Destination Hunters: 10 Great Trailer Sailing Destinations

If happiness is in the journey, then ecstasy is in the destination—just ask a trailer-sailor. Neither long road trips nor unfamiliar waters intimidate these stalwarts, who are always on the lookout for a new place to splash.
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If happiness is in the journey, then ecstasy is in the destination—just ask a trailer-sailor. Neither long road trips nor unfamiliar waters intimidate these stalwarts, who are always on the lookout for a new place to splash. This summer we bring you our list (in no particular order) of 10 great trailer sailing destinations with the hope that your personal journey will be satisfying and your destination a delight.

And don't miss our other trailer-sailing features from the August 2012 issue:

Sailing Minnesota's 10,000 Lakes

Pocket Cruisers Reunite in Havasu

It's a Shoal Draft Thing

The Other Keys

Cedar Key, FL

 Photo courtesy of visitcedarkey.com

Photo courtesy of visitcedarkey.com

Known for its rich history and laid-back vibe, Cedar Key provides a restful escape just off Florida’s northern Gulf Coast. Located 60 miles southwest of Gainesville, Cedar Key is the first in an archipelago of lesser-known Florida Keys: a half-dozen uninhabited islands and a smattering of shoal reefs. As is the case with their more famous southern brethren, the water is thin here, so plan accordingly.

 Cedar Key Marina. Photo courtesy of visitcedarkey.com

Cedar Key Marina. Photo courtesy of visitcedarkey.com

To reach Cedar Key, trailer your boat southwest down Route 24, which leads you directly to the water’s edge. The Cedar Key Marina on Dock Street has two boat ramps and provides trailer parking for $10 a day.

Thin water makes for anchorages a-plenty and according to Cedar Key City Hall, as long as you’re outside the Cedar Key city limits, you can anchor almost anywhere: anywhere, that is, but in protected areas like Seahorse Key, which is closed from March to June. While you’re exploring, dip into McCrary Cove for a peaceful evening and a visit to Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. If it’s beaches you’re after, visit North Key, Snake Key or Atsena Otie Key.

Where the Great Spirit Roams

Finger Lakes, NY

 Cayuga Lake. Photo courtesy of fingerlakes.com

Cayuga Lake. Photo courtesy of fingerlakes.com

When viewed from above, it’s not hard to figure out how the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York got their name, or why Native American legend holds that the Great Spirit created them with his fingertips. Luckily for trailer-sailors, those fingerprints were deep and wide enough to allow for some fabulous sailing. With 11 lakes to choose from, this region offers a playground the size of New Jersey and a sailing season that extends from May to October.

 The view from Goose Watch Winery. Photo courtesy of goosewatch.com

The view from Goose Watch Winery. Photo courtesy of goosewatch.com

Launch your boat at one of the area’s state parks, many of which feature pumpout stations, hard-surface ramps and trailer parking. Frequent visitors can purchase a season pass.

With 650 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty to explore. One popular itinerary begins in Cuyuga Lake, where you can sail along the Cayuga Wine Trail and taste some of the best wines in the country. Stop by Goose Watch Winery and the Thirsty Owl Wine Company, both of which have water access. From there, continue on to Sodus Bay in Lake Ontario, or if you want to wander farther afield, sail on through the Erie Canal to Canada. It’s trite but true: the Finger Lakes are gorges!

An Oasis Jewel

Lake Havasu, AZ


 Photo courtesy of sailhavasu.com

Photo courtesy of sailhavasu.com

Don’t let Lake Havasu’s reputation as a powerboat Mecca fool you. Motor vessels may dominate in the summer, but in winter the sailboat is king. Coastal fronts from California sweep down from the north, creating ideal sailing conditions, in contrast to the fickle breezes of June, July and August. On a good day, winds range from 10 to 20 knots and from November to April temperatures are in in the 60s and 70s.

 Lake Havasu boat launch. Photo courtesy of azstateparks.com

Lake Havasu boat launch. Photo courtesy of azstateparks.com

Launch your boat at Site Six (928-453-8686), the lake’s only free boat launch. From there you can explore 400 miles of coastline surrounded by a landscape of mountains and desert. Havasu’s maximum depth is 985 feet, but there are numerous coves and inlets shallow enough for anchoring. Steamboat Cove by Lake Havasu State Park is a favorite.

Boat-in campsites line the Arizona side from Lake Havasu City to the Parker Dam. Sites include a picnic table, grill, toilet and trash can ($10/overnight; Bureau of Land Management).

Dark and Handsome

Angostura Reservoir, SD

 Photo courtesy of blackhillsbadlands.com

Photo courtesy of blackhillsbadlands.com

South Dakota is home to many places of stark, haunting beauty, including the Black Hills and the Badlands, as well as Angostura Reservoir, which is nestled between them.

 Angostura reservoir. Photo courtesy of sd.gov

Angostura reservoir. Photo courtesy of sd.gov

This manmade reservoir, with water temperatures averaging 66 degrees, is a haven for those seeking to escape the summer heat. The Angostura State Recreation Area has boat ramps for public use, though many require a fee. Sailors can also launch from the Angostura Marina and Resort on the east side of the reservoir (800-364-8831) or from Bailey Recreation Area in the south.

From the water, you can take in panoramic views of the Black Hills or visit Rapid Creek and float down the river in an inner tube. Travel to Pactola and scuba dive on an old settlement now covered by the lake. Like much of South Dakota, with its Native American legends and wide-open spaces, Angostura Reservoir is custom-made for unleashing your adventurous side.

Room to Roam

Kentucky Lake, KY and TN

 Lighthouse Landing. Photo courtest of lighthouselanding.com

Lighthouse Landing. Photo courtest of lighthouselanding.com

It’s easy to see why Kentucky Lake attracts 17 million visitors a year. Measuring 184 miles from north to south, with 2,400 miles of shoreline, it’s the largest manmade lake east of the Mississippi, providing both sail and powerboats with plenty of room to roam.

