Explore the Hidden Gems of the ICW this Spring

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) stretches over 3,000 miles along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, offering a unique and scenic route for boaters, sailors, and adventure seekers alike. 

While famous destinations like Miami, Charleston, and Key West often steal the spotlight, there’s a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered along this maritime highway. Let’s embark on a journey to explore some of the lesser-known destinations along the ICW that offer unforgettable experiences and picturesque landscapes for transient voyagers.

Cape Charles, Virginia: Where Southern Charm Meets a Coastal Escape

Nestled along the scenic shores of Virginia’s Eastern coast, Cape Charles beckons travelers with its timeless charm and laid-back coastal vibe. This quaint waterfront town makes you feel as though you’ve been transported through time, with pristine beaches, historic architecture, and a vibrant community spirit that’s infectious.

Take a stroll down Cape Charles’ charming streets that are lined with colorful Victorian homes, or spend some time browsing unique boutiques and art galleries. Feeling a bit hungry? There are plenty of incredible waterfront restaurants to choose from, with the freshest seafood you can find. 

If you’re looking for a chance to enjoy the sunshine while still getting some activity in, Cape Charles is the place to do just that! Take part in different recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating, kayaking, or golfing, or check out nearby Kiptopeke State Park to get a hike in around the Chesapeake Bay. 

Regardless of whether you are looking for a relaxing coastal getaway or an outdoor adventure, Cape Charles helps you meet your goal in more ways than one. It has all the makings of the perfect transient destination. See why this particular hidden oasis is a favorite among those seeking an authentic coastal experience right along the Intracoastal Waterway. 

Bald Head Island, North Carolina: Home to Serenity & Exploration

Welcome to Bald Head Island, where time seems to slow down and nature takes its rightful place, center stage. Tucked away on the southern coast of North Carolina, this secluded barrier island is a haven for anyone looking for peace, quiet, and a little dose of adventure thrown in there.

Accessible only by ferry, the island boasts a variety of natural beaches, lush maritime forests, and breathtaking vistas around every corner. The best part is that you are forced to leave the car behind and instead explore the island’s 14 miles of winding pathways by foot, bike, or golf cart. The island’s peaceful atmosphere invites you to unwind and reconnect with the natural world.

Whether you prefer to spend the day kayaking through salt marsh creeks or casting a line out to see what’s biting, outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will find something to occupy their time on Bald Head Island. 

For history buffs, a visit to the Old Baldy Lighthouse is a must. Dating back to 1817, this iconic landmark offers panoramic views of the island and the surrounding waters, offering a glimpse into Bald Head Island’s rich maritime heritage.

Just because you’re on an island with no cars, it doesn’t mean the dining scene has to suffer. Whether you’re craving fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant or a casual meal at a charming cafe, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your appetite.

Need a place to rest on your voyage up or down the ICW? Shoot across the Cape Fear River to Morningstar Marinas’ Southport location to rest your head for the night — or stay as long as you’d like and explore historic Southport while you’re in this neck of the woods! 

Jekyll Island, Georgia: A Historical Beauty to Behold

Rumored to be Georgia’s best-kept secret, Jekyll Island is a true paradise. Nestled along the stunning coastline of Georgia’s Golden Isles, Jekyll Island is an accessible and tranquil retreat for more than just the Rockefellers and Vanderbilt families these days. 

Explore the island’s fascinating history at sites like the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District, where you can step back in time and imagine life as a Gilded Age elite.

But it’s not just history that draws visitors to Jekyll Island – it’s also the infinite natural beauty that surrounds you at every turn. Spend your days lounging on miles of unspoiled beaches or biking along scenic trails shaded by ancient oaks draped in Spanish moss. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the island’s famous inhabitants: playful dolphins and majestic sea turtles.

Sound too good to be true? This rare find has it all. 

St. Augustine, Florida: America’s Oldest City

Known as the “Ancient City,” St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States — and it’s no surprise as to why. 

Boasting a captivating blend of Spanish colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and centuries-old landmarks, visitors can explore the imposing Castillo de San Marcos, stroll down St. George Street lined with charming shops and cafes, or take a scenic cruise along the Matanzas Bay for panoramic views of the city’s skyline.

It’s a vibrant destination for art and culture, ripe with world-class museums, live music venues, and art galleries showcasing the talents of local artists. And yet it’s also a playground for nature enthusiasts, offering an abundance of outdoor activities such as kayaking through tranquil waterways to birdwatching in pristine marshlands. And with miles of sandy beaches just a short drive away, there are plenty of opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

When hunger strikes, St. Augustine’s culinary scene delights with a diverse array of dining options, from seafood shacks serving up fresh catches to upscale eateries showcasing innovative cuisine. And with a thriving craft beer scene and plenty of outdoor dining options, there’s no shortage of ways to satisfy your appetite in America’s oldest city.

So whether you’re a history buff, an art aficionado, or simply in search of a charming coastal getaway, St. Augustine invites you to experience the magic of Florida’s historic coast. Come discover why this enchanting city has been captivating visitors for over 450 years.

While the Intracoastal Waterway may be dotted with well-known destinations, it’s the lesser-known gems that truly capture the essence of coastal living and maritime adventure. From historic towns steeped in Southern charm to pristine wilderness retreats teeming with natural beauty, these hidden treasures along the ICW offer a glimpse into a world waiting to be explored. So, pack your bags, chart your course, and set sail on an unforgettable journey to discover the rare gems of the Intracoastal Waterway. 

Stop by Morningstar Marinas 

At Morningstar Marinas, we pride ourselves on the community of boaters we’ve created across the Southeast’s top boating destinations. Our facilities and services paired with our friendly and knowledgeable team members will help you quickly and efficiently get out there on the water, so you can start having fun! Morningstar Marinas is more than just a place to store your boat — we’re here to offer you an unforgettable boating experience, every time.

Got more great ideas for hidden gem destinations up and down the ICW? Send them our way or tag us in your latest adventures @morningstar_marinas on Instagram.