Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
The river tourists of Napa Valley

The river tourists of Napa Valley

  • Updated

The usual way to experience a Napa Valley winery tour is by motor vehicle. In addition, visiting tourists can also rent a bicycle and follow bike trails Upvalley for winery visits and wine tastings.

Tours of the Napa River have become an additional feature, which is now available. In addition to bike rentals, visitors can now rent kayaks for water tours of the Napa River, and in the warm season, might even take a ride in a Venetian-style gondola

Kayaking opportunities on the Napa ‘River have become popular with tourist visitors in recent years, especially since the City of Nape replaced the public boat dock downtown at the foot of Fifth street. The dock now has a concession sponsored by the city renting kayaks and paddle boards. Visiting kayakers can now explore the Napa River from the dock at Napa’s urban center, up its curving north to the Culinary Institute at Copia. Paddling south can take them through two waterfront residential area canal systems, a teeming wildlife and bird sanctuary along the river and farther south to Kennedy Park and beyond.

Another water-oriented tourist draw that has developed, seemingly unnoticed, is the cruising in to Napa of pleasure boats from the Bay Area and beyond. This addition of visitors has been brought about by the Napa Valley Yacht Club (

As a member of the Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association, our club has reciprocal arrangements with other Bay Area clubs for visitorship and cruise-ins, where a fleet from one club will visit another host club. These cruise-ins between clubs have been ongoing since the early years of our organization (founded 1987) but have become more important in recent years. Following the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ dredging of the river channel in 2016, and the renovation and upgrading of our 185-foot dock in 2017, our club has become a popular cruise-in destination for many other Bay Area yacht clubs.

Individual boaters who want to spend some time on their boats cruising the Napa River and, at the same time, having the pleasures of visiting Napa Valley, are also frequent visitors.

Our member volunteer Port Captain, Greg Parker, manages our dock operations with an on-line reservation system, is in radio contact with cruisers as they navigate the Napa River and helps them with docking their boats at our club facility at 100 Riverside Drive. Upon arrival, the captain of each cruise-in vessel is given a visitor welcome package containing maps and other helpful information on what to see and do in Napa and the Napa Valley. The welcome packages are assembled by our club volunteers using material obtained from the Napa Valley Visitor Center.

Many of our boating visitors walk up Riverside Drive to the Hatt building, to the Visitor Center on Main Street and to downtown Napa and the Oxbow Public Market for restaurants and shopping. Others use their dingy boats to motor up to the City’s Public Dock for their visits. They use local transportation such as taxis, Uber or Lyft, and some arrange for limousines or minivans to take them to their destination or to link up with organized tours.

The boating visitors usually stay anywhere between a 3-day weekend up to a week or more, spending their time visiting local and up-valley wineries and restaurants and attending the entertainment offered by our local venues In downtown Napa. Their time spent includes some combination of visiting local venues and Upvalley excursions.

With each club cruise-in, there are usually “Land Cruisers,” who drive up to Napa to join their boater friends and fellow club members. The land cruisers often provide some transportation for the boater groups, and several car loads can tour Upvalley in any one day. Sleeping facilities on the cruise-in vessels are limited, and many of the land cruisers book rooms in our local hotels. Cruisers’ group dinners at local restaurants are a nightly occurrence during their visits.

Some yacht clubs schedule their cruise-ins and make reservations a year ahead to participate in our own club events such as our Halloween party, and our 4th of July Decorated Boat Parade. Others schedule visits to participate in events sponsored by the city. Our dock is always full for BottleRock and Labor Day weekend. Many of these cruisers stay for a week or more. Through the efforts of our Port Captain and social committee, cruisers are now starting visits for other celebrations, including Porchfest and Blues Brews and BBQs.

Our visiting vessels vary considerably in size, from 20 feet sailboats to 85-foot yachts, with 3 vessels over 80 feet visiting this year. Our typical sizes are 35 feet to 40 feet, and we can accommodate 15 or so of these vessels at the dock. Over this past year, our club has had cruise-ins from 12 yacht clubs and many individual cruisers, often both at the same time. Participating yacht clubs included Benicia Yacht Club, Sausalito Yacht Club, Passport Sailing Club, San Francisco Yacht Club, Oyster Point Yacht Club, St. Francis Yacht Club, South Beach Yacht Club, Ebony Yacht Club, Sequoia Yacht Club, Petaluma Yacht Club and Marin Yacht Club. We expect these same clubs to visit us in the coming year, along with the many individual boaters who regularly visit.

Our Port Captain, and often other club members, welcome our visitors as they arrive. These are our Good will Ambassadors to the Bay Area yachting community, and the welcoming committees for our Napa Valley Yacht Club, and for all of Napa Valley.

William Moore is Commodore 2019 of the Napa Valley Yacht Club.

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News