Going boating rarely means just hanging out on a boat. The best outings usually combine time on the water, hiking, exploring natural or historic attractions and perhaps camping near your aquatic adventure. Here are 10 destinations where to set sail, launch a boat or toss in a kayak, all while enjoying complementary activities.
1000 Islands, New York
There are actually more than 1,800 islands in the 1000 Island Archipelago on the St. Lawrence River where it flows from Lake Ontario. This watery playground straddles the border between the U.S. and Canada, and you can launch or charter a boat, go fishing, reserve one of the many campsites and hike until your feet give out. For a bit of history, check out Boldt Castle on Heart Island or spend time in the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.
First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach
East of Norfolk at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay is First Landing State Park that borders the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an outdoor activity smorgasbord that offers a campground, 19 miles of hiking trails and a boat launch that’s located at the Narrows with direct access to Linkhorn and Broad Bays. With boat and paddleboard rentals, biking, hiking, and camping – you can hardly get bored in Virginia’s first state park which is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
About 70 miles west of Key West, you’ll find the Dry Tortugas with beautifully preserved Fort Jefferson and the lighthouse on Garden Key. Although the park covers 100 square miles, there are only seven small islands in all that water so it’s a perfect sailing and yachting destination. You’ll get your steps in exploring the fort and when you’re done, jump in for a sublime snorkel. No boat? No problem. Take the ferry and make reservations for primitive camping on the island.
Kohler-Andrae State Park, Wisconsin
On the western shore of Lake Michigan, you’ll find Kohler-Andrae State Park with bright blue water for swimming and soft sand for beachfront camping at the nearby sand dunes. You can beachcomb over two miles of shoreline, follow the marsh boardwalk and hike through wildflower meadows on the Black River Trail. This 1,000-acre state park is just south of the city of Sheboygan and it’s a quick getaway from numerous Wisconsin metro areas.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Lake Tahoe straddles two states, Nevada and California, and is a destination both summer and winter. Ringed by nearly a dozen boat ramps and marinas, Tahoe, which is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, also hosts nearly 20 campgrounds so you’re bound to find a spot for a tent or an RV. Snow-capped mountains provide great views but also remind you that the water is chilly so maybe instead of a long swim, you can check out one of a dozen popular hiking trails. Just remember, you’ll be walking at 6,000 feet so pace yourself.
Lake Powell, Utah
Lake Powell was formed when the Glen Canyon Dam was constructed on the Colorado River between Utah and Arizona in 1963. Since then, it’s become a boating Mecca and with eight campgrounds plus primitive shoreline camping, it’s not hard to find a spot to bed down. You can hike or boat through rock formations that look like sculptures and kids will love the ranger programs and guided tours.
Roche Harbor, San Juan Island
Only 15 miles from Canada, Roche Harbor is a perfect marina and hotel complex in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington. Stretch your legs by hiking through the nearby San Juan Island Sculpture Park and Nature Reserve. The park features 150 outdoor art pieces created by renowned sculptors and covers 20 acres. The walking is easy on five marked trails and takes you by a natural pond.
Presidio, San Francisco
Urban boating doesn’t mean a lack of hiking or nature. Check out the Presidio in San Francisco which is a 1,500-acre park and a former military post that’s become an outdoor recreation hub with miles of trails, a golf course and great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Dock at any of the numerous city marinas, rent a bike and explore. Kirby Cove and Rob Hill campgrounds will make you feel like you’re not even in a city.
Two Harbors on Santa Catalina, California
Catalina is a busy island about 30 miles off the coast of Southern California. On its western end is an isthmus where you can catch a mooring at Two Harbors and go hiking all over the West End. Some of the hikes can be challenging but you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, especially when fog rolls in below you. The campground near the pier can’t be beat for Pacific Ocean views.
Isla Coronados, Mexico
About 15 miles north of Loreto, Mexico on the amazing Sea of Cortez, is Isla Coronados. The island is an extinct volcano that you can hike in about three hours round trip after dropping anchor off the white sand beach below. Most of the path is invisible so you navigate via cairns and the footing is rough going since the side of the hill is mostly sharp, broken lava rock or loose sand. It’s fairly difficult, but the views from the top and the exercise are ample reward.