Summertime and road trips go hand-in-hand like jam on a warm butter biscuit. And with most of the top destinations touching spangling bodies of water, boating should be a natural addition to your itinerary! Here are eight great boating destinations that have vibrant waters (and plenty of boat rentals to choose from!):
- Seattle, WA to Portland, OR
- San Francisco, CA to San Diego, CA
- Mead, Havasu, and Powell
- Chicago, IL to Milwaukee, WI to Green Bay, WI
- Austin, TX to Houston, TX to South Padre Island, TX
- Boston, MA to Newport, RI
- Baltimore, MD to Norfolk, VA
- Fort Lauderdale, FL to Key West, FL
Explore available Boat Rentals this summer!
1. Pacific Northwest– Seattle to Portland
You’ll find island-hopping, pine trees, and killer whales in the serene waters of the Pacific Northwest. Rent a pontoon and visit the San Juan Islands most popular locations (Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, and Haro Strait), where the sea life swims to you. Then Portland, Oregon, and the Columbia River Gorge, or spend the day angling on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.
2. Pacific Coast Highway– San Francisco to San Diego
The incredible Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a drive recognized around the world. Explore San Francisco by sailing the bay. You can catch all of the must-see locations like the Golden Gate Bridge and Point Bonita Lighthouse, from the water.
Then head south to Monterey Bay, where you have Carmel Beach and can see the historical Clinton Walker house from your boat. Make sure to pack a picnic for a boating outing on the Bay. Carry on down the coast setting up stops at Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands, and finally, Los Angeles where you’ll find the country’s busiest Three more scenic waterfront destinations will take you southbound to Huntington Harbor, Newport Beach, and Dana Point– all places you can get out on the water. If you’re feeling adventurous book a boat with a captain for a Catalina Island trip. Finally, wrap up your coastal odyssey in San Diego Bay with its miles of beaches and great waterfront restaurants.
3. Desert Lakes– Mead, Havasu & Powell
A watery tour of the Southwest must include some well-known lakes, which are a great way to beat the heat in the desert. While in Vegas, stop by Lake Mead to hop on a ski boat, or jet ski, and add fun and velocity to your trip. Check out nearby Lake Havasu and its non-stop party action or take in some spectacular formations on Lake Powell in Arizona.
4. Great Lakes region
You could spend the entire summer gunkholing around the Great Lakes region. From Chicago and Milwaukee on the Lake Michigan to the posh summer homes of Green Bay, Wisconsin, there’s no shortage of boating destinations in this area.
The second largest island in the Great Lakes, Isle Royale in Lake Superior, is actually an archipelago of 400 islands with lots of shipwrecks, a great spot for divers. Don’t skip Mackinaw City! You can take a boat out to Mackinac Island on Lake Huron or head south to Detroit on Lake Saint Claire and to Toledo, Ohio on Lake Erie.
5. South Texas– Austin, Houston, & South Padre Island
Drive the Texas triangle by starting in the fun college town of Austin, where you can boat on Lake Travis and the Colorado River. Then head southeast to Houston for an amazing fishing excursion on the Gulf near Galveston. For a bit of spring break-like fun, check out Corpus Christi and South Padre Island where the fishing is easy, and the Mexican food is authentic.
6. Pacific Northeast– Boston to Newport
For a trip long on the adventure but short on miles, start in Boston, where you set sail on a catamaran or charter a luxury yacht (with captain) on Massachusetts Bay. Then head a bit south to Newport, the quintessential boater’s paradise with thousands of coves among historic sites to keep you busy for weeks.
Each September, Newport also hosts their annual boat show for both power and sail boaters who come to browse boats and eat lobster rolls at the end of summer. Read about 2022 Newport Boat Show.
7. Chesapeake Bay– Baltimore to Norfolk
You could spend two weeks circumnavigating the country’s largest estuary, Chesapeake Bay, by land or water. It’s 200 miles long and up to 30 miles wide, with an 11,000-mile shoreline split between Maryland and Virginia.
Historic and urban cruising is popular since boaters can visit Baltimore, St. Michaels, and the charming water town, Annapolis, without ever leaving the Bay. Rent a boat and explore one of our nation’s most adored bodies of water.
8. Florida– Fort Lauderdale to Key West
Florida covers a lot of territories, but if you stick to the southeast corner, you’ll still have miles of beaches and fantastic nightlife to enjoy between Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and the Florida Keys.
Rent a center Dry Tortugas Park.
There are hundreds of road trips you can do around the country, so why not pick some that get you off the road and onto the water and have the best of both worlds? Discover the hottest water-travel destinations this Summer! Find your next trip at Destination Guides and other boating resources here.
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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.