 Sailing Kentucky Lake. Photo courtesy of lighthouselanding.com

Sailing Kentucky Lake. Photo courtesy of lighthouselanding.com

The lake stretches through western Kentucky and Tennessee, with dozens of marinas dotting the shore; Lighthouse Landing Marina stands out with its extensive services, including boat maintenance, pump-out, bathhouses, laundry and Wi-Fi.

One of the best things about a lake this size is that there is always something new to see and do, particularly from April to October: anchor at Duncan Bay, for example, with its clay bottom and nearby wildlife sanctuary, or check out the powerboat drag show at the Pisgah Bay Boat Race. No matter when you visit, you’ll find there’s a festival to keep you entertained.

The Border-Straddler

Lake Texoma, TX and OK

 Photo courtesy of travelok.com

Photo courtesy of travelok.com

There’s a lot to love about “Texomaland,” with its 89,000-acre surface, 580 miles of shoreline, accessible location along the Red River straddling Texas and Oklahoma, and uncanny ability to stay warm and sunny year-round.

The sunny weather combines with the lake’s shallow water to create a healthy aquatic environment, which makes for great fishing. There are also hundreds of inlets in which to unleash your inner explorer, and a chain of beaches in the middle of the lake for those seeking a more social cruise.

Highport Marina has the lake’s largest access point, with four paved boat ramps that can be used for a daily launch fee of $5. Highpoint also offers trailer storage for $10 per month, so you can sail away without worrying about your wheels.

Lac du jour

Coeur D’Alene Lake, ID

Coeur-D%E2%80%99Alene-Lake.org_.top__0

Once inhabited by Native Americans, then discovered by French explorers, Coeur d’Alene means “heart of the awl,” a tribute to the natives’ hard-nosed trading skills. The rich history of this northern Idaho lake is only matched by its natural beauty.

 Bald Eagle. Photo courtesy of blm.gov

Bald Eagle. Photo courtesy of blm.gov

Launch from Harrison Docks on W. Harrison Street in downtown Coeur d’Alene, where you’ll find plenty of trailer parking. Owned by Kootenai County, Harrison Docks also offers an annual pass that’s good at all of the lake’s public launches ($40). The town itself is touristy and fun—especially in the summer—with lots of nice beaches and restaurants.

Once you’ve had your civilization fix, escape to the south along this long, skinny body of water and dip into Mica or Casco bay—keep an eye out for bald eagles feeding on kokanee salmon! Multi-sport sailors can join in the fun at the annual Ford Ironman Coeur d’Alene Triathlon or complete their own trek along the North Idaho Centennial Trail, which follows the lake’s northeastern shore. 

Alpine Allure

Huntington Lake, CA

 Photo courtesy of lakeshoreresort.com

Photo courtesy of lakeshoreresort.com

At 7,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of the Sierra National Forest, Huntington Lake offers sailors a cool retreat with excellent alpine views. It’s only a few miles long, but is surrounded by cabins, campgrounds and plenty of hiking trails for getting back to nature.

 Photo courtesy of lakeshoreresort.com

Photo courtesy of lakeshoreresort.com

The lake is also a popular fishing destination, thanks to its relaxing environment and abundance of fish. Brown trout, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon are all on the menu here, with a five-per-day limit.

Prime season lasts from late May through September, with temps in the 70s and winds from the west. Events like the annual High Sierra Regatta regularly draw diehard sailors up the area’s steep access roads, and the Lakeshore Resort Marina offers free launching as well as weekly, monthly and seasonal rates for slips and moorings.

God’s Country

Lake Geneva, WI

 Photo courtesy of cityoflakegeneva.com

Photo courtesy of cityoflakegeneva.com

With its countryside charm, Lake Geneva is a popular weekend getaway for Midwest sailors and vacationers alike. Its 8.6 square miles see a wide range of wind conditions, and water temperatures reach into the 80s in late summer. The town of Lake Geneva itself is charming and touristy, and the area is dotted with golf courses and resorts. Home to the historic Lake Geneva Yacht Club and with Melges Performance Sailboats just down the road in Zenda, the lake is also a hotbed of inland scow, sport boat, dinghy and iceboat sailing.

On the eastern end of the lake, Lake Geneva Boat Line offers monthly and weekly overnight parking (262-248-9952). On the western side, Gage Marine offers in/out valet service; call ahead to reserve (262-245-5501).

Downeast Charm

Penobscot Bay, ME


 Photo courtesy of Lisa Gabrielson

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gabrielson

One of the largest bays on the East Coast—second only to Chesapeake Bay—Penobscot Bay has a lot to offer. There are so many diverse towns, inlets and coves along the Bay’s 40-mile length you’d be hard-pressed to see them all in one trip.

 Photo courtesy of Lisa Gabrielson

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gabrielson

Begin your journey in Rockland at the Knight Marine Service, which offers a treasure trove of amenities: parking, mooring, storage, repairs and—most importantly for a sailor who’s been out a few nights—showers, laundry and provisions. If you’re visiting in August, be sure to work in a stop at the famous Maine Lobster Festival.

From Rockland, cruise on over to nearby Acadia National Park for breathtaking views that show why Maine’s nickname is the “Pine Tree State.” For a good place to anchor, dip into the protection of the Fox Islands.

10 More Options

  1. Lake of the Clouds, MI
  2. Lake Pepin, MN
  3. Lake o' the Pines, TX
  4. Cayo Costa, FL
  5. Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
  6. San Juan Islands, WA
  7. Lake Charlevoix, MI
  8. North Channel, Ontario
  9. Carlyle Lake, IL
  10. Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

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