In Search of the Perfect Marina

perfect marina 400

What to look for and ask about as you plan your vacation times


You’ve invested thousands and thousands of dollars into your boat so naturally, you want to find just the right spot for her to live, and where you can enjoy her to the maximum. Marinas and yacht clubs are just like people, no two are completely alike and finding the one that’s perfect for you, may make you feel a little like Cinderella – searching for the shoe that fits just right.

It’s okay to take your time on this search because the marina you choose is arguably as important a decision as the one to buy your boat.

To complicate your quest, the ‘perfect fit’ will be different for every boater, depending on your style of boating (ie: weekender or liveaboard), type of boat (ie: sail or power boat), and other needs specific to the situation and personality.

Don’t worry, we’ve done the legwork for you and consulted the experts on what makes the perfect marina. Read on to learn more about how to find the ideal home for your boat.

Marina storage racks 400Yacht Club or Marina?

So, you’ve either bought a new boat or you are looking for a home for your current one…one of the first decisions you need to make is whether you are looking for a marina or a yacht club, and the two are interconnected. In general, a yacht club is a private club that (usually but not always) has marina facilities and a marina is a place where you can park your boat, but there are many variations between the two.

Sturdy, well-constructed storage racks will protect your boat during winter.

If you’re looking for a community of like-minded people that you can gather with for frequent events and activities, maybe you are looking for a yacht club. If you’re just looking for a place to park your boat when you’re not using it, then a marina with limited services might be more suitable. If you want a resort-like feel, a marina with all the bells and whistles could be perfect for you.

There is no right answer to this question so it’s important to keep your options open until you get a feel for what you are looking for.

marina resort like features 400Location, Location, Location

In a way, settling on a marina is just like buying real estate; location is one of the biggest factors in your decision. When embarking on your search you will want to consider how far you are willing to drive to get to your boat and get out on the water, or even just to check on it if needed.

Some marinas offer resort-like facilities with indoor or outdoor dining, swimming pools, playground equipment, and more.

Unlike with real estate, you will also need to consider location in terms of what body of water your boat will be on and where it can take you. Many lakes and rivers are connected and some may be able to get you all the way to the ocean.

If you have a sailboat, you will also want to check out any bridges that could limit your navigation routes. If you have a deeper draft and are looking at a river or canal location, that will also impact which locations you can consider.

The type of boating you will be doing is important for this question. If you will be essentially living on your boat and using a marina as a place to restock and refuel, you may want to choose an urban marina where you can stretch your legs and access spots to resupply.  

marina safe shelter 400Protecting Your Baby

You’ve invested a lot of time and money into your boat, so protecting this asset is important. At Maple Leaf Marinas, vice-president of sales Steve Tait explained that in his experience, many boaters are simply looking for a safe, secure and friendly spot for their boat.

A marina will provide safe shelter for your boat when you are not there to check on it. A covered spot to park is as valuable for a boat as it is for your car.

Maple Leaf Marinas shelters and protects boats of high value at their marinas. Tait said that at some locations, marina managers live on the property to keep a close watch on boaters’ investments. Being on-site ensures boats are carefully and safely tucked into their slip and protected from the elements.

“When the floating investment you use to get to your cottage is in the water at the marina, it’s paramount that your boat is taken care of and watched daily, so you are able to access your island property without interruption,” Tait said.

Questions to ask staff at a marina include asking if it has wave attenuation equipment (if applicable) and what kind of other weather or water conditions can impact the conditions at your slip. You should also consider the layout of the marina and where your slip will be. You want to ensure your slip is protected from weather conditions, including waves from other boats or wind.

Facilities and Security

Most marinas offer similar types of services, such as washroom facilities, showers, laundry, and more, but there are other facilities you may want depending on how you intend to use the marina.

Will you be using it as a home away from home or a place to vacation? Will you be able to have your mail delivered to the marina, do they have fuel available on-site and do they offer maintenance services? These are all important things to consider when making your choice.

Every marina will offer different facilities and “perks”. Some may have a resort-like feel, complete with playgrounds for children, a swimming pool or other family-oriented facilities, while others will be bare-bones for the boater that just wants to get in his boat and go.

“For the most part, it’s up to that individual and what they’re looking for. Some people just need the bare bones, some just need a slip and a place to park the boat while others are looking for more of a social aspect…that’s the thing about boating, it fits a lot of different lifestyles,” said Steve Goddard, regional manager from Maple Leaf Marinas.

Marina on site restaurant 400Feeling the Vibe

You wouldn’t think the vibe of a marina is a big deal, but odds are you will be spending plenty of time at the marina, and that vibe can be the difference between feeling at home and feeling like you don’t fit.

At the end of the day (or weekend) on the water, you’ll value a marina with an on-site restaurant to grab a bite to eat.

Sean Horsfall has been general manager for Len’s Cove Marina for more than 20 years and he said the vibe is important when making your choice. At Len’s Cove, the marina runs several events each year, and he described the vibe as social.

“The vibe here is more social, versus boating for the sake of getting out on the water,” Horsfall explained. “We have a lot of customers who never leave the dock, it’s more a feeling of home…it’s a more relaxed setting.”

Get Your Boots on the Ground

Would you buy a house without having seen it first? Your marina of choice can be a real investment so seeing what you will be investing in is highly important. Take the time to visit the marina or yacht club and get a tour, and even get on a boat and check out the approach and see what the navigation is like.

Moe Elnewishy, general manager from Maple Leaf Marinas, oversees more than one marina and noted there is a very different vibe at each marina, which is why it’s important to visit each one before making your decision.

“Seeing the marina is part of the experience, we advise our boaters to visit and see the different marinas and tour them, to see its facilities and what it will offer, it’s part of the experience.”

Horsfall agrees. “You should never book a marina without putting your boots on the ground. Until you’ve walked the docks, seen the washrooms and talked to people, you don’t really know if you fit. There are a lot of marinas that really look great in images, but if you don’t feel comfortable and at home then it’s not the right fit.”

marina sunny day 400Before Reaching Out

Before contacting a marina or yacht club, make sure you have the basic information available about your boat, including length, draft and beam measurements. If there is something particular about the way your boat navigates that could impact what slip you can use, relay that to staff.

Don’t rush your decision-making process or feel shy about asking questions; you are embarking on a relationship with the marina that is worth a little extra time and effort on your part – and on theirs.

Questions to Ask

  • Do you have any seasonal activities?
  • Do you have pump-out facilities?
  • Do you have on-site fuel pumping?
  • Do you offer maintenance services?
  • Can I work on my boat on the yard, if necessary?
  • What are the fees for put-in and take-out?
  • Do you offer indoor storage?
  • What kind of insurance do you require from boaters?
  • What kind of insurance does the marina have?
  • What size of a team do you have to take care of boater’s needs?

Get a head-start

If you are looking in Ontario, you can get a head-start by checking out the Ports Cruising Guides that list many of the most popular boating areas in that province and the marinas, facilities, towns and communities where they are located. Visit

Good luck with the search!

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