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The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile inland waterway that runs along the Eastern Seaboard from Massachusetts southward, around the coast of Florida to the Gulf Coast of Texas. American Cruise Lines has several wonderful itineraries that travel along portions of about 800 miles between Baltimore, Maryland and St. Augustine, Florida. The journey offers a smooth, unique, and unforgettable experience combining natural beauty, cultural heritage, and a myriad of excursions in charming ports of call. 

The vision for the waterway dates to the early 1800s to create a navigable inland waterway without the hazards of travel on the open sea. Some sections consist of naturally sheltered inlets, bays, and sounds, while others are artificial canals. Today the route is a maritime marvel that offers an enchanting journey through diverse landscapes, teeming with wildlife, and the rich history of coastal America.

Cruising Intracoastal Waterways on our brand-new Coastal Cats fleet

Experience cruising the protected Intracoastal “highway for north and southbound East Coast cruisers” on our Coastal Cats fleet, a Catamaran-style ship specifically designed for inland exploration. The shallow draft of the Coastal Cats allows for rare access into small ports and ability to travel on almost any river or waterway. The Independence Class Coastal Ships also travel most of the same itineraries as the Coastal Cats with the same ability to venture into narrow rivers and shallow bays. Land is never far out of sight with up-close exploration of nature’s beauty, small towns, and unique cities that define America.

Intracoastal Scenery and Wildlife

As you glide along the tranquil waters, you are treated to panoramic vistas of unspoiled nature, where the interplay of sunlight and shadow creates mesmerizing reflections. From the graceful dolphins frolicking in the waves to the majestic manatees gliding beneath the surface, marine life thrives along the ICW, captivating you with its beauty and diversity. Along the marshy shores, shorebirds such as herons, egrets, and ospreys can be spotted, while secluded coves provide sanctuary for nesting sea turtles and migratory birds.

Regional Exploration

The Chesapeake Bay region meanders through iconic harbors and offers stunning views of historic landmarks. Along the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, barrier islands, salt marshes, and pristine beaches dominate the landscape. Lighthouses and quaint seaside villages dot the coastline. Explore historic cities like Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Norfolk, known for their rich maritime heritage, colonial charm, and vibrant waterfronts. Visit Kitty Hawk to learn about the Wright Brothers’ first flight and how it changed the world.

Along the South Carolina shore, the ICW traverses the scenic Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, where you will experience the natural splendor of the Outer Banks. Charleston boasts a rich and storied past, evident in its well-preserved historic district and Fort Sumter, site of the first battle of the Civil War. The city is also renowned for the warmth and hospitality of its friendly locals. Whether admiring elegant southern architecture, sampling delicious local cuisine, or simply strolling through its charming cobblestone streets, you are sure to be delighted. Further south is Beaufort, SC with ancient oak trees draped in Spanish moss and a stunning collection of grand mansions and fascinating stories. Wildlife excursions at Hilton Head take you to explore the animals that make their home in this rich ecosystem.

As the cruise drifts along the edge of Georgia, the ICW flows through a labyrinth of mesmerizing marshes, rivers, and barrier islands. Savannah’s waterfront is a festive historical district with shops, restaurants, and a diverse array of excursions. The bustling seaport is threaded with cobblestone streets adorned with historic parks and extraordinary architecture that preserve its phenomenal 19th-century wealth and opulence. Florida offers the quaint charm of Amelia Island, the state capital of Jacksonville, and historic St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, where travelers can explore the narrow streets and ruins of the remote outpost of the Spanish Empire.

American Cruise Lines Southeast U.S. Waterways

There are several cruise itineraries to consider that explore the Southeast:

Travel the most miles along the Intracoastal Waterway with the East Coast Inland Passage cruise as you enjoy 15-days between Baltimore, MD and Amelia Island, FL with visits to Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The Chesapeake Bay Cruise travels roundtrip from Baltimore, MD for 8-days, exploring Maryland and Virginia. For a longer exploration consider the American Revolution Cruise which offers 11-days round-trip from Washington, DC, docking right in the heart of our nation’s capital.

Explore the southern ICW along South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida on a Historic South & Golden Isles Cruise for 8-days between Charleston, SC and Amelia Island, FL. The Great Rivers of Florida Cruise offers 8 days-round-trip from Jacksonville, FL and reaches even further south to St. Augustine, FL.

Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or a deeper connection with nature and history, you are sure to be spellbound by the wonders of the Intracoastal Waterway. Make your dreams of adventure a reality by calling your Cruise Specialist today.