With a coastline of 153 644 km, the United States of America offers an almost limitless number of breathtaking sailing destinations to explore. From the sun-drenched islands of the tropical south to the dramatic landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, sailing the US coastline is an experience that should be top of any sailing enthusiast’s bucket list of amazing places to visit.
Turquoise waters, pristine reefs, abundant marine life and a laid-back island vibe, make the sunny tropical isles of the Florida Keys the stuff of sailing legend.
Home to the continent’s only living barrier coral reefs, the region is an idyllic sailing playground, ideal for island hopping, diving, sportfishing and exploration by yacht. With approximately 1700 islands, the Florida Keys encompass the regions of Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and the Lower Keys and Key West.
A TROPICAL ISLAND CITY
Leisurely sailing between Key West's islands, creeks, rivers and mangroves is the stuff of life-long memories. The island city is a top-rated sailing destination, boasting a glorious climate with year-round sunshine, stunning coral reefs, calm, translucent waters and pristine palm-fringed beaches.
NESTLED BETWEEN THE ATLANTIC AND THE GULF OF MEXICO
Key West is famous for being the southernmost point of the United States (and being home to literary greats Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams). Sail the island’s Atlantic coast for unforgettable reef snorkelling and scuba diving or, if you’re lucky, experience a close encounter with dolphins, manta rays and sea turtles on its Gulf of Mexico coast.
Drop anchor in Key West’s legendary Bight Marina, from where you can explore the island’s historic Old Town. A visit to famous Duval Street is essential – the 1.8 km-long main street’s 14 blocks stretches between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Apart from being a tropical island paradise and pure boating heaven, Key West also has a rich and fascinating past with many historical sites worth visiting. Be sure to have an American-Caribbean meal (or at least a drink) at Sloppy Joe’s (est. 1933), the legendary drinking hole that was Hemingway’s favourite island hangout.
The bustling port city of Fort Lauderdale is a destination that deserves a spot on any US sailing itinerary. Situated on Florida’s south-eastern coast, this unique city with its extensive network of canals (over 266 km of waterways, to be exact) has aptly been nicknamed “the Venice of America.”
A CITY ON THE WATER
Fort Lauderdale’s tropical climate, stunning beaches, beautiful reefs and world-famous Intracoastal Waterway has made it a favourite among sailing enthusiasts, attracting yacht and sailboat owners from all corners of the globe.
Drop anchor in one of the city’s more than 100 world-class marinas, then explore its famous Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District. Stroll along artsy Las Olas Boulevard for some high street shopping, excellent seafood and art gallery exploration.
A STONE’S THROW FROM THE EVERGLADES
If it is an escape to nature you seek, explore the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. It has a beach and freshwater lagoon teeming with animal life, including gophers, tortoises, marsh rabbits, opossums, alligators and over 200 species of wading birds.
Fort Lauderdale is a mere 159 km from the world-famous Everglades National Park. This unique tropical wetlands ecosystem is home to a stunning variety of wildlife, including the American alligator, Florida panther and a plethora of freshwater wildlife.
The island of Maui has been voted Best Island in the US by Condé Nast Traveller readers more than 20 times. Once you have sailed this Central Pacific island paradise, you will understand why. Renowned for its world-class surfing and windsurfing spots, Maui, with its breathtaking red-, white- and black-sanded beaches and vibrant coral reefs also offers some of the best diving on the planet.
A BAY EMBRACED BY TWO REEFS
Drop anchor in crescent-shaped Kapalua Bay on Maui’s northwest coast – the stunning bay is sheltered by two reefs extending out on both ends, creating a C-shaped cove. Here you can swim with dolphins, turtles and manta rays and enjoy some world-class snorkelling. During the winter months, you can witness migrating humpback whales frolicking offshore.
When sailing Maui, a visit to the awe-inspiring Haleakala National Park is essential. The breathtaking park is home to the island’s highest peak, the Haleakala volcano, as well as the famous waterfalls and Seven Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o Gulch.
