This stretch of our yearlong cruise up the Intracoastal Waterway connecting Key West to Norfolk is pure Carolina gold. Set sail from Myrtle Beach and prepare for a journey of discovery into North Carolina. You'll explore the historic (and tiny!) fishing villages, roam windswept preserves, enjoy hearty bowls of chowder, fall in love with wooden boats, and do your part to help save sea turtles.

By Jani Parker
August 08, 2017
Photo: Courtesy of Barefoot Landing

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 354 | Myrtle Beach: A New View

You may know the beaches, but the ICW offers a different world. Barefoot Landing has a 27-acre lake (with turtles and alligators), more than a dozen restaurants, and 50-plus shops. Hit up the House of Blues for Voodoo Shrimp, and Flying Fish Public Market & Grill for sushi. TIE UP: Barefoot Landing Marina has a day dockage fee of $10.

Photo: Courtesy of NC's Brunswick Islands

Mile 342 | Calabash: Seafood Pilgrimage

This tiny fishing village calls itself the "Seafood Capital of the World" due to its Calabash-style seafood, famous up and down the Carolina coast. The secret is quick-frying fresh catch coated in a light cornmeal batter. Check it out at Beck's and at Calabash Seafood Hut.

Photo: Canva Pty Ltd/Alamy

Mile 309 (+ 2.8 Nautical Miles East) | Bald Head Island: Nature Break

Explore the wild environs of this gorgeous island by golf cart, bike, or your own two feet. (No cars allowed.) Stop in at Maritime Market for wine and beer tastings, and pick up fresh seafood to grill on the boat. TIE UP: Dockage at Bald Head Island Marina starts at $1.50 per foot per day.

Photo: Christopher Shane

Mile 309 | Southport: Wooden-Boat Fever

Just across the Cape Fear River, the charming town of Southport hosts an annual Wooden Boat Show (September 30 this year). Check out displays and demonstrations, and get your happy fill of delicious local chowder.

Photo: Raleigh News & Observer/Getty Images

Mile 261 | Topsail Island: Turtle Love

Explore this barrier island and a cause close to every sailor's heart—sea turtle protection—at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center. Take a tour, see the in-house patients, and "adopt" your own creature. TIE UP: Dockage at Topsail Island Marina starts at $1.50 per foot per day.


To order guidebooks and begin planning your boating adventures, visit


Wilmington Yacht Charters offers overnight trips to Bald Head Island and other locales aboard Sanjema II, a 63-foot Hatteras yacht with decks that are perfect for taking in views of the Cape Fear River.

RELATED: You Can Rent This Houseboat in Charleston, South Carolina:


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2 Months Between Hurricanes Hitting Topsail Island in 1996