Amuse the Crew

Cruise to these coastal amusement parks for memories the whole family will cherish.

Summer in the South is filled with hot, sunny days, making water and sweet tea key ingredients for cool family plans. And the more, the better! Lucky for me, my dad’s dad instilled a fervent love of boating in our family, and we have many memories of summers spent together on the water. When we weren’t on the boat we’d pack up the car and head to amusement parks. Turkey legs, cotton candy, roller coasters, and favorite movie characters parading down the streets at theme parks beckon the young—or simply the young at heart.

Lucky for boat-loving, adventure-seeking, family-oriented folk, many amusement and water parks have coastal locations, which make for dynamic family cruising destinations. From north to south, set your course this summer toward these amusing parks and ports for a fun, unique vacation your entire family will never forget—or outgrow.

Palace Playland Boardwalk Beachfront Amusement Park on the sandy shores of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, hails as New England’s only beachfront amusement park. Kiddie rides for your younger passengers, family-friendly water rides, and adrenaline-junkie drops and roller coasters suit cruisers of all ages. Passengers who opt out of rides will enjoy the old-fashioned carousel or the 24,000-square-foot arcade filled with classic games. palaceplayland.com

Marston’s Marina- 4.2 miles; (207) 283-3727; marstonsmarina.com

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Luna Park on Coney Island, New York, offers mild, moderate, high, and extreme thrill levels, so everyone on board will find their favorite. Luna Park is only four years old this May with a state-of-the-art facility that delights thousands of guests who visit the historic location each year. Luna Park is an ideal stop for cruisers who want to catch a cab, ride bikes or take a stroll as they cruise the northeast. lunaparknyc.com

Marine Basin Marina- 1.3 miles; (718) 372-5700; marinebasinmarina.com
Venice Marina- 2.7 miles; (718) 646-9283; shopvenicemarina.com
Kings Plaza Marina- 3.8 miles; (718) 344-3551; kingsaplazamarina.com
Sea Travelers Marina- 4.0 miles; (718) 377-0216; seatravelersmarina.com
Gateway Marina- 4.2 miles; (718) 252-8761; gwmarina.com

Rye Playland—a historic Amusement Park in Westchester County, New York, on Long Island Sound—has given cherished memories to families since 1928. One of the only government owned-and-operated amusement parks in the U.S., it welcomed guests after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the area. The park is newly renovated with a kiddie land, family rides, thrill rides, ice casino skating rink, and a private beach and pool. ryeplayland.org

Tide Mill Yacht Basin- 2.1 miles; (914) 967-2995; tidemill.com

Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Waterpark in Wildwood, New Jersey, is the Mecca of coastal boardwalk amusement parks. Five separate piers sit on the beach in a row—Mariner’s Landing Pier, Surfside Pier, Adventure Pier, Raging Waters Waterpark, and Ocean Oasis Waterpark & Beach Club—to offer extreme entertainment and an eclectic mix of family fun. Enjoy the Breakfast in the Sky package with white tablecloths and a gourmet menu aboard the charming ferris wheel. moreyspiers.com

Spray Dock Marina- 1.0 miles; (609) 522-1277; spraydock.com
Bridgeport Marina Family LLC- 1.0 miles; (609) 729-1244; bridgeportfamilymarina.com
Schooner Island Marina- 1.2 miles; (609) 729-8900; schoonerislandmarina.com
South Dock Marina- 1.4 miles; (609) 522-0900; southdocknj.com
Lighthouse Pointe Marina- 1.5 miles; (609) 729-2229; lhpmarina.org
Pier47 Marina- 2.4 miles; (609) 729-4774; pier47.com

Family Kingdom with Splashes Waterpark is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina’s only seaside amusement park, making this famous cruising destination an even better stop for families looking for cool summer plans. Six brand new rides complement old-time favorites such as the Swamp Fox wooden roller coaster, Log Flume and the 110-foot free-fall, Slingshot Drop Zone. For passengers who aren’t as comfortable zooming about, neighboring Splashes Waterpark offers slides, a lazy river and a children’s area. familykingdomfun.com

Hague Marina- 4.1 miles; (843) 293-2141; no website
Marina at Grande Dunes- 6.9 miles; (843) 315-7777; grandedunes.com
Osprey Marina & Grill- 8.7 miles; (843) 215-5353; ospreymarina.com
Marlin Quay Marina- 12 miles; (843) 651-4444; marlinquaymarina.com

Rapids Waterpark in Riviera Beach, Florida, is South Florida’s largest waterpark with 30 action-packed attractions and 35 of the biggest, wettest, most thrilling water rides. Prepare to get drenched on the Rapids Racer, Body Blasters, Alligator Alley, Big Surf wave pool, FlowRider wave simulator, Lazy River, and Tadpool kiddie section. Cabana rentals are available for comfort and relaxation. rapidswaterpark.com

