Cruising Destinations

Top Ten Boating States

Top Boating Destinations for On-the-Water Getaways

Recreational boating is making waves as the nation heads into Memorial Day weekend, which also signals the start of the busy summer boating season from coast to coast and all waterways in between. Data released by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) shows the boating industry is on the rise and anticipates an active selling season on the horizon. In conjunction, Discover Boating announced on-water hot spots for each of the newest top ten boating states ranked by total retail sales.

"Discover Boating was created to take the guesswork out of boating and to help welcome more people to the water," says Carl Blackwell, Chicago boater and Discover Boating president. "The top ten boating states combined generated an estimated $5.7 billion in retail sales last year, that's a lot of boating, so we wanted to pinpoint a favorite destination in each state as America's 83 million boaters prepare to hit the water this summer."

Here are the top ten boating states, ranked by total annual retail sales of powerboats, motors, trailers and accessories in 2011, including a popular hotspot for on-water getaways.

1. Florida ($1.5 billion)

Hot Spot: Sarasota Located on the southwestern coast of Florida encompassing several barrier islands between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, the area offers placid waters and beautiful islands with easy line-of-sight navigation, plus exciting city waterfronts. Sarasota is the perfect spot to enjoy fishing, cruising, sailing, watersports or island hopping.

City views on the water

Beautiful city views

2. Texas ($982 million)

Hot Spot: Corpus Christi This South Texas coastal city makes the list for the second year in a row offering boaters a bustling waterfront city with miles of gulf and pristine bays perfect for all types of boating. Often called the Sparkling City by the Sea, the sentiment rings true for locals and visitors alike looking to cruise its waters. Fishing is popular in the area, but Corpus Christi is also well known for having one of the country's best sailing bays.

3. Michigan ($454 million)

Hot Spot: Mackinac Island Named one of the top islands in the world by Conde Nast Traveler, Mackinac Island, located on Lake Huron, reminds visitors of simpler times with a Victorian town surrounded by beautiful freshwater shorelines. Transportation on the island is limited to horse buggies, bikes and, of course, boats. The island's shores offer spectacular Great Lakes views and an abundance of boating activity. Sailing is a favorite boating pastime here with numerous regattas, including the famous Race to Mackinac.

4. New York ($448 million)

Hot Spot: Lake Champlain A four-hour drive from Manhattan, it's easily accessible for city dwellers looking for a beautiful waterside town on the western shore of the Adirondack Mountains. Whether it's cruising, fishing, tubing or water skiing; Lake Champlain has it all. Many restaurants offer boat slips as a perfect place to dock-and-dine to enjoy local cuisine on the water.

Freshwater Lake

Natural freshwater lake

5. Louisiana ($447 million)

Hot Spot: Caddo Lake Louisiana's largest natural freshwater lake is made up of 26,000 acres covering the Texas and Louisiana border. The Louisiana side offers outdoor enthusiasts a range of boat options to explore its 70 species of fish, interconnected waterways, bayous, sloughs, channels, islands and abundant wildlife.

6. Minnesota ($412 million)

Hot Spot: Leech Lake In the land of 10,000 lakes, Leech Lake ranks #3 in size with more than 195 miles of shoreline made up of several bays offering boaters the feel of a small lake with all the options of a larger lake. Leech Lake is well known for some of the best walleye and muskie fishing in the Midwest and it's also a well-known family vacation destination for watersports and sailing activities.

7. North Carolina ($403 million)

Hot Spot: Elizabeth City Also known as The Harbor of Hospitality, Elizabeth City is located on the picturesque Pasquotank River and Intracoastal Waterway, making it a popular stop for recreational boaters. There's even a famous welcoming crew, the "Rose Buddies," who for 25 years have greeted boaters with roses, wine and cheese as they cruise into town. Visitors enjoy Elizabeth City's 48 hours of free dockage at Mariners Wharf, which is the gateway to the historic and popular Dismal Swamp Canal. The quaint coastal town is ideal for scenic cruising and visiting with fellow skippers when not enjoying the city's array of on-land excursions.

8. Delaware ($385 million)

Hot Spot: Indian River This southern Delaware river and estuary offers boaters prime fishing with access to the Atlantic Ocean where anglers catch everything from flounder to marlin. Cruising options also abound, especially for families looking to explore its back bays and nearby islands. Burtons Island is a favorite stop, located on a nature preserve, it's great for fishing, clamming and secluded beaches perfect for a picnic.

9. Wisconsin ($378 million)

Hot Spot: Lake Geneva A boating community since just after the Civil War, Lake Geneva is idyllic for those looking to soak up the boating lifestyle. Lake Geneva is the second deepest lake in Wisconsin (5,500 acres, 152 feet deep, 21 miles around, 3 miles wide, and 9 miles long) and in close proximity to Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., making it one of the most popular and accessible boating spots in the Midwest. Whether a nautical novice or a pro, renting a boat or bringing your own, Lake Geneva offers something for everyone with an interest in life on the water.

10. Alabama ($333 million)

Hot Spot: Lake Martin As the largest lake in Alabama, Lake Martin covers nearly 44,000 acres with 750 miles of shoreline. A boater's paradise, the lake offers several public boat access options, including Wind Creek State Park, Smith Landing on Sandy Creek and Pace's Point near Camp Alamisco. Whether it's fishing, watersports or just cruising on the itinerary, this popular spot in central Alabama has everything needed to float that boat.