BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA – A world map hangs in the common room of the Yacht Club at Brunswick Landing Marina, riddled with pens covering Europe, the U.S., Australia, South America and more.
Each pin represents where boats that have docked there originated. The variety is astonishing to the uneducated.
To the educated, however, which includes the group of boaters, or cruisers, gathered at the Yacht Club on a recent Wednesday, it is no surprise the downtown Brunswick marina has been attracting people to the Golden Isles for decades.
The Wednesday happy hour gatherings — they happen a few times each week in fact — are a tradition at Brunswick Landing Marina and over the years have built an international community that convenes regularly in downtown Brunswick.
Normand and Sylvie Beaupre of Montreal sat recently with new friends made since their stay began in November and enjoyed appetizers, wine and plenty of laughs as they overlooked the East River as the sun set over the western horizon.
“We go downtown. We eat at some of the restaurants,” said Sylvie Beaupre with her noticeable French Canadian accent. “We go to the farmer’s market. Bike to Winn-Dixie. There are so many benefits here.”
It is the Beaupres’ first stay at Brunswick Landing but won’t likely be their last. They had originally planned to make it all the way to the Florida Keys in their 36-foot sailboat, La Vagabonde, but Hurricane Ian derailed those plans.
Having no prior knowledge of the safe haven that is Brunswick Landing Marina — it’s a hurricane hole where boaters keep their vessels to protect them from storms — the Beaupres got a slip and decided this would be their home until April.
“There are people who don’t stop here because they go to Fernandina Beach,” Sylvie said. “Now I sent messages to people waiting to get in somewhere down there and said, ‘Stop here.’”
She and Normand said they sent the same messages to people they know who will be heading back north from the Bahamas soon.
“There are so many benefits here,” Normand Beaupre said.
They had their vessel’s zinc redone to be properly prepared for the saltwater. They found a seamstress downtown who repaired some zippers on some of their equipment. They discovered restaurants and shops like St. Vincent De Paul thrift shop where Normand bought a brand new pair of New Balance shoes at a steep discount.
At the docks, they said features like free internet, grills available for cookouts, the Yacht Club and the community atmosphere make staying in Brunswick an experience unlike any other.
“At a lot of places, they just want your boat and your money. They don’t want you to stay there,” Normand Beaupre said. “Here, they want you.”
And the people they have met have been great too, they said.
On this Wednesday other people from Canada, a couple from England and folks from all over the United States, including Maine and Arkansas, were gathered for some fun and fellowship. At any given time, you can meet people from Italy, Australia or South America. You name it, there’s a good chance someone from there has visited Brunswick via Brunswick Landing Marina.
Stephen Luta, who lived the last 35 years in Florida, said he’s found a new favorite place. His boat was lost in a hurricane last year. When he and his wife bought a new one at the beginning of 2023, they came here to pick it up. They haven’t left.
“We were supposed to cruise to the Chesapeake Bay,” Luta said. “I said, “Let’s just stay here.’”
Luta has helped the Beaupres, who only have electric bikes for transportation, with rides in his car to get larger items they need. Others have taken them to Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island for visits.
“In 50 years of boating, there’s nothing like this,” Stephen Luta said.
Sally Keller and her husband Robert agree. They currently reside in North Carolina but have lived all over after growing up in Wisconsin.
“This town is amazing,” Sally Keller said. “It’s the perfect size. It’s got a little bit of everything.”
On First Fridays, Luta said people staying on their boats walk to downtown Brunswick and enjoy the festivities. He said marina owner Michael Torras practically makes it mandatory.
He and the Beaupres sang Torras’ praises for taking good care of everyone who stays there.
“He actually calls you back and talks to you directly,” Normand Beaupre said. “He has made this a great time.”
Listening to the praises sung by the guests at Brunswick Landing Marina, it’s no wonder it continues to expand and continues to bring in accolades. It was recently named the Best Large Marina by Marina Life Magazine, which just adds to a long list of awards it has garnered over the years.
Future plans include expansions to many facilities, improvements to docks and a mooring ball field to allow more boaters to experience Brunswick and the Golden Isles.
As for the Beaupres, they are already making plans to return.