Riviera Beach Marina- 3.4 miles; (561) 842-7806; rivierabeachmarina.com
Loggerhead Marina- 3.6 miles; (561) 840-6868; loggerheadrivierabeach.com
Rybovich Marina- 3.7 miles; (561) 844-1800; rybovich.com
Lake Park Marina- 3.8 miles; (561) 881-3353; lakeparkmarina.com
Palm Harbor Marina- 5.0 miles; (561) 655-4757; palmharbor-marina.com 

Sun-N-Fun Lagoon on Florida’s Gulf Coast in Naples welcomes families with many water attractions geared towards younger cruisers. The Dolphin Dive and Lap Pool allow for older visitors to show off their skills or work in some cardio as youngsters visit the park’s five water slides, Sunny’s River and Turtle Cove. napleswaterpark.com

Boat Clubs America- 5.0 miles; (239) 430-2582; boatclubcamerica.com
Cocohatchee River Marina- 5.0 miles; (239) 513-7919; colliergov.net
Bonita Bay Marina- 7.4 miles; (239) 495-3222; bonitabaymarinaclub.com
Naples Harbour- 8.0 miles; (239) 213-1441; floridamarinaclubs.com
Port-O-Call Marina- 8.8 miles; (239) 774-0479; naples-boatrentals.com

Busch Gardens is a one-of-a-kind, safari-themed amusement park in Tampa, Florida, with a collection of roller coasters that earns the moniker of Florida’s thrill ride leader. World-class shows such as the Iceploration and Madagascar Live, and attractions such as the Serengeti Railway, Bird Gardens and Serengeti Safari give plenty of options to your low-key cruisers. Multiple hands-on, educational experiences allow children and adults to appreciate the exotic African animals as they take a break from the Jungle Flyers, SandSerpent or other high-octane rides. buschgardens.com

Jean Street Shipyard- 3.8 miles; (813) 239-2526; jeanstreetshipyard.com
Ricks on the River- 6.2 miles; (813) 251-0369; ricksontheriver.com
Marjorie Park Marina- 7.8 miles; (813) 259-1604; tampagov.net 

Adventure Island located next to Busch Gardens is a premier 30-acre water park. Ten waterslides include the tandem Aruba Tube and Caribbean Corkscrew; four different pools range from a wave pool to the Paradise Lagoon and a Splash Attack kids zone; and Spike Zone beach volleyball courts are just a handful of attractions that entice cruisers. adventureisland.com

Shipwreck Island in Panama City, Florida, opened its 20-acre location the summer of 1983. It is widely known for its lush landscape, tasty treats and the professional, hospitable staff. The Tadpole Hole with its Pelican Slide and Silly Sub suits smaller guests, while the wave pool, lazy river, racing slides, raging rapids, and lagoon pool with rope swings entertain older cruisers. shipwreckisland.com

Bayside Marina of Panama City Beach, LLC- 4.6 miles; (850) 234-7650; baysidemarinapcb.com
Sun Harbor Marina- 5.5 miles; (850) 785-0551; no website
Capt. Anderson’s Marina- 5.6 miles; (850) 234-3435; captandersonsmarina.com
Treasure Island Marina- 5.7 miles; (850) 234-6533; treasureislandmarina.net
Lighthouse Marina- 5.7 miles; (850) 234-5609; lighthousemarinapcb.com
Pirates Cove Marina- 5.8 miles; (850) 234-3939; piratescovemarinapcb.com

Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City, Florida, just opened their brand-new, expanded location in April with three extra acres of rides and attractions. Nine new rides, a water playground, classic carnival games, and a midway devoted to delectable delicacies will delight everyone who spends a day at this coastal park. ms-pp.com

Waterville U.S.A. is an amusement and water park that covers 20 acres of the Alabama Gulf resort community of Gulf Shores—just a quarter mile from the beach. The waterpark admission includes all the waterslides, lazy river, wave pool, Shrimp Boat Village, Wa-Wa World, and Flowrider. The amusement park admission includes all the rides, the Nascart Go-Carts, 36-hole miniature golf, Trampoline Thing, Fun Depot kiddie rides, House of Bounce, and the full arcade. watervilleusa.com

Homeport Marina- 1.6 miles; (251) 968-4528; homeportmarina.net
Wharf Marina- 4.2 miles; (251) 224-1900; thewharfmarina.com

Schlitterbahn Waterparks have offered families splish-splashing fun since 1966 with three incredibly unique parks along Texas’ Gulf Coast in Galveston, South Padre Island, and a brand-new waterpark resort coming this summer to Corpus Christi. The combination of water rides and resort accommodations make Schlitterbahn a standout in waterparks across the country. schlitterbahn.com

Pelican Rest Marina- 1.1 miles; (409) 744-2618; pelicanrestmarina.com
The Marina at Teichman Point- 1.6 miles; (409) 692-9415; tpointmarina.com
Payco Marina- 1.7 miles; (409) 744-7428; paycomarina.com

By Christine Carpenter, Southern Boating June 2014