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With the rise of remote work and with many Americans reassessing where they might like to live, it's become easier than ever to relocate to a suburb or small town that fits your lifestyle. With that in mind, BoatUS Magazine looked at compelling locations across the country and put together a list of some of the most livable boating towns in the country — for families, young professionals, and retirees.

Anacortes, Washington

With more than 478 miles of wild and rural shoreline to explore, you could cruise the San Juan Islands for a lifetime and never get bored.

Population: 17,527
Cost of living: 27% above the national average
Median home value: $406,400
Public schools: A
Post-secondary schools: Western Washington's University's Shannon Point Marine Center offers programs in the marine sciences as well as ocean literacy and STEM activities for the general public. The Skagit Valley College Marine Technology Center offers marine trades programs.
Hospitals: Island Hospital is in downtown Anacortes; Skagit Valley Hospital is about 15 miles away in Mount Vernon.
Airports: Skagit Regional (15 miles), Bellingham International (45 miles)
Arts and culture: Anacortes Museum, Maritime Heritage Center, Anacortes Community Theatre, and galleries
Outdoor recreation: 47 miles of hiking and biking trails, Swinomish Golf Links, Mount Baker Ski Area (40 miles)
Boating highlights: Once known as Ship Harbor, Anacortes has 65 miles of shoreline (Fidalgo Island) and five freshwater lakes, a vibrant maritime community boasting six marinas (slips $8–$17/foot/month) and shipyards, plus the second largest bareboat charter fleet in the world and a top-notch marine trades school. It's a TowBoatUS port; member discounts available. Season is May to October.

Boating couple

Photo: Getty Images/kali9

What's it like to live here?

This Pacific Northwest boating capital is known as the "home port of the San Juan Islands," an extraordinarily beautiful archipelago of more than 400 islands and rocks stretching between Northwest Washington and Vancouver Island. Gnarled Madrone (Arbutus) trees line the rocky shoreline, pods of orcas hunt chinook salmon, and watchful bald eagles survey the scene. The cool and nutrient-rich waters of the Salish Sea support an abundance of marine life including Pacific salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and Dungeness crab.

Anacortes, considered one of the top places in America to retire, is situated in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, and receives far less rain than Seattle. Every year it hosts several events and festivals including Shipwreck Day (a flea market), the Anacortes Arts Festival, and the Oyster Run motorcycle rally.

Charleston, South Carolina

If you choose to call Charleston home, you won't have trouble meeting people. It's considered one of the friendliest cities in the country.

Charleston South Carolina

Charleston is known for its historic Southern-style homes.  (Photo: Getty Images/fotoluminate llc)

Population: 137,566
Cost of living: 11% above the national average
Median home value: $330,600
Public schools: B
Post-secondary schools: Charleston Southern University, The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, College of Charleston
Hospitals: Several including MUSC Health — University Medical Center, ranked No. 1 in South Carolina Airports: Charleston International Airport
Arts and culture: Charleston Ballet; Charleston Symphony Orchestra; Charleston Museum; Gibbes Museum of Art; plus other museums, heritage sites, galleries.
Outdoor recreation: 70 miles of biking and hiking trails, Shadowmoss Golf & Country Club, City of Charleston Municipal Golf Course.
Boating highlights: Three rivers flow into Charleston Harbor, an 8-square-mile inlet and part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Dozens of marinas and boatyards (slips $17—$24/foot/month, long wait lists). A TowBoatUS port; member discounts available. Season is February to December.

What's it like to live here?

Founded in 1680, the historic port city of Charleston has plenty to offer today's boater. This all-weather inlet lies roughly halfway down the South Carolina coast at the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers. Its protected waterways and shorelines wind through cobblestoned historic neighborhoods, prerevolution plantations, and waterfront dining districts. Locals frequently congregate at sandbars or popular raft-up spots like Dewees and Capers islands.

For those looking to explore farther afield, the "Lowcountry" waterways, between Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, offer pristine barrier islands, spectacular estuaries, and charming ports of call. For racers, there are several exciting events on the calendar, including the Charleston to Bermuda Yacht Race.

