It’s hard to say how many Americans live aboard boats, or where most of those boats are docked and used, but it’s easy to see that the number has been steadily increasing for at least the past few decades.
With home prices soaring, living aboard becomes the more economic choice. That said, more people may embrace living on a boat in the years to come. Whether that’s you now or you in ten years from now, you’ll need to know the best places to live aboard a boat.
Generally speaking, the best places to live aboard are locations where the weather is warm near or all year-round, where marinas and day-trip destinations abound, and where shore services are available for things like provisioning and marine repairs.
With all of that in mind, here’s a look at the five best places to live aboard a boat in the U.S.
- Southeast Florida
- Southwest Florida
- Southern California
- The Carolinas
1. Southeast Florida
There’s a reason Florida is called “The Sunshine State,” it gets about 230 days a year of sunshine, compared to the national average of 205. And, temperatures here rarely dip much below 55 or 60 degrees.
So living on a boat in Southeast Florida means you’ll be living in a near year-round tropical paradise. Sounds like a dream, right?
Boaters abound here, especially in the area in and around Fort Lauderdale, which is nicknamed “The Yachting Capital of the World.” Marinas and shipyards are everywhere, which means services of every kind that a liveaboard boater might need.
And since superyachts tend to ply these waters, there’s serious provisioning options—the kind that Florida Keys or the Bahamas, giving liveaboard boaters lots of options for getting away once in a while.
2. Southwest Florida
If you decide to live aboard in this part of Florida, you’ll see far fewer superyachts. Southwest Florida is also well-known for boating, especially in the areas in and around Sanibel Island and Captiva islands. Liveaboard boaters in Southwest Florida typically describe a quieter pace of life, with fewer attractions that serve as tourist magnets.
Long-weekend trips can include a jaunt up the coast to Tampa and St. Petersburg area, or down the coast to Naples or Marco Island for cruising on Barfield Bay or dock ‘n’ dining at one of Collier Bay’s incredible waterfront restaurants.
Pro tip: Moving on a boat will be a change in lifestyle. Before making any decisions, here are a few items to consider first.
3. Southern California
San Diego, known as “America’s Finest City,” actually has more sunny days each year, on average, than Florida, with temperatures that rarely drop below 50 degrees. It’s an excellent place for sportsmen and women to get on the water for some thrilling action.
Also, a great place for liveaboard boaters to putter around in San Diego Bay on day trips, as well as destinations farther apart along the coast to the north.
Catalina Island is also a popular spot for liveaboard boaters who want to enjoy a weekend getaway from the mainland. This island is less than 90 miles from San Diego, and it’s considered a great destination all year long for scuba diving, ziplining, shopping or relaxing on the beach.
4. The Carolinas
From Albemarle Sound and Pamlico Sound in North Carolina to the city of Charleston in South Carolina, the part of the east coast that the Carolinas comprise has quite a lot to like for liveaboard boaters.
Compared to Florida, the Carolina coastline sees fewer hurricanes, and the cost of living is typically lower—including boat insurance, which has spiked in Florida in recent years. There are lots of things to see and do in this region, including award-winning golf courses and historical tours of cities.
The marinas continue to expand to include luxury essentials as an increasing number of snowbirds decide to stop over here during spring and fall migrations. For liveaboard boaters who want to venture up the mid-Atlantic toward New England in the summertime, the Carolinas are an easy place to start the journey.
The Texas coastline, running along the Gulf of Mexico, has been a favorite spot for liveaboard boaters for years. Costs here can be lower than in more boating-dense states such as Florida, and the region from Corpus Christie down to South Padre Island has a fair number of marinas that allow people to live aboard a boat.
The weather swings can be more extreme here from season to season than they are in Florida or Southern California, with hotter summers and colder winters, but generally speaking—especially aboard a boat with heat and air conditioning—this coastline can be a great place to call home.
Boatsetter is the go-to app for boat rentals and on-water experiences. Whatever the adventure, we’ve got a boat for that—Set sail, start the party, go yachting, make your trophy catch, and hone your watersports skills! Download the Boatsetter app (App Store | Google Play). Make sure to follow @boatsetter on Instagram, and tag us in all your boat day pictures for the chance to be featured.
Kim Kavin has been on boats in more than 50 countries and islands, including in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. She grew up learning to steer a ski boat and Hobie Holder at her grandfather’s lake house in New Jersey, and went on to spend time aboard everything from America’s Cup racing sailboats to submarines.
Kim is a PADI-certified scuba diver and animal lover who always enjoys a good, long look around a coral reef. Her award-winning writing and editing regularly appears in national marine magazines and on leading websites. In her early years, she was a Dow Jones editing intern and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. When she’s not writing, Kim can usually be found hiking northwest New Jersey’s beautiful park trails with her adopted shelter mutt, Ginger.