Flexibility: High

Social Engagement: Medium

What’s What: The Great Loop is a 6,000-mile-long system of waterways that make a complete navigable circle around the Eastern United States. About 100 boats finish this loop each year, while 200-300 more are on the journey somewhere along the route. The complete circle runs from the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi, across the Gulf of Mexico, up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, up the Hudson River to the Erie Canal, and back into the Great Lakes. This loop can be made in either direction at any time of year. It can be done in as little as two months, though many boaters take a year for a more leisurely exploration.

Amava Take: Have a few months to spare and want to do something really unique? Want to go on a long self-supported cruise but skip the high waves of the open ocean? Want an up-close view of U.S. waterways and all the life along them while sleeping in your own bed on your boat every night? If you want some casual, slow paced, independent boat travel with the experience of local culture on every stop, consider boating The Great Loop.

From the Front Office:

What kind of a boat would I need?

There are some bridges and some shallow sections, so a height of less than 19 feet and a draft of less than 6 feet are necessary.  A range of at least 500 miles is also necessary as there are sections of that length without any services. Rumor has it it’s been done in a sailboat and attempted in a kayak, but motor boats of various sizes and styles are the norm.  

Who does this trip?

Boat owners of all types and ages.

How long does it take?

As little as two months or as long as you’d like.

Is it a hard trip?

That entirely depends on circumstances and weather conditions. It’s likely a lot less difficult than the high seas, but the Great Lakes are big open water, and some of the more urban areas require good thoughtful navigation and better than average boat handling skills.

Is it an expensive trip?

Costs depend on the boat you choose to take and your lifestyle decisions. With the boat the main costs are fuel and maintenance. Dockage fees can really add up. Marinas might cost $25 to $90 per night. What you choose to do while on dry land and how you spend money on food will also affect the costs. One traveler with a 34-foot boat powered by a 425 hp engine estimated a full cost of about $30,000 for a year. A more frugal voyage could cost more like $15,000 a year.

From the Trenches:  

What’s the most satisfying aspect of the cruise?

The other cruisers we meet along the way, and the up close views of the culture and communities along the way.

What are the hard parts of the trip?

The planning is the hardest part. Then it’s just about the weather and any unexpected circumstances.

Special Requirements:  If you’re a US Citizen you don’t need a passport or Visa. If you’re not you’ll need passport which is valid for at least six months past your point of stay and a non-immigrant Visa. You’ll need a reliable boat, enough cash for expenses, and a good attitude.

Planning a Trip: The Great Loop Cruisers Association is a membership based association for Looper enthusiasts. Members share stories and tips, buy and sell boats and supplies, and have events along the way. That’s the best place to start. Captain John’s Guide to the Great Loop is also a great resource. Raven Cove Publishing prints maps and guidebooks.