The ICW is 1,090 miles of toll-free canal, stretching between Norfolk, Viriginia, and Miami, Florida. In reality, most of it was created by linking streams, bays, creeks, and sounds, so most of the Waterway has a very natural, unspoiled feel. To find out a lot more about the Waterway, check out our Intracoastal Waterway Chartbook: Norfolk to Miami.
There are great contrasts along the way: the busy shipping ports of Charleston and Norfolk, the total isolation of salt marsh anchorages in Georgia, condo canyons in south Florida, and Spanish moss-lined streets in Beaufort, South Carolina. We love it all.
Some of the highlights for us include the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, NC, the wild horses on the beach at Beaufort, the old market in Charleston, the peaceful park and streets of Beaufort, SC, the quiet anchorages up winding creeks in Georgia, the amazing Cumberland Island National Seashore, crashing surf on the ocean side of the Peck Lake anchorage north of Jupiter, FL, and searching for alligators along the banks of the Okeechobee Waterway (off the main ICW route).
Some years, we've had warm weather all the way south and we sweltered. Other years we were wearing ski hats and scraping frost in North Carolina. The 2005 trip was middle of the road in terms of weather--we had a little bit of everything. Maybe its our pilot house on Minke, our Finnsailer 38, but the weather didn't bother us, and we were very comfortable most of the way south. Also, Minke, with her powerful engine, can smash her way through almost anything the ICW can throw at us, so we never lost a day due to weather.
We were soon dropping the hook at St. Augustine, in northern Florida, and we lucked into the lighting of the town's Christmas lights, which is dramatic. We later watched the Christmas boat parade at Palm Beach, and the tiny, but equally fun, boat parade at LaBelle, on the Okeechobee Waterway. We tied up Minke behind a private home off the Okeechobee and left her for an extended visit back to Saratoga for Christmas.