This southern charmer has plenty to hold the attention of young professionals. Charleston has a strong arts tradition and is a foodie town, offering a wide variety of bars, restaurants, coffee shops.

Clear Lake, Houston, Texas

The Clear Lake neighborhood blends Houston's downtown hustle and bustle with laid-back lake recreation.

Houston’s Clear Lake

Houston's Clear Lake neighborhood offers many amenities that appeal to singles, families, and retirees alike. (Photo: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Population: 141,980
Cost of living: 14% above the national average (League City)
Median home value: $229,063
Public schools: A+
Post-secondary schools: Several universities including Rice and University of Houston. UH — Clear Lake, part of the University of Houston system, offers programs in business, education, human sciences, humanities, and engineering.
Hospitals: Clear Lake has several including Houston Methodist Clear Lake and Texas Children's Hospital specialty care.
Airports: William P. Hobby Airport (15 miles), George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport (48 miles)
Arts and culture: Space Center Houston, NASA Mission Control Center museum of space history, Bay Area Museum, Rocket Park, and Armand Bayou Nature Center — all in the Clear Lake neighborhood. Also home to a ballet company, theater district, and two art museums.
Outdoor recreation: 36 miles of biking and hiking trails (Houston area), several golf courses and clubs
Boating highlights: With more than 20 marinas, boatyards, and yacht clubs (slips $300—$550/month), Clear Lake rests on the shores of a 2,000-acre lake that empties into Galveston Bay. The brackish water hosts a unique ecosystem that's a spawning ground for crabs, shrimp, oysters, and lots of fish. It's the nation's third-largest pleasure-boat basin and is a popular destination for fishing and watersports. A TowBoatUS port; member discounts available. Season is January to December.

What's it like to live here?

The Clear Lake area is the perfect place to launch a new adventure. It's home to the Johnson Space Center and one of the country's largest pleasure boating basins. Explore bayous, rivers, wetlands, and marshes, and after a fun-filled day, dock and dine at restaurants like the Marina Bar and Grill in the Galveston Yacht Basin, or Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood at Pelican Rest Marina. Offatts Bayou has a waist-deep sandbar and is a popular spot to anchor, raft up, and listen to live music. On hot days, families bring their BBQs to Nassau Bay's Party Cove and enjoy the deep, cool waters.

Clear Lake has something for everyone but it's an especially great place for families and young professionals. Perhaps unsurprising for a neighborhood that sends people into space, Clear Lake schools are highly ranked by the Texas Education Agency. The Kemah Boardwalk hosts fireworks, festivals, and other fun events like Rock the Dock (live music Thursday nights) and the Blessing of the Fleet boat parade, celebrating the area's history as a shrimp-fishing town.

East Tawas, Michigan

Rediscover those lazy hazy days of summer in this tiny Great Lakes town.

Tawas Point lighthouse

 Tawas Point lighthouse was constructed in 1853.  (Photo: Getty Images/shrirampatki)

Population: 2,723
Cost of living: 14% below the national average
Median home value: $95,500
Public schools: B+
Post-secondary schools: Saginaw Valley State University, Northwood University Michigan, and several community colleges are within 60 miles.
Hospitals: Ascension St. Joseph Hospital is a mile away in Tawas; Scheurer Hospital is about 32 miles away in Pigeon; MidMichigan Medical Center West Branch is 37 miles away in West Branch.
Airports: Iosco County Airport (4 miles), Alpena County Regional Airport (69 miles), MBS International Airport (80 miles)
Arts and culture: Iosco County Historical Museum, Tawas Bay Art Gallery (offers art classes), Tawas Bay Players (theater), Family Theatre (cinema)
Outdoor recreation: More than 46 miles of biking and hiking trails. Corsair Trails (26 miles of cross-country ski trails), several golf courses.
Boating highlights: The Tawas area is located in a protected bay on the west shore of Lake Huron. This area offers 40 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and almost 12,000 acres of lakes and ponds. Roughly 70% of the East Tawas area is water! The recently upgraded East Tawas State Dock is a first-class marina with 140 slips and all the amenities you could want, including a boat launch, playground/park, and pumpout services. There are 13 boat launches and an additional two marinas in the area — Jerry's Marina and Tawas Bay Condominium Marinas (slips $60/foot, summer season). Several TowBoatUS ports service the area; a few member discounts within a 25 mile radius. Boating season is May to October.

