Not all marinas are created equal

16th March 2021 Jack O'Rourke

Jumping into the most affordable berth is not necessarily the wisest decision – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Not all marinas offer the same services and amenities, and since most marina agreements last many months you may wind up stuck in less than ideal circumstances if you don’t carefully consider your options.

Weighing up the following characteristics will help you determine which marina in your area has the most suitable environment for your boat and your lifestyle.

What atmosphere do you want?

How you intend to use your boat plays a significant role in choosing the right facility, and a good marina operator will ask you this early on in the enquiry process. For example, some people want a relaxed setting to unwind on their boat in peace and quiet, whereas others are looking for a more vibrant atmosphere to socialise with other boat owners. Different marinas can offer different experiences.

The Royal Motor Yacht Club at Broken Bay is a great example, providing a wide variety of boating and social activities for its members. Their activities include the Timber Boat Club, Cruising, Sailing and Game fishing clubs, along with music in the lounge bar every Friday.

However, marina manager Jayson McDonald suggests that you can have it both ways.

“If you are looking for quiet time, you can spend time in the marina and not be bothered, except for receiving the weekend papers by a Marina Attendant if you order them, or if you slip up to the Brasserie for breakfast. The choice is yours.”

It is also worth noting that if you intend to live aboard your vessel whilst on the marina, you will first need to ensure that this is permitted by the facility.

Location and Accessibility

Consider how regularly you use your vessel and how important it is to have quick access to your favourite cruising grounds. Are you a frequent fisherman, a once-a-month cruiser, or somewhere in between? Depending on your level of usage, you may favour a more centralised or convenient location in relation to nearby waterways.

Many boat owners are simply looking for a marina that is close to their home, as lengthy travel times can often discourage people from making the effort to get out on the water. 

Safety and Security

Buying a boat is a big investment, so it pays to ensure that any marina you are considering has an appropriate level of security in place. How easy is it for someone unauthorised to gain access to the marina? Check if there are dock gates and CCTV cameras, and ask staff how often dock patrols occur and if security personnel are on-site during the night.


Certain amenities are absolutely essential, such as a power connection and fresh water. Enquire about what essential maintenance services are located on the premises, including slipway and shipwright, marine mechanic, electricians and chandlery. Some marinas provide a complete range of trades that can save you time and money going elsewhere.

“The RMYC provides power and water depending upon the size of your vessel as part of its monthly fee,” says Mr. McDonald. “The club has three slipways ranging from 10 to 100 tonne, with mechanical and shipwright services. Electrical and boat brokerage services are also available and provided under licence.”

Most marinas now provide a fuel wharf, but be sure to ask if the type of fuel you require is available and also if you will have access to a waste pump-out. Finally, consider where the closest shopping is to the marina, particularly for groceries.


Marina rates can vary significantly and are determined by a range of factors including location, facilities, accessibility, availability, and condition of the marina itself.

The size and type of your boat is also a major factor in the price – most marinas calculate costs with consideration to your vessel length. Certain types of vessels such as catamarans, for example, may be subject to additional fees for taking up extra space.

A new or recently upgraded marina with a host of impressive amenities will charge premium rates that may very well be outside of your budget, however, this does not mean you should settle for the oldest and cheapest facility available. Marinas with rickety or rotten docks, loose cleats and a lack of safety equipment are all serious signs of neglect and carelessness and should be avoided.

“The RMYC requires a joining fee and yearly membership but provides a modern, clean and well-maintained facility,” explains Mr. McDonald. “Once a member, you have access to all club facilities including a seventeen-metre swimming pool, boat ramp, fuel discounts, and fifteen club moorings spread across Towlers bay, America and Refuge bays, Patonga and Coasters Retreat.”

Finally, consider what unique advantage the marina or club provides that other facilities simply can’t match. You may find it’s that extra bit of service or value that will ultimately make your decision for you.