According to some traveler’s experiences, it can take from two months up to a year to complete it. Of course, this depends on what route you are taking and for how long you want to stay docked up at some specific spots on this boating trip. We advise you to plan this trip wisely so that you don’t miss anything. You will surely cherish some of these Great Loop moments forever. And of course, bring your camera along because the photos from this journey are a priceless souvenir.
Be Prepared For Potential Boating Troubles, Just in Case
As you know, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so it’s best you do some planning and settle the logistics before the trip. Of course, you can’t predict the weather and tides but do some math before and during the trip, or use some of the best boating weather apps.
These calculations can be very useful. Besides that, you have the technology on your side to help you monitor waterway conditions. Take care of your health insurance. Hopefully, you won’t need medical help, but this will be a long trip, and it’s good to be covered. You’ll also want to get the Great Loop map and pinpoint spots like marinas, boatyards, and boating mechanic shops on your route. Always be sure to check their ratings online. As we’ve said before, this journey should be memorable, so try your best to remember it for the good stuff and avoid complicated repairs.
Becoming a “Looper” is a Great Thing
Boating the Great Loop is a fantastic journey where you will cruise along beaches and continue down the Hudson River. It’s impressive even to think about the number of stunning places you will meet on this route. You will be passing through Erie Canal, across downtown Chicago, and continuing down inland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico! Putting all this together seems unreal, and you can explore the Great Loop today with a boat rental. If you don’t have the Great Loop on your bucket list, we are sure this will change soon. Rent some of the Great Loop boats, follow this path, and at the end of this boating game, you can proudly call yourself a “Looper.”
Check Out the Lake Erie
If you can’t decide what are the places where you can take significant brakes boating the Great Loop we are there to give you some advice. The first place we would pick is Put-In-Bay on Lake Erie. If you choose to pass the entire length of the Erie Canal, you will end up at the South Bass Island, where this bay is located. Here you can enjoy the lake and explore its caves. For those who love geology, here you can see the world’s largest geode. And for sentimental ones, there is a wooden roller coaster, one of a few left in the U.S. For fans of vintage stuff, this will be mind-blowing.
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Take a Boat and Feel the Easy Living in Mississippi
A perfect place to feel the southern charm is Columbus. Columbus is a lovely town which gives you a feeling of comfort. If you decide to explore the Great Loop today with a boat rental, make sure to put visiting Columbus on your boating schedule. Enjoy the city of deep blues and its beautiful old, historic homes. Columbus is one of the most precious and vintage gems on the Great Loop map.
The Chesapeake Bay, One of the Must-See Spots on Your Route
The Chesapeake Bay is one of the most amazing places on this route. Inside the Chesapeake Bay, there is another lovely bay called Cobham Bay. This is one of the best stops on a boat trip, and the Great Loop boats will bring you to this peaceful oasis. Cobham Bay is home to some of the oldest plantations in the United States and some houses and mansions from the pre-Civil War era. If you sail a bit up the river, you will spot a sort of museum, the graveyard for retired naval vessels. Go exploring the Great Loop with a boat rental, and meet this beautiful spot in Virginia, where you can enjoy the fantastic nature that surrounds this bay.
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Boating on The St. Johns River
Stopping in Jacksonville is common for the Great Loop sailors, and you shouldn’t miss doing it. The St. Johns River is one of the most beautiful sequences on the Great Loop map. Here you might make some extra miles due to interesting river spots below Jacksonville. You will also be passing through the large water mouth and exploring some narrow parts of the St. Johns River. The river has numerous cozy marinas and coves.
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Best Boats Types For Exploring the Great Loop
Great Loop Boat Requirements:
- Shallow draft (due to frequent shoaling along the route
- Low air clearance (due to low bridges)
- Stick to boats measuring 35-45 feet (powerboats are preferable)
While there is no “best” boat for this trek, there are some that are more suited to the task than others. Here are our best recommendations for your Great Loop trip.