Father and son boating

Photo: Getty Images/LSOPhoto

What's it like to live here?

If you're hankering for simple small-town life served up with a slice of spectacular lakeside scenery, you'll love this quaint boating town. The warm, protected waters and consistent winds make Tawas Bay popular with sailors, paddlers, and powerboaters. Anchor out and take in the Charity Island Lighthouse. The bay is also considered a premier kiteboarding spot, and fishing is good year-round with opportunities to catch walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, brown trout, and smallmouth bass.

East Tawas is a popular retirement spot. As one local said, if forced to choose a single word to describe the area, it would be "serenity." Relive your childhood summers in the quaint downtown, home to a dime store, fudge shop, tiny bookstore, and movie theater. There are plenty of grown-up amenities, too, like a farmers' market, hardware store, and funky bars and cafes. On summer Tuesdays, the main drag shuts down to traffic, and the five or so restaurants and bars open onto the street, offering live music and a fun family atmosphere.

Benton County, Arkansas

Benton County might not be on your radar, but if you love boating, it should be.

Beaver Lake at sunset

Beaver Lake at sunset. (Photo: Daniel Weber, CC BY-NC 2.0) 

Population: 279,141
Cost of living: 8% below the national average (Bentonville)
Median home value: $183,400
Public schools: A
Post-secondary schools: Bryan University, Northwest Arkansas Community College, and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (25 miles)
Hospitals: Northwest Medical Center (Bentonville) and Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas (Rogers); Arkansas Heart Hospital-Benton is about 6 miles from downtown. Arkansas Heart Hospital Encore Medical Center is 25 miles away in Little Rock.
Airports: Northwest Arkansas National Airport (12.5 miles from Bentonville)
Arts and culture: Home to several young, vibrant music venues; stunning public murals; world-class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; and the Momentary contemporary art space.
Outdoor recreation: 113 miles of biking and hiking trails, popular motorcycle rides, several golf courses and clubs, and 12 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds.
Boating highlights: This Midwest gem is in the heart of Arkansas lake country. Beaver Lake, the largest body of water in the area, encompasses 28,370 acres of water. The 480-some miles of shoreline meander through limestone bluffs, natural caves, and spectacular Ozark Mountain scenery. Its waters offer some of the best bass fishing in the state with an abundance of largemouth and striper bass. The open and deep lake waters accommodate boats of all types, from PWCs to houseboats. Seven marinas (24- to 30-foot slips, $180-$250/month) and 22 launch ramps surround the lake. Boating season is May to September.

What's it like to live here?

Just 12 miles from the lake is up-and-coming Bentonville, home to Walmart headquarters and one of the fastest growing U.S. cities offering big-city amenities while retaining its small-town charm. It's home to a world-class shared-used trails network and an active mountain biking community. With low cost of living; plenty of jobs; and fabulous hiking, biking, and boating, it's a great place for outdoorsy young professionals and families to call home.

Gloucester, Massachusetts

This very livable town is steeped in fishing and shipbuilding history.

Gloucester Schooner Festival

The Gloucester Schooner Festival takes place in September.  (Photo: Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo)

Population: 30,430
Cost of living: 36% above the national average
Median home value: $425,400
Public schools: B-
Post-secondary schools: Endicott College, Salem State University (18 miles)
Hospitals: Addison Gilbert Hospital; nearest major medical center is in Boston (30 miles)
Airports: Boston Logan International (34 miles), Beverly Regional Airport (15 miles)
Arts and culture: The Cape Ann Museum (paintings and contemporary exhibitions), Maritime Gloucester (maritime museum), Sargent House Museum (historic home)
Outdoor recreation: 96 miles of biking and hiking trails, Bass Rocks Golf Course, several small ski areas outside of Boston, and larger ski resorts in nearby New Hampshire.
Boating highlights: In 1605, explorer Samuel de Champlain called Gloucester "the beautiful harbor," and it continues to captivate boaters to this day. Gunkhole in the protected waters of the Annisquam River, or cruise to delightful East Coast ports like Provincetown and Casco Bay. For small boats, Essex Bay and the Annisquam River are boatable in virtually any weather. Bigger boats can cruise to Cape Cod's Provincetown or Maine's Casco Bay in a summer daylight hop. There are 17 marinas (slips $180/foot for season, long wait list). This is a TowBoatUS port; member discounts available. Boating season May to October.

