|:: The Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway ::
|© 1993 - 2013 CaptainJohn.org
|How to cruise the Atlantic ICW - click next.
The Atlantic ICW - This leg of your voyage is 987 miles from the St Lucie Inlet to Norfolk,
VA. From Norfolk, it is another 279 miles to the mouth of the Hudson River for a total of 1,266
Sounds, will provide you with an amazing, well-protected passage for all but very few and small
sections of its entire length.
Yes, you have to share it with Tugs and bugs and barges, the Navy ships, (and at Kings' Bay)
even a submarine or two. In addition, you will encounter Cruise Ships and all sorts of
commercial fishing and shipping traffic. At times it will be hard to remember that you are the
intruder here, as the entire ICW is free to recreational boaters, while it is all those commercial
vessels pay their way (and ours).
Often referred to as "The Ditch", from St Lucie Inlet to the Hudson river, you will discover
some real cruising jewels along the way. By far, cruising the ICW is an adventure. In some
areas, just when it really starts to bore you, along comes another jewel that makes the entire
length of the ICW worth cruising all over again.
Safe boaters can rest assured however, that on your entire voyage around America's Great
Loop, it is all about safety. Experience doesn't matter, (none of us had it, until we did it). Simply
being a safe boater is your primary concern.
If you are a safe boater, it is surprisingly difficult to get into any real trouble on the ICW. For
the most part even if your boat sinks, chances are it will be resting hard on the bottom before it
disappears under the water, as most of the ICW is very shallow. For a safe boater, probably the
very worst that can happen is suffering a little grief, and a lot of temporary embarrassment. To
which, we've all been there and experienced that.
If you are worried about crossing that 87 mile (8 to 9 hour) stretch between Carribelle and
Steinhatchie on the Gulf of Mexico - don't be. By the time you get to the Gulf of Mexico, you will
have cruised across Pamlico Sound, Albemarle Sound, and Chesapeake Bay.
We all have our own experiences, we all have our best and worst parts of the ICW as well
as the Great Loop. So don't let what you've heard or read prevent you from going. Instead, go
and discover your own bests and worst. Believe us. . . Even the worst part of the Great Loop is
worth doing again. It is our 'imagined' fear that always makes the wolf bigger than he really is.
You are about to discover for yourself, the ICW is a great place to cruise.
The Atlantic ICW is a gauntlet of big colorful homes and bigger colorful homes. There
are plenty of waterfront restaurants and Marinas along the way. However, you have to make it
all the way to St. Augustine, FL., before you reach Hurricane Patties (next to the River's Edge
Marina on the San Sebastian river) which is our very favorite stop for eats on the entire
Florida section of the ICW.
Other favorite stops include the Isle of Palms Marina, Wacca Wache Marina, Washington
City Docks, Okracoke, Lady's Island Bridge Marina, and Elizabeth City. These are all some of
our favorite stops on the Atlantic ICW. From Wacca Wache Marina, you can take your dinghy
or rent a car and visit Pawley's Island. There, you will find the Hammock Shop Village, an
eclectic mix of specialty stores and restaurants, such as the High Hammock Maverick Seaside
Kitchen, which alone is worth the side-trip.
At Beaufort, if you pass under Lady's Island Bridge, and go to Lady's Island Marina, about
100 feet or so, from the Marina you will come to a real hole in the wall (dive looking) bar called
the "Filling Station". This is one place where looks are deceiving. At happy hour every day,
they serve up the best eats for the dollar of any place on the entire Great Loop. Here, you will
find cheap drinks and a cheap meal that will absolutely blow your mind. The meal changes
every day. The last time we were there, it was "hamburger & hot-dog" day. For $3.00, (yes,
only 3.00) cooked over a wood fired grill, we had one of the best burgers in the world together
with one mighty fine (big-thick) hotdog. Both (yes, you get both) come with your choice of all
the fixings plus potato salad and beans - and it's all for only $3.00. We stayed an extra day
just to go back for "steak night". The "Steak Night" meal is $6.00 but it's a steak with all the
sides you expect to pay $30.00 for.
Point is. . . There are many little "jewels" like these that are hidden along your route around
the Great Loop. While we like to call your attention to the ones we find, the very best ones
indeed will be the ones you find on your own, and tell us about.
In addition to commercial traffic, The ICW is used extensively by recreational boaters,
On the east coast, some of the traffic in fall and spring is by snowbirds who regularly move
south in winter and north in summer. The waterway is also used when the ocean is too rough
to travel on. Numerous inlets connect the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico with the Intracoastal
Waterway. The Intracoastal Waterway from Fort Myers to Longboat Key is a favorite
destination for visiting sailors and fishermen alike.
The waters from Fort Myers through Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor have to be
one of the most diverse boating and fishing locations anywhere in the world. Pine Island Sound
is bounded on the west by Sanibel, Captiva and North Captiva Islands. Hundreds of islands dot
the Sound; redfish, snook, pompano and speckled trout delight the patient angler. To the east,
Pine Island's mangrove shorelines, tidal creeks and oyster bars still resist the crush of
development. Explore Matlacha, Pineland and Bokeelia for a taste of the real Florida, where
Calusa Indians farmed and fished 1,000 years ago.
Further north in Charlotte Harbor sits Cayo Costa State Park, a spectacular wild and
scenic gulf coast island accessible only by boat. Nature trails, safe harbors, cabins, tent sites,
hiking and biking trails and miles of deserted beaches make this a must-see location. The
Intracoastal runs along the eastern shore of Cayo Costa before heading inland at Boca
Grande Pass, "Tarpon Capital of the World."
At the southern end of this section of the Intracoastal sailors pass through Card Sound
before reaching Key Largo, the first island in the famous Florida Keys chain. The largest of the
Keys, Key Largo is famous for its diving and fishing. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park,
the nation's first underwater park, is the crown jewel of the area.
|:: Capt John's America's Great Loop ::