The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
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 statute miles.
The Atlanic ICW is a great place to learn all about safe boating. In addition to the sights and sounds, there are plenty of waterfront restaurants and Marinas along the way. However, you have to make it all the way to St. Augustine, Fla., before you reach Hurricane Patty's (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.
ICW Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Favorite stops include: Hurricane Patty's in Florida; the Isle of Palms Marina, Wacca Wache Marina, and Lady's Island Marina, all in South Carolina;Washington City Docks, Ocracoke, and Elizabeth City, in North Carolina. From Wacca Wache Marina, you can take your dinghy or rent a car and visit Pawley's Island.
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 "Fillin' 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) hot dog. Both come with your choice of all the fixin's 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.
In addition to commercial traffic, the ICW is used extensively by recreational boaters, so you will not be alone on the ICW.
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.
Aerial view of the historic Boca Grande Lighthouse at the Gasparilla Island State
Park. (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/242175)
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.
(Courtesy of www.captainjohn.org)
Links to Great Loop Information radio shows on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway