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With its year-round idyllic climate, abundance of outdoor activities, and a lively cultural scene, the city of San Diego and the rest of San Diego County offer one of America’s top spots for boaters. Along its 70 miles of coastline, featuring wide, white sandy beaches and secluded coves set against dramatic cliffs and rock formations, boating enthusiasts simply love this Southern California dream destination.

Many may not know that San Diego is actually the birthplace of California. Portuguese explorer (and boater) Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed in what is now San Diego Bay in 1542 and claimed the area for Spain. In 1769, Father Junipero Serra established the Mission San Diego de Acala, which became a primary link in his chain of 21 missions that later extended into Northern California. Originally populated by Native Americans, the area has been governed by Spain, Mexico, and, since 1846, the United States.

San Diego lies in the southwest corner of California, 120 miles south of Los Angeles and 20 miles north of Tijuana Mexico. Along with about 4,500 square miles of land, there’s more than 70 square miles of water! Elevation ranges from sea level to 1,591 in the city and 6,500 feet in the county. San Diego County has about 2.8 million residents, with the city comprising about 1.2 million of that--making San Diego the seventh largest city in the U.S.

San Diego’s mild climate makes it an ideal year-round destination for those on land or at sea. The average daytime temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and most days are sunny. Winter temperatures rarely dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is generally low--even in the dog days of summer. Average annual rainfall is less than 10 inches and occurs primarily between December and March.

San Diego’s local and visiting boaters are rewarded with the double pleasure of navigating the Pacific Ocean and the generally calmer waters of the Big Bay, as well as Mission Bay. The scenery includes: one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world; a spectacular natural harbor; and an assortment of pleasure craft, commercial and charter fishing boats, and massive Navy vessels.

More than 65,000 registered pleasure craft and 57 marinas attest to San Diego’s importance as one of the west coast’s most popular boating areas. The crescent-shaped Big Bay offers a wide opening to the Pacific Ocean between the high-ridged Point Loma peninsula and Coronado’s Naval Air Station North Island.

Rightfully proclaimed as “the largest attraction in San Diego County” and edged by a 27-mile shoreline with 17 marinas and seven yacht clubs, the Big Bay hosts more than 600 cargo vessels and 125 cruise ships annually. Along the Big Bay’s shores are 16 bayside parks, two museums, two shopping centers, 70 or so restaurants and a similar number of shops, more than a dozen hotels, and 56 boating facilities, including sportfishing landings, piers, and launching ramps

While on the water, boaters are entertained by a wide variety of breathtaking views. Downtown San Diego’s dynamic and ever-changing skyline sparkles in the daytime and is illuminated like a jeweler’s tray against a typically clear starry night from the water. A day of boating becomes a San Diego travelogue, marked by historic sights, including Cabrillo National Monument and the nearby 19th century Point Loma Lighthouse, as well as Ballast Point, where Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed back in 1542. Across from Ballast Point, Coronado’s Naval Air Station North Island awes passing boaters with its extensive military hardware.

The Embarcadero along San Diego’s scenic Harbor Drive is another busy bayside attraction, with the Cruise Ship Terminal, harbor cruise tours, pedestrian ferries, water taxis, and pleasure craft all a part of the bustling nautical atmosphere. A must-see, from both land or sea, is the Maritime Museum of San Diego and its six historic vessels: Star of India, the century-old windjammer; the 1898 steam ferry, Berkeley; the 1902 sloop Butcher Boy; Medea, a 1904 luxury yacht; Pilot, a 1914 harbor pilot boat; and the California, the official tall ship of the state of California. These ships are open to the public and often host fine art and historic exhibitions throughout the year.

Also along the Embarcadero is Seaport Village, a 14-acre bayside shopping complex that has more than 50 shops, several waterfront restaurants, and amusement centers. It’s all styled to evoke a 19th century New England fishing village.

A nautical atmosphere also prevails on Harbor and Shelter islands, two of San Diego’s principal boating centers, where marinas, resort hotels, restaurants, and bayside parks welcome boaters with an array of recreational amenities. Harbor and Shelter Islands are popular destinations for visiting craft and their crews--who are encouraged to make reservations well in advance for marina space and hotel accommodations, if needed.

In South Bay, fascinating destinations include: Coronado’s Ferry Landing Marketplace, a bayfront shopping and dining complex; the world-famous Hotel del Coronado; Chula Vista’s Nature Center; and National City’s impressive shipbuilding yards and charming Victorian homes.

Boating, fishing, and swimming in and around Mission Bay Park--San Diego’s 4,600-acre aquatic playground--are all enjoyed within designated public areas. The park is the largest facility of its kind in the world and also welcomes lots of landlubbing activity.

Marinas in Mission Bay rent, dock, and store a full range of watercraft. Most of the marinas accommodate boaters with dockage, storage, and free launching ramps at Mission Bay’s hotels and marinas. Plus, visiting boats are provided with free anchorage in Quivira Basin for up to 72 hours.

Heading north, boating along San Diego’s North County coastline provides a fine way go shoreside to experience picturesque seaside communities like La Jolla, Del Mar, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. These charming oceanfront towns and villages attract boaters with their restaurants and shops, first-class resorts and spas, and unique attractions like Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Torrey Pines State Reserve, and Oceanside Harbor. It’s a great place to finish an exploration of everything the San Diego area has to offer boaters!

For further visitor and boater information, contact the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau by calling (619) 236-1212 or visiting www.sandiego.org. Two other Internet resources also have great information for San Diego-bound boaters: www.portofsandiego.com (check out the “Recreational Boating” and “Dock and Dine” pages) and www.sailorschoice.com (excellent information on marinas).