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The largest and at most famous estuary in the United States, Chesapeake Bay (or “the Chesapeake”) is truly an extraordinary place. Stretching across six states and the District of Columbia, the Bay watershed never ceases to amaze with its rich history, vital economic importance, and astounding beauty. And the wonders of sailing the Chesapeake Bay could fill a lifetime.

The history, natural beauty and wonderful ecosystem combine to present visitors with endless possibilities, and there’s a new adventure around every corner. However if you only have a limited amount of time to explore, it’s best to get an understanding of what there is on offer before your trip.

The following are a couple of tips for planning your sailing adventure on the bay.

How to Stay (Find Airbnbs & Hotels)

Here is an interactive map of hotels and airbnbs you can book in the Chesapeake area.

Be Realistic

If you try to see everything, it’s likely that you’ll miss a lot. Considering the scale of Chesapeake Bay, you will have to be realistic. It is not somewhere to speed around trying to encompass it all in one visit.

Do it right, and you will enjoy the experience so much more and thereafter, who knows, you may return to continue the adventure.

Sailing CC Royalty free

Remember the Definition of Cruising

To sail about for pleasure in an unhurried or unconcerned fashion, to move leisurely about an area. Let the Bay dictate your pace, stimulate your interest, suggest stops and places to see.

Be flexible in your approach, do plan, but don’t think that the plans cannot be altered once you arrive.

Best Time

Summers are hot and humid, whereas Spring and Autumn are long, and much more comfortable. Even being on the Bay cannot always provide sufficient respite from the still humidity of the summer months, so be warned.

How to Travel

Cruising can take two forms. You can charter a vessel either bareboat or crewed.

Bareboat – You take charge of the boat yourself and provide the crew, and if you are a competent sailor, then this may heighten the excitement, but it is also less of a vacation and more of an adventure. Don’t forget also the issue of stopovers, are you mooring, docking, or anchoring the boat!

Crewed – the cruiser is manned with a captain and crew, and you can sit back and enjoy the trip and all the sights without having to worry about any of the mundane logistics and duties.

Sailing people in the water royalty free

Itinerary Suggestions

There is simply so much, in a sense too much, to see, so it may be a good starting point to pick a more defined area of the Bay and concentrate on that.

Though you’re looking for variety then sailing the Chesapeake area is a natural cruising route for discovery, made for simply hopscotching from one shore to the next, with things to see, visit, experience, taste and indulge all of your senses at once.

Commonly visited areas include Havre de Grace via the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal built in 1829. Many people choose to visit the inner harbour of Baltimore travelling along the Sassafras River with its steep banks and from there to Rock Hall, a sailors town famed for its seafood; travel from St Michaels to Annapolis, known as the sailing capital of the World; onward to Oxford on the Trent Avon, a sleepy, quaint and picturesque town, or finally on to Washington DC should the mood take you.

You will find yourself with so many options and avenues of adventure, so many that a sense of spontaneity should be a prerequisite. Whilst you slowly absorb the sights, sounds and scenery as you are cruising, you can smile to yourself and be proud that you chose to sail the Chesapeake Bay.


Sailing Dry Bag

Dry Bag – 20L Floating Waterproof Bag

The Complete Sailing Manual, Third Edition

Hat Leash Hat Clip – Don’t Lose Your Hat!


Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.


  1. Great post, loved the pics! I’ll definitely try to go to Chesapeake!, I’m the kind of person who don’t want to miss anything but I’ll follow your advice “If you try to see everything, it’s likely that you’ll miss a lot.” and as you said, maybe I could return a second time and try to see everything. Thanks for the info!

    • Thanks Pilar! So glad you enjoyed the post :) Yes, definitely recommend to pick a more defined area of the Bay and concentrate on that if it’s your first time visiting – there really is just so much to see and do that it’s better to do a little and enjoy it fully than try to slam out a lot and enjoy it half as much.

      Hope you have an amazing time!

  2. At university I had a friend who was always talking about the wonders of Chesapeake Bay and she made it sound like something I really should do. Many years later, I still haven’t, but your post has reminded me how wonderful it sounded.

    • So glad we could remind you Sarah! Yes, highly recommend a trip – it’s a beautiful bay with so much to see and do :)

  3. Great tips! You’re so right about the weather. I live in DC and the summers are unbearable. Sailing in the fall is the best time. Annapolis is my favorite place on the bay.

    • Thanks Jessica :) Awesome to hear you’re already familiar with sailing on the Bay :)

  4. I will go for the bareboat one where you have total control. Loved the suggestions and nice pics.

    • Awesome Gokul! Glad to hear we’ve inspired you to take a trip :) Let us know how you enjoy the Chesapeake

  5. Really good tips. Would love to do this. I would love to lay out and let someone man the boat.

    • Thanks Holly – yes, jumping on a crewed boat is great if you’re looking to enjoy the trip and all the sights without having to worry about any of the mundane logistics and duties :)

      Happy travels!

  6. This is my home! I was so excited to see my beautiful corner of the world featured!

    • What an incredible place to grow up! Not bad having Chesapeake Bay as your backyard :) Awesome!

  7. Hey Megan,
    I once got invited on a boat but the trip never ended up going through as the boat needed tons of work and couldn’t get out of the port. This sounds amazing. I’d prefer warm waters in the Caribbean but I imagine seeing this side of the US would be gorgeous as well. Thanks for the post.

    • Hi Jack, thanks for your comment :) Sorry to hear your boat didn’t end up going out on Chesapeake – totally agree that the Caribbean is an incredible spot for sailing too. Very different experience to the Bay but they both make for great sailing :)

      Happy travels!

  8. Dear Sir, May 22nd, 2018
    I have a 27 ft Bayliner sailboat and I would like to sail from Norfolk to Annapolis and back. I have never done this before but it is something that I really want to try. My daughter lives near Annapolis and is close to the water (West River). I feel that I need some bay sailing but I do know how to sail on lakes (Smith Mountain Lake in VA). I am retired and am a good swimmer. I have no idea as to where one would stop for the night and how long it would take and how safe it is to do this. These are my questions and I would like to talk to your group about lessons and feasibility.

    Thanks in advance for your time.

    Tim Kute

    • Hi Tim, thanks for reaching out. We’re a couple who run a personal blog with tips from our adventures, so unfortunately can’t advise you on things like organizing lessons or your level of experience. I would pose your questions to the team at Annapolis Bay Charters who may be able to offer you more insight. Hope they can help :)

  9. Hi,
    Sailing is a life fun for those who live for sail like me.I really like the Sailing tips you share with those who live for sail. its help the new sailors in sailing and boost the moral of the experienced sailors. i appreciate your efforts. One thing i like to add is that don’t forget to protect your hands during sailing with premium quality sailing Gloves.

    • Glad to hear from a fellow sailor! Great tip on remembering to include gloves in your kit :)

  10. Thanks for this. We are thinking of sailing down from Boston to Chesapeake via canal. We have 6-week sabbatical so plenty of time. We would like to avoid the worst of the summer heat/humidity, what would be best time to go in your opinion?

    Also, I’ve heard that there are a lot of shallow spots in the bay, we draw 6′, any specific areas to avoid?

    Sea Fever

    • Hi David :)

      Re best time to head out, I would say anytime from April until June, after that and once it hits July it gets really humid so I would avoid at all costs.

      For good anchorage spots and plannig out your trip, check out the Gunkholers guide to the Chesapeake, it’s a cruise planner with suggested itineraries but also has charts and waypoints for anchorages and key locations. It’s always very up to date too :)

      Have an amazing trip!

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