Island life just off the coast of California, you say? Welcome to Catalina Island (also known as Santa Catalina Island), the southernmost of California’s beautiful, wild Channel Islands. Said to have “the perfect climate”, Catalina Island boasts a mild, year-round Mediterranean climate – and an impressive average of 267 sunny days a year.
Home to the city of Avalon in the east and the village of Two Harbors in the west, historic Catalina is only 35 km long and 13 km wide, but there’s no shortage of breathtaking scenery and marine- and wildlife. Here you can see dolphins, sea lions, the endemic island fox and the Catalina orange-tip butterfly.
SET SAIL FROM LOS ANGELES
Situated only 75 km south-southwest of Los Angeles, sailing to Catalina Island from one of LA’s many ports is an absolute breeze. Moor in Avalon Harbor or Descanso Beach and explore the bustling island centre from there. Alternatively, drop anchor in any of Catalina’s many small bays and explore to your heart’s content.
With its beautiful reefs and shipwrecks, Catalina Island is a favourite among divers. Try Lover’s Cove or Descanso Beach for some stellar diving, or sail to Casino Point to explore the Avalon Underwater Dive Park.
Catalina Island is also famous for its myriad beautiful hiking trails – just watch out for bison, who still roam free on this wild and unspoilt island paradise.
If you’ve always wanted to tick “Sailing Capital of the World” off your list of must-sail destinations, drop anchor in Chesapeake Bay and visit the one-of-a-kind Annapolis. If you eat, sleep and dream sailing, you’ll feel right at home in this historic city on the banks of the Severn River. Annapolis also offers access to a myriad of creeks, rivers and bays, perfect for exploring by kayak or canoe.
A CITY ABUZZ WITH ALL THINGS SAILING
Annapolis, with its lively boating community, seems to revolve around sailing. Imagine busy marinas filled with boats of all shapes and sizes, bustling waterside eateries, sailing schools, boat dealers, the US Naval Academy, the National Sailing Hall of Fame and thriving maritime industry – and you begin to get the picture.
A NOT-TO-MISS SAILBOAT SHOW
By far the best time to visit this world boating capital is during the world-renowned United States Sailboat Show – the only remaining in-water sailboat show in the world. Here you can board and view the latest yacht, catamaran and sailboat models, catch up on the latest in sailing gear and electronic equipment and celebrating the sailing way of life.
The 2020 United States Sailboat Show will take place from 8-12 October. If there is one global sailing event to attend in your lifetime, the US Sailboat Show is it!
The beautifully wild San Juan Islands are an archipelago of approximately 172 islands, islets and reefs situated in the US’ Pacific Northwest. Known for its laid-back lifestyle, stunning natural beauty and abundance of fauna and flora, the San Juans lie between Washington State and Vancouver Island.
ORCA WHALES AND SUNNY SKIES
A birdwatcher’s paradise, the San Juan Islands are also famous for offering visitors encounters with pods of majestic orca whales – along with humpbacks, minkes, grey whales, steller sea lions and many other species.
Drop anchor in one of historic Lopez Island's two marinas then set out to explore the quaint, rural island, home to no less than six national parks. From there, set sail for forested Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juans. Here you can explore the magnificent Moran State Park, home to Mount Constitution, with its many lakes and waterfalls. On neighbouring San Juan Island, you can drop anchor in Shipyard Cove Marina or the Port of Friday Harbor and explore the island group’s historic island city from there.
The region boasts a beautiful climate, with warm, dry summers and an average of 247 sunny days a year. Think wild and awe-inspiring landscapes, historical sites, quaint towns and all the whale watching, beachcombing and island exploration you could desire.
SAIL IT, OR MISS OUT…
Whether you're an island enthusiast, sport-fishing fanatic, water sports junkie – or just a passionate ocean adventurer ready to explore a stunningly beautiful part of our planet – the US coastline will leave you in awe – and raring to return as soon as possible.