It's getting to be that time of the year again, when boating enthusiasts finally get to hit the open water after months of cold weather seclusion. Boating season tends to vary based on location and climate, but according to the U.S. Coast Guard, Memorial Day weekend is the typical kick-off date. With the holiday approaching before you know it, boating enthusiasts have to make the decision of just where they want to test the waters. There are thousands of cities across the U.S. to choose from when you decide to hit the deck, but just what is it that makes a good boating city?
There are a number of factors, but Boating Magazine, cites the variety of boating opportunities, boat-friendly regulations, water access, availability of waterfront homes, and average number of good boating days per week, as strong indicators. Whether you enjoy water sports like skiing or tubing or simply love to take a relaxing day of just sitting on the water, there is somewhere in the U.S. that offers your perfect sailing day.
Take a look at some of the best boating cities in the country that will make you want to ditch the days at home for a day at the docks.
Finger Lakes, New York
The community of Finger Lakes revolves around the water. And with 11 lakes that feature some of the most serene and beautiful landscapes in the country, it's not surprising why. Otisco Lake is perfect for motoring around in a pontoon boat or powered rowboat, which are both available for rental at the Otisco Lake Marina in Marietta. Cayuga Lake is ideal for sailing and recreational boating and has prime access for public launches at nearby Allan H. Treman State Marine Park. As one of the deepest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake is an exceptional spot for sailing and other water sports and is home to Seneca Lake State Park, which features public boat launches and a marina, as well as a picnic area and a swimming beach. In addition to it's water culture, Finger Lakes is also well known for its vineyards. Second only to California, it's recognized as the best region in the United States to produce superb full-bodied wines.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Often called the "Venice of America," Fort Lauderdale exudes the feel of the infamous floating city with 300 miles of waterways and canals that weave their way throughout the entire city. The waterfront city also boasts Florida's perennially warm weather that makes for a year-round season that attracts boaters from all over the country. Unsurprisingly, boating also makes up a major component of the city's economy and brings in around $5 billion for the area annually. This type of revenue has even fueled the development of their own public water-based transportation system that transports people across the city's many waterways. For those who love to combine boating and fishing, Fort Lauderdale is also one of the few areas in the world where both fresh water and saltwater fishing are within 20 minutes of the docks, in addition to more than 200 fresh water species that can be caught in the county's lakes. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, grab your boat and head down to city October 27-31 for the world's largest in-water boat show.
Benton County, Arkansas
What used to be a tiny town in the Ozark Mountains, has now emerged as one of the best kept secrets in the boating world, as well as becoming the third-fastest growing county in the U.S., largely due to its 30,000 acres of clean water. However, the 28,370-acre waters of Beaver Lake seem to be the most popular place for boaters and residential development alike. Boaters will fall in love with its 487 miles of shoreline highlighted by limestone bluffs, natural caves, and flowering shrubs, and because of the city's prime southern location, boating weather extends through the majority of the year. Boating enthusiasts can also enjoy the rest of the natural scenic beauty at Beaver Lake, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have constructed a variety of recreational facilities, including 12 developed parks, 2,008 acres of campgrounds, and over 650 individual campsites.
Located just north of the Smoky Mountains, this thriving southern waterfront city may not seem like a likely candidate for best boating in the country, but with the Tennessee River flowing through the heart of downtown, it is a way of life for many of the town's residents. It's also become a hotspot for boat manufacturers such as Sea Ray, Bayliner, MasterCraft and Skier's Choice, which have all set up shop in or near Knoxville and provide a glowing testament for the city. Fishing and camping are popular pastimes upstream of downtown Knoxville, but the main attraction for boaters is Tellico Lake, where most of the manufacturers test their boats. The lake consists of 15,860 acres of surface, 373 miles of shoreline, and a 2,627-square-mile watershed. A thriving tourist destination has also became the place to live ever since the planned 5,000 acre waterfront community of Tellico Village opened in 1986. The 14,600-acre Fort Loudon Lake is another popular boating spot in the area as the river flows out of downtown and features a number of public parks and camping spots.
Otter Tail County, Minnesota
Coined the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," Minnesota can thank Otter Tail County for largely contributing to that reputation. Officially, the county encompasses 1,048 lakes, which also happens to be the most lakes contained in a single county within the United States. The county gets its namesake from Otter Tail Lake, which is the largest lake in the county at 13,725 acres, and features large populations of Walleye, Northern Pike and Rock Bass for those who enjoy fishing. The lake is also a popular destination for powerboats, jet-skis, and surprisingly, sailing. Because of the lake's large size, winds can pick up enough in the center for fairly challenging maneuvers, and has been home to numerous sailing competitions since the mid-1980s. Many of Otter Tail's lakes, especially those in the Otter Tail River chain, are easily accessible to the general public. Otter Tail County alone has over 100 public access points that offer no launch fees and 24-hour-a-day availability.