The final leg of our journey (in collaboration with Waterway Guide Media) from Key West up the Intracoastal Waterway heads for port in Norfolk, Virginia—the terminus of this remarkable blue highway. For the final stretch, get a taste of North Carolina's Outer Banks, discover charming port towns, scout for wildlife, reach back into history, and celebrate your arrival with Virginia's heralded bounty: oysters.

By Jani Parker
August 08, 2017
Michael DeFreitas/Robert Harding/Getty Images

All year, we're collaborating with Waterway Guide Media to bring you the best segments of the 1,243-mile-long Intracoastal Waterway on a journey from Key West, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of the (watery) trail. This month: enjoying the pleasures of towns large and small along the Atlantic coast. See previous parts of the trip:

Mile 75 (+ 18 Nautical Miles East) | Manteo: Beer-Batter Up

This Outer Banks enclave is well worth the side trip, starting with fish-and-chips at Lost Colony Brewery and Café. Take a taxi across the bridge for a stroll on the beach, which is largely empty (perfect!) this time of year. TIE UP: Dockage at Manteo Waterfront Marina starts at $1.40 per foot per day.

Christina Forbes

Mile 51 | Elizabeth City: Harbor of Hospitality

Time your arrival for the month's first Friday, for the First Friday ArtWalk. Make a sweet caffeine run at Muddy Waters Coffee House, where you (and any four-legged crew) will be welcome, and the pastries are made from scratch. TIE UP: Mariners' Wharf is friendly and free for up to 48 hours.

Courtesy of Camden County TDA/Byrd's Eye Photography

Mile 28 | Dismal Swamp Canal: Watch the Wildlife

The Dismal Swamp Canal, which opened in 1805, has a fascinating history involving the Civil War and the Underground Railroad. Now, though, the point here is wildlife: bears, bobcats, and river otters. TIE UP: The Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center offers free dockage.

John Greim/Lightrocket/Getty Images

Mile 0.4 | Portsmouth: History Lesson

Saunter from the waterfront of this naval seaport into the Olde Towne Historic District, and then take in dinner and a movie at the Art Deco–style Commodore Theatre, which originally opened its doors in 1945.

Courtesy of Waterside District

Mile 0 | Norfolk: Home Port

It's brisk in this harbor in November, but the eateries at the newly renovated The Market in Norfolk's Waterside District offer warm welcome. Feast at Rappahannock Oyster Co., and toast your journey. TIE UP: Rates at Waterside Marina start at $1.50 per foot per day.

READY TO SET SAIL? To order guidebooks and begin planning your boating adventures, visit

NO BOAT (YET)? SailTime's six-day "Cruise to Learn" beginner-to-bareboat certification course is a great way to learn the ropes and see the sights, and no prior experience is required. You'll spend two days on a 22-foot sailboat, and then move aboard a 36-foot sailboat for the rest of the course.

WATCH: Perfect Weekend in the Outer Banks, North Carolina:


93 Miles sailed
20k+ Weddings on the Outer Banks every yera
1 Rose given to each Mariners' Wharf visitor at weekly "Rose Buddy" receptions
224 Years since construction began on Dismal Swamp Canal
1,243 Total miles sailed from Key West to Norfolk