Great liveaboard boats for the Great Loop
- Motor yachts– Also called cabin cruisers, come in many sizes and shapes but they all offer liveaboard accommodations for living aboard for long periods and a good turn of speed. These boats can be multihulls (catamarans/trimarans) or monohulls. Some cruisers have flybridges so it’s important to check their maximum height with antennas and radar mounts up high. Examples of cabin cruisers include Outer Reef, Axopar, Tiara, Prestige, and others.
- Trawlers– These are ideal for long, slow cruises, and have lots of liveaboard amenities. Their displacement hulls generally travel at 7-10 knots and they’re often powered by single diesel engines which make them very fuel efficient. Examples of trawlers include Nordhavn, Beneteau Swift, Ranger Tugs, Cutwater, Grand Banks, etc.
- Express boats– These usually have at least one cabin and one head below but most of the living spaces and galley are on deck in an open cockpit. This makes them great for distance travel usually only in fair weather. They have twin engines and planing hulls which means they’re fast but a bit heavy on fuel use. They enjoy a shallow draft and a low profile. Examples of express boats include Formula, Beneteau Gran Tourismo, Crownline, etc.
- Sailboats – To be honest, these aren’t the most ideal for this type fo trip because of their draft and mast height. But, many people have lowered their mast and forged ahead. They are very fuel-efficient even under power (rather than sail) and provide good accommodations. (Pro Tip: If you plan to do only parts of the Loop – such as the Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, or sections of the ICW with high bridges, a sailboat may get the job done.) Examples of sailboats include Beneteau, Jeanneau, Catalina, etc.
Are you doing the Great Loop with a boat rental?
Many people do the Loop in chunks, leaving their boat in various marinas for a few weeks or even through the entire winter. That means you could feasibly do sections of the trip on other people’s boats with a boat rental service like Boatsetter.
Map out your path and timeline and then do longer-term rentals– maybe a few weeks or a month at a time. You can even skip parts of the Loop that seem less interesting, focusing on the highlights. You could also rent sailboats for large open water stretches like the Great Lakes and powerboats for inland waterway sections.
One drawback is that you’ll probably have to return the boat to where you rented it rather than doing a one-way rental, but you’ll get to enjoy a stretch of the Loop over time.
How to pick em’
Keep in mind the best type of Loop boat is based on your budget and lifestyle! While ideally, the boat would be small and economical enough to fit the Loop parameters but large enough to live on for extended periods, rest assured there’s no right or wrong way to do the Loop so long as you plan the trip according to the seasons and prepare sufficiently for contingencies.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Great Loop
Where can I learn more about the Great Loop?
Check out America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association. A minimal annual fee is required to join but there’s useful practical information as well as group events and advice from Loop veterans.
What is the best size boat to do the Great Loop?
The smallest boat you can live aboard and feel safe on is best because a lower height clearance and shallower draft will give you more itinerary options. Also, smaller boats will use less fuel and will require smaller, less expensive slips in marinas along the way. That said, Great Loop boat sizes vary significantly as some people do it on a 30-foot boat while others choose 60 feet or more.
What is the maximum height for the Great Loop?
There’s a bridge in Illinois that is 19 feet so a Loop boat should be able to fit underneath including all antennas. Sailboats will need to lower or remove their mast.
What’s Boatsetter about?
Boatsetter is a unique boat-sharing platform that gives everyone — whether you own a boat or you’re just renting — the chance to experience life on the water. You can list a boat, book a boat, or make money as a captain.
Zuzana Prochazka is an award-winning freelance journalist and photographer with regular contributions to more than a dozen sailing and powerboating magazines and online publications including Southern Boating, SEA, Latitudes & Attitudes and SAIL. She is SAIL magazines Charter Editor and the Executive Director of Boating Writers International. Zuzana serves as judge for SAIL’s Best Boats awards and for Europe’s Best of Boats in Berlin.
A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana founded and manages a flotilla charter organization called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations worldwide.
Zuzana has lived in Europe, Africa and the United States and has traveled extensively in South America, the islands of the South Pacific and Mexico.