What's it like to live here?

Gloucester sits on a rocky cape in northeastern Massachusetts. The protected waters of the Annisquam River and Blynman Canal bisect Cape Ann, connecting Annisquam Harbor to the north with Gloucester Harbor to the south. This unique geography offers a broad variety of boating landscapes from impressive granite cliffs (Halibut Point, Bass Rocks) and breathtaking sand beaches (Good Harbor, Wingaersheek) to marshy creeks and bays (Walker Creek, Essex Bay).

With the decline of cod stocks and the commercial fishing fleet, the city is working to appeal to more recreational boaters by revamping the waterfront with several dock dining options and expanded marine facilities.

Whether you're just starting your career or thinking about retirement, you can enjoy a laid-back lifestyle in Gloucester without giving up the benefits of city life. The downtown and waterfront have 37 restaurants and cafes where you can indulge in fresh-off-the-boat seafood, contemporary American fare, sushi, and other cuisines. Explore art galleries, museums, and hip boutique shops, or go for a stroll along one of three downtown beaches.

Dickinson County, Okoboji, Iowa Great Lakes Area, Iowa

Okoboji is a blue boating oasis in the midst of endless rolling cornfields.

Okoboji Lake

Okoboji embraces the boating life with boat-in restaurants, bars, concerts, and even a shopping mall.

Population: 17,258
Cost of living: 8% below the national average (Spirit Lake)
Median home value: $194,300
Public schools: B
Post-secondary schools: Iowa Lakes Community College and Buena Vista University campuses (16 miles from Spirit Lake in Estherville)
Hospitals: Lakes Regional Healthcare is one of the Top 100 Rural & Community Hospitals in the country according to The Chartis Center for Rural Health
Airports: Sioux Falls Regional Airport (99 miles), Minneapolis-Saint Paul International (172 miles)
Arts and culture: The Pearson Lake Art Center has six galleries, a performing arts theater, plus art and culinary classes for adults and children. Museums include the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum and the Clark Museum of Okoboji Area and Iowa.
Outdoor recreation: More than 60 miles of biking and hiking trails, several golf courses. Snowmobiling is popular in the winter. The town hosts a winter games festival and the Okoboji 100, a 100-mile cross-country snowmobile race.
Boating highlights: Six natural lakes covering more than 12,000 acres with 70 miles of shoreline. There's no reason to get off your boat in Okoboji. The whole community is organized to keep you floating, offering 25 boat-accessible restaurants and bars, concerts on barges, and even a boat-accessible mall (The Central Emporium). The weekend brings a lively scene with wakeboarding in the mornings and Saturday afternoon raft-ups at various bays (e.g., Millers Bay, aka "Party Cove"). Four marine service providers offer storage, slips, servicing, and rentals (dry-rack summer storage starts at $2,800). Boating season is May to October.

Older couple boating

Photo: Getty Images/Digital Vision

What's it like to live here?

Six glacier-carved lakes make up this playground for boating and watersports lovers in America's heartland. The Iowa Great Lakes chain consists of Spirit Lake, Iowa's largest natural lake, and five smaller interconnected lakes. Spring-fed West Lake Okoboji is known for its exceptional water quality and color. The shoreline extends through canopies of stately oak trees, sand beaches, and an amusement park that is home to Legend, one of the country's oldest wooden roller coasters.

The Okoboji Yacht Club, 500 members strong, organizes races for five classes of boats. Lake locals consider Spirit Lake the "Fishing Capital of the World." In early May, the region hosts a popular "Walleye Weekend" tournament to kick off the season.

