CHICAGO – According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the financial benefit of recreational boating in the U.S. topped $121 billion in 2012 and is now a regular pastime for more than 88 million Americans. Here are the top boating states, ranked by total economic value in 2012, including popular destinations for on-water getaways from DiscoverBoating.com:
- Florida ($10.3 billion)
Hot Spot: Palm Beach – The Palm Beach area offers boaters endless opportunities to explore South Florida from cruising the Intracoastal Waterway and breezing across the Florida Everglades to heading through an inlet for watersports on the Atlantic. Visitors can rent a vessel or charter a boat easily through the numerous local marinas.
- California ($8.9 billion)
Hot Spot: Carlsbad – Just 30 minutes north of San Diego lies Carlsbad, where the expansive beaches and warm climate provide the perfect setting for a boating getaway. Much like a small lake, boating in Carlsbad offers calm waters perfect for waterskiing in the beautiful lagoon. The area offers easy rental options for everything from wakeboarding boats to personal watercraft.
- Michigan ($7.4 billion)
Hot Spot: Harbor Springs – In a sheltered area on the northern shore of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan is the resort community of Harbor Springs. Boaters flock here in the summer for the clear water and picturesque views, specifically around the Fourth of July, to catch the bay’s famous fireworks display from the water.
- Texas ($5.9 billion)
Hot Spot: Austin – Lake Austin, part of the seven Highland Lakes that stretch 85 miles northwest of the city, is regarded as a top outdoor destination in the area. The reservoir is formed by a dam on the Colorado River and beyond its recreational boating popularity with ideal conditions for watersports, it also attracts area anglers with its variety of fish, including large-mouth bass.
- New York ($5.7 billion)
Hot Spot: Lake George – Just a three-hour drive from Manhattan, it’s an easy trip with scenic views of the Adirondack Mountains. Thomas Jefferson described Lake George in 1791 as the most beautiful water he had ever seen. It’s a boater’s paradise and convenient for dock-and-dine options, with many lakeside restaurants offering boat slips for their patrons.
- Minnesota ($5.4 billion)
Hot Spot: Otter Tail County – In the land of 10,000 lakes, Otter Tail County contains 1,048 of them— the most within a single county in the U.S. Just two hours from Minneapolis/St. Paul, the area provides optimal conditions for fishing, swimming, sailing, waterskiing and simply relaxing on the water.
- Wisconsin ($4.7 billion)
Hot Spot: Fish Creek – Where Green Bay meets Lake Michigan lies Wisconsin’s 75-mile Door County peninsula. With 250 miles of shoreline, 40 near-shore islands, 10 historic lighthouses, and five state parks (most with boat ramps), Fish Creek offers boaters an array of sightseeing opportunities. Local marinas have easy rental options and scenic charters, raft and boat tours.
- North Carolina ($4.1 billion)
Hot Spot: Morehead City – The coast of North Carolina draws boaters from around the world for its treasure trove of diving and big game fishing. Morehead City in the Outer Banks gives visitors access to beautifully clean, clear ocean water. The area’s warm Gulf Stream waters give anglers access to a plethora of seasonal fish.
- Illinois ($3.9 billion)
Hot Spot: Chicago –Along Chicago’s 14-mile lakeshore more than 5,000 boats dock across the city’s 10 harbors, which make up the nation’s largest municipal harbor system. Chicago boaters flock to the “Playpen,” a well-known boating locale offering city views and calm waters to drop anchor. It’s easy to climb aboard with rental, charter and leasing options, educational river tours, sunset cruises and more.
- South Carolina ($3.7 billion)
Hot Spot: Hilton Head – A sunset view from the water in Hilton Head is not to be missed. The area attracts s more than 2.5 million visitors each year to its Gulf stream-warmed waters and mild weather. Watersports, fishing, cruising and sailing are all popular pastimes in this coastal community.