What makes a good marina? Like boats themselves, different marinas have different characteristics – and they can be much more than just a place to park your boat. Choosing the marina that is best for you and your boat is a matter of personal preferences. Different marinas offer different service levels, amenities, and convenience. And, of course, different levels of pricing. So, how will you pick? Keep these five critical considerations in mind:
- The type of boat storage available
- Convenience and safety of the location both by land and sea
- Additional amenities and services
- Management and community
Type of Storage Available
A marina might offer different types of boat storage including wet slips, slips with boat lifts, “dry stack” storage, and storage on land. Which is right for you depends on the type of boat you own and how you like to use it (find out which are best for you by checking out). Of course, not all marinas offer all these options. Some are limited to wet slips, others may have on-land storage only, and so on. So your first step is to make sure that a marina you are considering has the type of boat storage that you want.
Location is a huge consideration. Drive time is one factor to consider—how much time do you want to spend getting to and from your boat? The geographic location of a marina is another—after all, it’s the launching point for your boating adventures. Look into where you can go and what can you do on the water once you leave the marina. For example, if you enjoy saltwater fishing on an open bay, a marinas that’s located far up a tributary may require a long cruises to get to the fishing grounds. If you enjoy water skiing, on the other hand, keeping your boat in a marina located on a large, open, wind-swept bay doesn’t make much sense.
When it comes to marina location, convenience is only one part of the equation. The safety of your boat is also an important variable. How secure is the facility? Ask about overnight protection, procedures for access and emergency response. You’ll want to consider protection from natural hazards, such as how sheltered the marina is from large waves, the presence of sturdy breakwaters, the size of the water body the marina is located on, and whether there are speed restrictions to protect the marina from big boat wakes. There are other unique factors to take into consideration. We’ve seen marinas located just a bit too close to a golf course (smashed windows were a regular occurrence), and we’ve seen others located too close to a bridge with heavy commercial traffic (when the wind blew in a certain direction the boats were covered with diesel exhaust soot). Before settling on a marina, it’s always a good idea to ask around the docks about any unusual issues that may arise.
Additional Amenities and Services
The list of amenities a marina might offer is virtually endless: pools, restaurants, fuel docks, ship’s stores, bait and tackle shops, ice delivery to your slip WIFI access and more. Access to on shore facilities like these can really level up your boating experiences.
Naturally, the more amenities a marina has, the more it’s likely to cost to keep your boat there. And those with the most extensive amenities are likely to be yacht clubs, which commonly charge a membership fee on top of slip or storage expenses. The level of amenities you want or need is an entirely personal decision—but they can have a big impact on how happy you and your crew will be with your decision in the long run.
One critical amenity to consider is mechanical services. If you’re not the DIY type and you don’t plan on getting your hands dirty doing regular maintenance chores or engine repairs, obviously, you’ll want to make sure the marina you choose offers these sorts of services.
Marina Management and Community
Good management can make a world of difference in your marina experience. Whether it’s a quick and efficient response when you need help, or merely encountering a friendly face at the fuel dock, chat with people at the marina to get a handle on how helpful, responsive, and pleasant the management and employees are. Similarly, a huge part of enjoying the boating lifestyle is spending time with friendly fellow boaters. Is it a fun place to hang out? Get to know a few of the marina customers and make sure you feel like the community is one you’ll fit in with.
Naturally, cost will come into your calculations. Marinas with the most amenities and desirable locations will cost more than those that have few amenities or are off the beaten path. However, there are plenty of marinas out there with management so good you’ll be happy to forego the restaurant and pool. And there are some others with such a good price-point that you won’t think twice about driving an extra five or 10 minutes to get to your boat.
The fact of the matter is that there’s an ideal marina out there for every boater— the goal is finding one that’s ideal for you and your family. Consider all five of these critical components, however, and you’re likely to make a decision that enhances your boating lifestyle.