How To Choose a Liveaboard Marina

How To Choose a Liveaboard Marina | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Gabriel Hannon

August 30, 2022

Choosing the right liveaboard marina can give you all the advantages of living on a boat with some resort-level perks at an amazing price.

Choosing the right marina comes down to factors like your boat’s capabilities, your geographic preferences, the amount of sailing you expect to do, your required amenities, and how much you are willing to spend. Thoroughly considering these questions is key to your search!

Selecting a liveaboard marina is just as involved as any other house hunting or vacation booking experience. Do it right and you can find yourself in a wonderful community of other houseboats in a beautiful harbor with just the right amount of access to land and sea. Go in without thinking about all these things, however, and you might find yourself pining for your landlocked house again, so let’s make sure we hit all the bases!

From resources like to guides by longtime houseboat owners, there are dozens of resources on the topic and it's important to read a bit about as many people’s experiences as possible. Don’t shy away from asking people at your local marina or boating supply store if they have any experience with liveaboard marinas. I’ve worked at boating supply stores with people who have lived in marinas from Maine to Florida and they have been my greatest resource to think about all the little things that come up that you might not think of until too late, so be sure to ask around!


Table of contents

Your Boat

Without a doubt, the most important thing to consider when choosing a liveaboard marina is what type of boat you have and how you want to use it. Do you have a boat with full living quarters, a comfortable shower and head, laundry capabilities, a full kitchen? Well, then you might only need an electrical hook up and won’t be so concerned about on-land facilities. On the other hand, you might be looking for a chance to shower on stable ground with nice water pressure and access to laundry facilities. A proper assessment of your boat’s capabilities and limitations will go a long way to determining what type of liveaboard marina to pursue and what amenities are non-negotiable.

Geographic and Climate Goals

Like any housing search, marinas in different parts of the country are going to be entirely distinct, subject to different climates, different stay standards, and different communities, so it is crucial to consider where you want to live aboard when searching for a marina.

Miami is home to some of the nicest marinas in the country in the beautiful Florida climate, but a marina like that is right in the heart of a downtown metropolitan area which might not be your idea of a home on the water! Similarly, no matter how beautiful the marinas are in Bar Harbor, Maine, you don’t want to plan on showing up in late November! Some people have a favorite marina in a place like Tampa, another in Annapolis, and a third in Kennebunkport, while others prefer to plant themselves in one warm-weather location. Marinas negotiate rates for daily, weekly, and yearly liveaboards depending on your preferences, so it's important to consider how maneuverable or sedentary you plan on being.

Sailing Access

Now I know you’re looking for a liveaboard marina, but the beauty of that boat is you can still take it out to the deep blue sea! Depending on how often you plan on cruising or even moving to different locations, a marina enclosed on all sides by drawbridges and narrow channels might lose some of its appeal. Moreover, how much tidal swing do you have to deal with? Can you only go in and out on either side of high tide, or can you go as you please?

If you have a powerboat, these questions might be moot, but a tall mast and a relatively small engine will make a narrow, drawbridge harbor an absolute nightmare to sail through and you might feel a little trapped! If you are fond of the marina and have minimal aspirations to cruise around in deep water, you might not have to consider this problem more than once in a blue moon, but if you are an avid sailor, don’t forget to think about the rest of the harbor!

Marina Amenities

Ok, ok, so you know your boat, you know where you want to be, and how often you’re gonna be sailing, but what about the marina itself? Well, before you fall in love with one particular harbor, don’t forget to see if they allow liveaboards! Some marinas are just for day use or storage, so make sure to check before you roll into the harbor.

Once you’ve done that, you want to consider what amenities are requirements for you. Marinas can range from simple docks to docks with full electrical hook-ups to veritable resorts on the harbor, so don’t shell out for the four-star marina if you’re not going to leave the boat! Common amenities include, for example:

  • Enclosed and/or private bathrooms and showers
  • On-site laundromats
  • On-site restaurants
  • Pet facilities (e.g. dog parks)
  • Access to land transit
  • Overnight car parking
  • Complementary or premium WiFi
  • Fitness center
  • Pool
  • Recreation areas/courts
  • Security

Many marinas provide access to certain facilities, like bathrooms and car parking, but not all of these expenses are included in the slip fee, so make sure to read the fine print on the offerings!

