For boaters who want to see a bit of everything on their trip, the Great Loop offers a unique chance to do just that. The aptly named loop is a route around Eastern North America made up of rivers, lakes and segments of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
More and more people are embarking on the ambitious trip as it gains popularity within the boating community. With Americans entering into retirement at a growing rate, the upward shift in Great Loop participants is expected to grow even greater.
Below, we will be looking at just a few of the Loop’s segments. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next avid boater to join those who can say they’ve cruised the Great Loop!
The Gulf and Lake Okeechobee
While you can start your excursion from anywhere on the Loop—that’s part of what makes it so accessible—it’s recommended that boaters take on the southern legs during the cooler winter months. This is a way to avoid harsh northern winters while still getting to enjoy every stop the Loop has to offer.The Gulf and Lake Okeechobee are two portions of the Loop that are best enjoyed during these milder winter months. They involve cruising from Florida’s Panhandle to its West Coast to enjoy the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. You can make it a direct trip or, if you’re in the mood for some sightseeing, stop at coastal cities along the way. This leg of your trip has some of the greatest potential for warm weather and water fun like swimming or water sports along the way.Once you’ve made it to the West Coast, it’s time to cruise your way through the middle of Florida along the Okeechobee Waterway. This route will take you across the state and through famous Lake Okeechobee, where you’ll want to do some fishing. After your time in the lake, it’s a bit more cruising until you reach the St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart, which connects to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Because of its great length, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway will be one of the most scenic and eclectically mixed legs of your journey. From Florida’s southeastern coast all the way up to the Hudson River, you will encounter beautiful natural landscapes, unique on-the-water cafes and other “pit stops,” and cities with their own unique flair.
Once you reach the Hudson River, you will be able to experience a unique combination of both natural and manmade treasures. Making your way to see Lady Liberty and the Manhattan skyline is certainly worth it while you’re on the Hudson, and making a stop for in-the-city fun is at the top of many boaters’ lists. In addition to these popular spots, however, you will also get a chance to see historic buildings, old lighthouses, sweeping mountain landscapes and other features. As you travel up, you will be able to connect with nature and a significant amount of the nation’s history—so be sure to soak it all in!
The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes region is, of course, worth spending a day or two (at least!) as you navigate through the waters. Make time for recreation such as fishing, water sports, swimming, and sightseeing. Along the way you will see the skylines of cities such as Cleveland, Milwaukee and, of course, Chicago. Stop in one of these lakeside cities for shopping, dining or rest or enjoy a camping style experience by the water. With so much to do and see, how you enjoy the Great Lakes is up to you!
Before hitting the Mississippi River and continuing your journey south, you’ll find a worthy connection spot in the Illinois River. This unique river offers boaters a chance to cruise through Downtown Chicago before heading to the quieter ride that awaits them further on their trip.
At more than 5000 miles long, this is certainly an ambitious trip—but that’s all part of the fun! Do you plan to make the Great Loop your next big adventure? Let us know in the comments below.