Several small communities are strung along the lakeshore including Spirit Lake (the largest town), Milford, Okoboji, Arnolds Park, West Okoboji, Wahpeton, and Orleans. Many retirees and young professionals live in Spirit Lake, which offers great shopping, pubs, eateries, a comedy club, and the Okoboji Brewing Company. Locals describe it as a familiar and comfortable town where you can expect friendly neighbors to know your name.

Sausalito, California

Enjoy the best of San Francisco Bay in this colorful houseboat community.

Sausalito houseboats

Sausalito is home to a vibrant community of 400 houseboats. (Photo: Getty Images/jarcosa)

Population: 7,068
Cost of living: 144% above the national average
Median home value: $1,346,000
Public schools: A+
Post-secondary schools: Across the bridge from the University of San Francisco (6 miles); 25 miles from one of America's top academic institutions, the University of California, Berkeley
Hospitals: Award-winning MarinHealth Medical Center (8 miles)
Airports: San Francisco International Airport (18 miles)
Arts and culture: Home to many artist communities, galleries, and studios. The Headlands Center for the Arts offers events, exhibitions, programs, and residences for artists of all disciplines.
Outside recreation: 38 miles of biking and hiking trails. Sausalito is within 10 miles of four golf clubs. The Lake Tahoe area is home to several ski outdoor recreation areas including Sugar Bowl Resort (181 miles), approximately a three-hour drive from Sausalito.
Boating highlights: San Francisco Bay is 550 square miles and the largest estuary on the West Coast. Its shoreline is approximately half the length of California's coastline. Situated near the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito backs onto the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an expanse of wooded hillsides and tidal flats, offering spectacular views of San Francisco. The town is known for the Arques School for traditional wooden boatbuilding, the Sausalito Community Boating Center, and a handful of nonprofits dedicated to maritime education, history, and arts. Six marinas (slips $13–$28/foot/month). This is a TowBoatUS port; member discounts are available. Boating season is May to November.

What's it like to live here?

The colorful city of Sausalito has worn many faces over the decades evolving from a bootlegging hot spot during prohibition to a World War II shipbuilding center to a floating arts colony in the 1960s. Today it's a picturesque residential community and home to 400 houseboats.

With direct access to San Francisco Bay, there's no end of activities to choose from. Dock for the day and explore Angel Island State Park, cruise through wine country along the Napa River, or anchor in Aquatic Park Cove and spend an evening enjoying the restaurants and nightlife along the piers.

If you can afford the real estate, Sausalito is an ideal place to live for retirees and families, with access to nature and hiking trails, a vibrant arts scene, friendly community, and plenty of family activities (e.g., Bay Area Discovery Museum). Bridgeway, the bustling main street, has waterfront restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and boutiques. For work or play, San Francisco is a short ferry or bus ride away.

St. Augustine, Florida

This historic seaport offers the best of oceanfront living with a decidedly refined and European feel.

Bridge of  Lions against the St. Augustine skyline

Bridge of Lions against the St. Augustine skyline. (Photo: Getty Images/seanpavonephoto)

Population: 15,415
Cost of living: 3% above the national average
Median home value: $271,000
Public schools: A-
Post-secondary schools: Flagler College, St. Johns River State College
Hospitals: Flagler Hospital; Mayo Clinic Hospital-Jacksonville is 30 miles north
Airports: Northeast Florida Regional, Jacksonville International (45 miles)
Arts and culture: A wealth of museums including the Lightner Museum (touted as Florida's Smithsonian). It has dozens of galleries walkable from the historic downtown districts. Visit the 315-year-old Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. Now a National Monument, visitors can see where early sailors scratched pictures of ships on the walls. Several venues host professional theater, classical concerts, dance performances, and live music. Catch big-name entertainment at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, which can hold 5,000 concertgoers.
Outdoor recreation: More than 60 miles of biking and hiking trails in the St. Augustine-Ponte Vedra area. Several golf courses and clubs.
Boating highlights: Sail by beautiful Atlantic beaches or explore protected rivers and sections of the Intracoastal Waterway. Boaters can explore saltwater marshes, estuaries, or the San Sebastian, Tolomato, and Matanzas rivers that weave in and out of the St. Augustine area.
Anglers will feel right at home. Whether you like to fish inshore or offshore, freshwater or saltwater, St. Augustine has it all. Redfish, drum, and trout run in the inshore waterways, while kingfish, tuna, and wahoo can be found at sea. A dozen marinas, harbors, and boatyards (slips $18–$33/foot/month). This is a TowBoatUS port; member discounts available. Boating season is January to December.