Security in particular can make a huge difference between sleeping easy and being worried about leaving anything out on the deck. Some marinas have gates that close at night, private security, and available lock boxes for added peace of mind. It's always good to ask people who are living in the marina how they feel about the safety of the area before planning a long-term stay.

Finally, always think about the type of marina that you’re staying at and whether that reflects how you want to be living. A marina close to downtown with a tiki bar on the wharf might be great for a quick visit, but if you’re not there for the nightlife, you may end up disagreeing with the folks who are!


Often, people turn to liveaboard marinas as a way to save a little money on housing. Different pricing structures can make liveaboard marinas align with your needs differently. Longer boats often require larger slips, and you may have to pay a premium at a certain footage, which will change depending on the marina, so make sure to price out different locations for your boat. Some locations have pricing structures to encourage long-term stays, while others may want to turn your slip over relatively quickly at the height of the season.

Staying at certain locations out of peak times can save you thousands of dollars a month, so, if your boat is ready for it, don’t be afraid to look at a bunch of different locations along the coast!

A key part of any liveaboard marina is access to electricity, which can either be included at a flat rate or be metered depending on usage. At a flat fee, you might be locked in, but for a metered system it could be worth investing in solar panels for your boat to reduce your consumption over a long period.

Fundamentally, all marina amenities come with a cost, either embedded in the rate that they charge for the slip or in the form of additional fees, so when they say something is included, make sure you know the value to you and how much you would really be willing to spend in a vacuum!

In addition, consider the costs of boat ownership, from purchase to maintenance to insurance, and how those balance with the liveaboard marina. Particularly relevant, insurance terms can be very strict about how you have to take care of your boat in a storm, so if you need to haul out for any hurricane, make sure that the marina has facilities for that.

Looking to the Land

Once you’re settled in the marina, you still need to have access to certain things outside the marina ecosystem. Access to a town with a boating supply store, a grocery store, and any other number of resources is crucial if you plan on staying somewhere long-term.

If you only own a boat, it might be helpful to ensure that your marina has access to land transit, like a bike share or car rentals, or you might want to be closer to the heart of town. If you still work on-land, can you get to work quickly, or is it impossible to get in and out of the marina? With the recent surge in people working from home, do you anticipate a full online transition, or are you going to need access to your office? These questions will further specify the location of the liveaboard that makes sense for you.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Liveaboard marinas come with all the same questions as an on-land neighborhood. Is the marina predominantly a day use or seasonal marina? Who is living in the next slip? Do they live abroad year-round? Are they retired? Do they make no end of noise after coming home from the dreaded tiki bar? Think about your ideal day in the marina and try to see if the people who live there share that vision!

Avid liveaboarders often claim that the best aspect of living on a boat is the community of other like-minded people. All of your neighbors have made a decision to live on their boats as well, so you will certainly have the opportunity to share your experiences with each other and potentially form lifelong friendships. If you are just getting started, that community can be key to helping you out as you discover the intricacies of life on a boat. Watch out for the marina handyman or the old hand who has already seen every boat breakdown imaginable and is ready to help. Those are the type of people who make living on a boat that much more exciting than any other way of life!

Set Sail!

There’s no way to answer all these questions without getting out there and trying a few out. You might get lucky and find the one place you want to live, or you might get to spend time cruising up and down the coast of Maine, Florida, or California, or you might start inland at the Lake of the Ozarks. Hopefully, you can narrow down your list by carefully thinking about what you need to live comfortably aboard, but maybe you rely on trial-and-error. Either way, there are gorgeous harboars all across the country with a slip waiting for you once you know what you need.

Happy Sailing!

How To Choose a Liveaboard Marina
Gabriel Hannon

Gabriel Hannon

I have been sailing since I was 7 years old. Since then I've been a US sailing certified instructor for over 8 years, raced at every level of one-design and college sailing in fleet, team, and match racing, and love sharing my knowledge of sailing with others!

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