This city of 2.7 million doesn’t become an American metropolis without the water. Lake Michigan connects to the Chicago River, which connects to the Mississippi River, creating a shipping superhighway through the heart of the country—Chicago to New Orleans, without a stop.
Reversing its flow and dying it green might impress everyday folk, but for mariners, it’s the ease of access to the city’s core that makes the Chicago River a boon for boaters. Among the highlights: the Chicago Riverwalk and historic downtown high-rises (among them the Home Insurance Building, America’s first skyscraper). Add to that the 26 miles of lakefront that provides boater access to Soldier Field, Burnham Harbor and Navy Pier, a hub for dining, shopping and people-watching.
For this day cruise, our vessel of choice was the Aviara AV32, an open layout with luxe cockpit seating, a triple-touchscreen display at the helm and serious power—on plane in 3.7 seconds. It’s a proper dayboat for a tour of this windy—and waterfront—city.
A megalopolis with more than 8 million residents and 520 miles of coastline. A city centered around a 22-square-mile island with 789 bridges and tunnels that connect five boroughs. For boaters, New York City is big, far beyond just its apples.
If you’re running a big boat, North Cove Marina at Brookfield Place accommodates yachts up to 175 feet; its location provides immediate access to Tribeca and lower Manhattan. But most everyday boaters launch from outside the city limits. We departed from West Shore Marina in Huntington and made the one-hour run around Long Island to Manhattan. The ride in the Aviara AV32 was a breeze. A bowrider on steroids powered by twin Mercury 300s, it offers all the boost and comfort needed.
There is more here than any day cruise could cover: the East River and its trifecta of famous bridges (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Robert F. Kennedy, aka the Triborough Bridge); the views of midtown from the East River; the Statue of Liberty near Ellis Island. But not seeing it all is understandable—iconic can’t be accomplished in a day.
Read Next: Five Great Cities to Dock and Dine
If you take the population of Miami-Dade County (2.7 million) and divide it by the county’s number of registered boats (74,622), you get one boat for every 36 residents. When you consider how common it is to see a trailered boat on US 1, or the long line of trucks waiting to launch at Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park or Coconut Grove’s Dinner Key Marina on the weekend, that statistic sounds just right. Miami is a boater’s paradise. Year-round beach weather, a river snaking through downtown, good fishing within sight of the skyline, and six public marinas make it one of the most aqua-centric cities on Earth.
Whether it’s the eight-figure homes on Star Island, the hyper-modern high-rises regularly sprouting up downtown or the rustic residences of Stiltsville, taking it all in requires a vessel with a wide-open layout and plenty of comfort. Cue the Aviara AV40. Stellar amenities abound, but we love the coamings that lie down level with the swim platform, which transforms the cockpit into a private cabana wherever you are in the Magic City.
Other Iconic Boating Cities
Poling through marshes, cuts and tidal creeks for redfish and shrimp; checking out Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter and the city’s centuries of history; low-key runs to Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island and Savannah—boating in Charleston has you covered, from high-brow entertainment to Lowcountry boils.
The 813 is the second-biggest boating destination in Florida (Miami is No. 1) largely because it neighbors St. Petersburg and Clearwater, two equally salty cities. Choose whatever maritime pastime that suits you: offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, exploring protected areas like Riviera Bay, and long-range cruising on the Gulf’s Intracoastal Waterway.
A water temperature of 67 degrees in summer might sound chilly to Southern readers, but it hasn’t impacted the volume of wakeboats, pontoons and runabouts that turn Puget Sound into a marine playground. The diversity of boating options is what puts Seattle on our list. One minute you’re checking out the Space Needle from Elliot Bay, the next you’re anchored up at Blake Island Marine State Park with Mount Rainier in the distance.