Sunset fishing

Photo: Getty Images/grandriver

What's it like to live here?

If you're looking for a place with deep maritime roots, look no further than St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city and first seaport. This suburb of Jacksonville is great for retirees and young professionals alike, the historic downtown is resplendent with Spanish Colonial and Renaissance architecture. Inviting and walkable, the district has a central park, many churches, museums, and a beautiful waterfront offering panoramic views of Mantanzas Bay. For the gastronomically inclined, the town has more than 150 eateries. As one local put it, "St. Augustine is the perfect little town."

Stevensville, Maryland

Big-city access, bucolic surroundings, and boating bonanza? You can have it all in Stevensville.

Stevensville Maryland aerial view

Stevensville is located on Kent Island, across the bay from Annapolis. (Photo: Maryland National Guard, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Population: 6,485
Cost of living: 28% above the national average
Median home value: $362,800
Public Schools: A-
Post-secondary schools: St. John's College, U.S. Naval Academy (15 miles), Johns Hopkins University (38 miles), University of Maryland (41 miles)
Hospitals: Anne Arundel Medical Center Pavilion (2 miles); UM Baltimore Medical Center (23 miles)
Airports: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (30 miles), Reagan National Airport (50 miles)
Arts and culture: The Historic Stevensville Arts and Entertainment district has shops and galleries offering fine arts including baskets, pottery, and handcrafted furniture. The Kent Island Federation of Art provides art classes, programs, and exhibitions for adults and children. A few distilleries and wineries offer tours. Outdoor recreation: Bike the length of Kent Island on 28 miles of bike trails, Blue Heron Golf Course. Liberty Mountain Resort is the closest ski hill (96 miles)
Boating highlights: Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, and the watershed has more than 100,000 tributaries, making it an extraordinary cruising ground with myriad nearby boating destinations. A cluster of marinas, yacht clubs, and boatyards in Kent Narrows offer a range of marine services alongside scenic waterfront dining. Boat ramps can be found all over the island and locals enjoy excellent crabbing and fishing. Seasonal slips run $5,000/30 feet to $12,000/70 feet. This is a TowBoatUS port; member discounts available. Boating season is April to October.

Tip

Read "10 Great Boating Towns to Retire, Play, and Thrive" to see which towns made our previous top boating towns lists.

What's it like to live here?

Stevensville sits on Kent Island on the northeastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, directly across the water from Annapolis. With Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Bay, and the Chester River close at hand, Stevensville is an ideal place to live and go boating. Chesapeake Bay's more than 11,684 miles of shoreline provides a wide range of boating destinations from the big bustling port of Baltimore (Patapsco River) and medium-size sailing town Annapolis (Severn River) to many small shoreside communities like St. Michaels (Miles River), Chestertown (Chester River), and Havre de Grace (Susquehanna River). There are scores of tributaries to explore and endless opportunities for gunkholing, picnics, watersports, and fishing.

Stevensville, great for retirees and young professionals, is at the east end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, making it possible to work (or play) in Washington, D.C., while living on the more laid-back Eastern Shore.

Author

Fiona McGlynn and Tim Murphy

Contributors, BoatUS Magazine

BoatUS Magazine contributing editor Fiona McGlynn and her husband sailed their 35-footer trans-Pacific for two years. Now living north of 59, she’s part of their local search and rescue team and edits WaterborneMag.com, a millennial boating website. BoatUS Magazine contributing editor Tim Murphy is a Cruising World Boat of the Year judge and co-author of "Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology" (ABYC, 2012). He sails Billy Pilgrim, a 1988 Passport 40, on the U.S. East Coast, with plans to travel still further east.