Whether you sail for leisure or sail to race, we can all agree that the overall sailing experience depends on the location. Enjoy sailing at its finest at one of these seven spectacular sailing destinations throughout the US.
1. Newport, Rhode Island
Set your compass for The Sailing Capital of the World! Newport, RI is fondly known as The City By The Sea, and for a good reason. The shore is filled with quaint historic homes, and the harbor is dotted with boats year round. If you love the excitement of a busy port, then you’ll love sailing in Newport. The view is spectacular: you’ll sail around lighthouses, awe at the grand mansions that line the shores, navigate underneath the Jamestown Bridge, and sail past a 19th-century military fort. Tack and jibe your way around Narragansett Bay, and wave to tourists who are sailing on some of the many sight sailing tours that leave the harbor all day. Newport regularly hosts sailing regattas and the Olympic sailing trials. The peak sailing season in Newport is May through October.
2. Maui, Hawaii
They say that if you can sail in Hawaii, you can sail anywhere. The constant changing winds make sailing in this territory challenging even for sailing veterans. Locals are familiar with over 30 different winds that whip around the island. If you’re up for the challenge of tackling the Tradewinds, you’ll enjoy the breathtaking views of sailing in Maui. Not only will you improve your sailing skills, but you’ll get to enjoy sailing year-round in the warm Hawaiian sun and surf.
3. Key West, Florida
Known for its crystal blue waters and coral reefs, Key West is a beautiful place to set sail. Sail into the sunset with the dolphins in this picturesque destination, while learning about legends of pirates and sunken treasure hidden among the islands. You can also enjoy observing local wildlife like birds and sea turtles as you sail from island to island. Sailors of all ages can enjoy the warm waters of Key West. Many even choose to stay year-round, living on their boats nestled in the harbor. If you love the laid-back “its 5 o’clock somewhere” feel of a midday sail in paradise, Key West is the place for you.
4. Grand Haven, Michigan
Sailing isn’t just for the ocean! Lake Michigan is home to many sailors who love the crisp blue freshwater and coastal charm of Grand Haven, Michigan. Grand Haven is famously known for being the first official Coast Guard City in the US, holding two patriotic Coast Guard Festivals every Summer.
If you’ve never been to The Great Lakes before, you’ll be surprised that you can sail until you can’t see land anymore! The vastness of Lake Michigan is a sailor’s dream. Sail along the shoreline or venture into the horizon to be out on your own. Be careful – even though it is a lake, the waters can get as choppy and dangerous as the ocean! Prime sailing times for Grand Haven is May through October.
5. Bellingham Bay, Washington
Located just three or four hours away from the San Juan Islands, Bellingham Bay is an ideal place for racers. Bellingham has good wind, challenging currents, and an amazing backdrop of the snowy Mt. Baker Mountain. The expansive bay is appealing to many serious sailors who enjoy a competitive race without the disturbances of boat traffic. The bay is also full of college sailors and youth sailors, making the experience fun for all ages. It is possible to enjoy sailing here year-round, but it’s recommended to avoid the chilly weather and enjoy sailing during the peak season of May through October.
6. The Channel Islands, California
Kick back in the sunny California oceans as you sail away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Sailing to The Channel Islands of Southern California like Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel will leave you feeling like you embarked on a Pirate’s journey. Sailing to one or all of these islands is a popular year-round daysail for many sailing enthusiasts. Not only will you get to explore natural caves, but there’s a good chance you’ll see marine wildlife like migrating whales or seals.
7. Oriental, North Carolina
Oriental is known for being a quaint sailing town. Located in Pamlico County, the Neuse River connects with the Pamlico Sound, creating intricate canals to sail through. Here, it’s said that sailboats outnumber citizens three to one! It’s not a wonder why many sailors of all ages love this little charming fishing town. The town hosts weekly racing and regattas year round and is fun for sailors of all ages.
If you’re a passionate sailor who loves the sound of waves lapping against your hulls, you will want to test out some or all of these great sailing destinations. If you want to find out how you can contribute to sailors around the country, consider getting a membership with US Sailing to take advantage of classes, sailing certifications, and discounts at major sailing retailers.