Boatgating: Top 4 NFL Stadiums on the Water
The ultimate dream of boaters who love the National Football League will come true this season, with Super Bowl LIV scheduled to be played February 2 at Hard Rock Stadium—home of the Miami Dolphins, and less than a 10-mile cab ride from the nearest marina. That’s right: You’ll be able to get from the boat to the big game and back, a treat that happens rarely for NFL fans, given that you can count on one hand the number of pro-football stadiums that are near marinas (or that you’d want to cruise to by boat in what, for many football cities, are the frigid depths of December).
Looking to rent a boat for the game? Try our Go Boating Today tool to find rentals near you, or consider buying a boat of your very own—and transforming it into an extreme boatgating-machine.
Oddsmakers say we’re likely to see some combination of the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints take the field for the big game in Miami Gardens come February, but keep in mind, if you’re a fan of the New York Jets, Chicago Bears or Phoenix Cardinals: The teams play the games because sometimes, the oddsmakers are flat-out wrong.
Plenty of gridiron battles will be waged before the next Super Bowl Sunday. The National Football League has 65 preseason games scheduled throughout the month of August, including a few at stadiums within walking or quick cab-ride distance from marinas with transient slips. And then, those same stadiums will host a good number of the 16 weeks’ worth of regular-season NFL football to follow.
Here’s a look at stadiums you can get to by boat, for the preseason and regular season matchups alike.
Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, FL)
Home of the Miami Dolphins, this stadium last hosted a Super Bowl back in 2010. Longtime fans will remember the venue by its original moniker, Joe Robbie Stadium, named for a Minnesota Vikings season ticket holder who partnered with comedian Danny Thomas in the 1960s to create the Dolphins as an expansion team.
The stadium has gone by various other names over the years (a favorite for its uniqueness was Land Shark Stadium) and as of 2016, it became Hard Rock Stadium, thanks to a $250 million naming rights deal with Hard Rock Café Inc. A bumper crop of nearly a dozen marinas are within 10 or 15 miles of Hard Rock Stadium, with Turnberry Marina almost due east. It has 68 slips for boats up to 180 feet length overall, and accepts reservations online or by phone.
Just to the north of there along the coast is Suntex Marina at Aventura, which has 100 slips for boats up to 120 feet LOA—and offers monthly and seasonal slip rentals, in addition to transient bookings, for Miami Dolphins fans who expect to attend more than a handful of games.
Williams Island Marina is in the mix as well, with transient and seasonal slips for boats up to 160 feet long.
M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, MD)
About a mile from Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor is M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore Inner Harbor Marina right there, with 135 slips for boats and yachts up to 300 feet length overall.
The location is also home to the famous Rusty Scupper restaurant, which rises three levels above the water for harbor-wide views while serving lunch and dinner (think Maryland crab cakes, fresh oysters and lobster).
And there’s a bonus to visiting this part of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor by boat: You’re docked right near the Maryland Science Center, which has a planetarium, an IMAX theater and exhibits about everything from astronomy to paleontology.
FirstEnergy Stadium (Cleveland, OH)
The city of Cleveland, Ohio, is known for two things: the Cleveland Browns, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They’re practically next door to each other on Lake Erie’s south shore, with FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Browns, within walking distance of the hall as well as its adjacent Rock and Dock Marina.
The Rock and Dock Marina has slips for boats of 30 to 50 feet length overall, with bookings available by the hour or overnight. Browns home games are considered special events (which means the rates go up), with the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks all scheduled to play in Cleveland this year.
Also nearby, for those interested in adding more fun to a football weekend: the Great Lakes Science Center. It is home to the NASA Glenn Visitor Center and the actual Apollo mission command module used in the Skylab 3 space mission.
TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, FL)
The Jacksonville Jaguars play at Florida’s TIAA Bank Field, which is adjacent to Metropolitan Park Marina on the St. Johns River. The 78 slips can handle boats up to 80 feet length overall, with reservations that start way back in April (you might want to put the early-reservation date on your 2020 calendar now, for the 2020-21 NFL season).
Stays at this marina are limited to 72 hours, which is of course plenty long enough for a pre-game tailgate party, an after-game barbecue and a good night’s sleep back at the boat.
Other Honorable Mentions
Don’t think of Pittsburg as a boating city, like Miami or Seattle? Remember that until 2000, the Pittsburgh Steelers played at the old Three Rivers Stadium. There’s more than enough water around to launch a keel.
Today, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers is Heinz Field, which is at the confluence of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers. About 2 miles up the Allegheny side is Washington’s Landing Marina, which has 165 wet slips—but only takes transients on a first-come, first-served basis on game day, with no reservations possible. If you’re feeling lucky before the coin toss, it’s worth a shot.
The Seattle Seahawks made it into the postseason last year, and they’ll be trying again this season with home games played at CenturyLink Field. The sports complex is just south of the piers where ferries pull in and out. To the north of all that marine traffic is Bell Harbor Marina, the city’s only recreational marina, about 2 miles from the stadium. It can take 70 boats up to about 150 feet length overall, and you can reserve a slip as long as two years in advance—which Seahawks fans are already doing, if you want to get in line with them.
One of the most historic stadiums in the National Football League is Soldier Field, which opened in 1924 on the shore of Lake Michigan. Since 1971, Soldier Field has been the home field of the Chicago Bears. The stadium is adjacent to Burnham Harbor, which has 1,126 slips for boats up to about 100 feet long—but which closes for the year on October 31, well before the end of the NFL season. Until then, slips are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and boaters can check availability through Dockwa.
Searching for other stadiums on the water? Be sure to read Get to the Game By Boat: Best On-Water Stadiums.