While many people view ferries as simply a mode of transportation, the following scenic ferry rides promise an unforgettable and breathtaking journey.
From sailing through the towering fjords of New Zealand to basking in the tropical paradise of the Virgin Islands, these maritime adventures will give you some of the best views without the high price tag of a cruise ship. After all, sometimes the journey can be just as much as memorable as the destination itself.
Here are the world's 23 most scenic ferry rides in no particular order. You may just plan your entire vacation around one of them!
Most Scenic Ferry Rides in Canada
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I may be a bit biased because I'm Canadian, but I believe Canada is home to some of the most beautiful views — on land and water — in the entire world. Here are some favorite ferry rides departing from Canada:
Inside Passage Ferry: Port Hardy to Prince Rupert
Departing from Port Hardy, the Inside Passage Ferry is one of the longest and most scenic ferry rides in the entire world. The entire voyage takes around 17 hours and ends in the charming coastal town of Prince Rupert.
Onboard, you'll have several choices of restaurants, different lounge/seating options, a movie theater, and the option to upgrade to a private room with a bed and bathroom.
You'll catch glimpses of abandoned canneries, fjords, and plenty of wildlife throughout the ride.
Toronto Island Ferry
For those looking for a shorter yet still scenic ferry ride in Canada, the Toronto Island Ferry is a must. It operates year-round and departs from the Jack Layton Terminal. It's just a 15-minute ride, but you'll have breathtaking views of the Toronto skyline and the three nearby islands during the trip.
You then have the option to disembark at Centre Island, Hanlan's Point, or Ward's Point. Once on land, you'll have the opportunity to swim, boat, fish, hike, explore the gardens, or even check out the amusement park.
Leamington to Pelee Island, Ontario
Although lesser known, the ferry from Leamington to Pelee Island is a true Canadian hidden gem. This unique ferry sails across Lake Eerie and takes around 90 minutes.
Although it may seem like you are peering into the ocean, Lake Eerie is a fresh-water lake and the warmest of all the Great Lakes.
After arriving at the island, you'll be met with sandy beaches, the first commercial winery in Canada, and maybe even some migrating birds!
Victoria, BC, to Port Angeles, WA
The journey from Victoria, British Columbia, to Port Angeles, Washington, allows you to check off two different countries while you sail across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The ferry ride takes around 90 minutes, with departures at varying times depending on the season from the Victoria Harbour.
During the ride, you'll enjoy the coffee/snack shop, duty-free shopping, free WIFI, pet-friendly areas, and amazing views of the Salish Sea. You may even get lucky and spot some wildlife along the way.
Best Ferry Rides in the United States
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From the stunning views of the Pacific Northwest to island hopping along the East Coast, there are many scenic ferry rides in the United States.
Golden Gate Ferry, San Francisco
A ride aboard the Golden Gate Ferry is a must during any trip to San Francisco. As the ferry cruises underneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, you'll have unmatched views of the city's skyline, Alcatraz Island, and the Marin Headlands.
Although relatively short, the 30-minute ride serves as convenient transportation and a scenic adventure.
New York City's Staten Island Ferry
Perhaps one of the most famous ferry rides in the United States, the Staten Island Ferry provides breathtaking views of the New York City skyline and, of course, the historic Statue of Liberty.
The ferry runs 24/7 and is free for all passengers. You can get off at Staten Island or enjoy the lower Manhattan views from the round-trip ferry ride.
Interisland Ferry to the San Juan Islands
Another Pacific Northwest gem, the Interisland Ferry, takes you to all four San Juan Islands. After booking your initial ticket from Anacortes, WA (to your first island), you can hop on and off the Interisland ferry to visit the other islands. Foot passengers can ride between the islands, and no reservations are needed.
In addition to viewing the islands from the water, you also may see some whales or other marine animals. The adventures are endless once you arrive at the islands.
US Virgin Islands
If you want more tropical islands to explore, the US Virgin Island Ferries bring passengers between the three main islands.
Although the ferries are a lifeline for residents, tourists can enjoy the ease of traveling between the islands while marveling at the beautiful tropical views. It's the perfect way to get a unique view of each island while soaking up the idyllic charm of the Caribbean.
Mackinac Island Ferry, Michigan
Mackinac Island is a unique car-free island in Lake Huron that is only reached by ferry. The ride is just 18 minutes, but throughout the journey, you'll be met with views of the iconic Mackinac Island Bridge and the sparkling water of the Strait.
You can enjoy the ride in the weather-controlled viewing areas or the observation decks. Tickets can be purchased online and can be used any day. Once on the island, you can hike the state park, tour the butterfly gardens, or explore the historical sites.
Casco Bay Lines, Maine
East Coast travelers will love riding aboard the Casco Bay Ferry. This scenic ferry ride has served passengers year-round for over 150 years. No reservations are required, and visitors are boarded on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Pack a picnic and relish the Atlantic Ocean views. Check out the Casco Bay concert series if you want an especially unique ferry experience. During these 21+ sailings, you can enjoy a cash bar, sunsets, and live music.
Between Key West and Tortugas National Park, Florida
The Dry Tortugas Ferry ride is a must for those trying to check off every National Park in the United States. Not only is it the most popular way to reach the park, but it's also one of the most scenic ferry rides in the United States.
In addition to the epic views, the Yankee Freedom Ferry includes breakfast, lunch, a narrated tour of Fort Jefferson, a stop at the national park, and complimentary snorkel gear. The journey to the park is one of the best parts of the entire adventure.
Alaska Marine Highway System Ferries
The Alaska Marine Highway System ferries offer passengers a unique journey through some of North America's most breathtaking and rugged coastal landscapes. The ferries cover over 3,500 miles of coastline and connect to over 30 communities.
Passengers have many route options, with trips ranging from 45 minutes to 38 hours.
Onboard amenities typically include private cabins, dining options, and observation decks where you can soak in the views of the icy fjords and glaciers while keeping an eye out for wildlife. Most of these unique ferries allow you to camp onboard with a tent or sleeping bag.
Catalina Island, California
Just a short 1 hour ferry ride from the hustle and bustle of the mainland, you'll find the quaint Catalina Island. The Catalina Express Ferry departs year-round with 30 daily departures from Long Beach, San Pedro, or Dana Point.
During the 22-mile ferry ride, you'll be met with unmatched views of the island and the mainland and maybe even catch some glimpses of marine life. Onboard, you'll find snacks, a small bar, and plenty of seats to sit back and enjoy the ride.
More of the Most Scenic Ferry Rides in the World
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There's no doubt this list of scenic ferry rides could be never-ending! There are so many amazing options. Here are what I believe to be the rest of the most scenic ferry rides in the world.
Naxo and Paros Island
It's no secret that Greece is home to some of the most beautiful ferry rides. There are almost 6,000 islands and islets scattered across the Greek seas. Although picking a favorite is hard, the Blue Star Ferry from Naxos to Paros is breathtaking.
After exploring all Naxos has to offer (beautiful beaches, sailing excursions, and delicious food), hop on the ferry to Paros. The ride takes about 45 minutes, and you'll be met with unique views of both island's skylines. You'll find a bar, gift shop, different seating options, and WIFI onboard.
Belize City to Caye Caulker
After enjoying the historic sites and adventures of Belize City, head out on the water aboard the San Pedro Belize Express. This scenic ferry ride offers visitors a chance to sail along the sparkling blue water to the quaint island town of Caye Caulker.
The water taxi departs from Belize City, Chetumal, or San Pedro and takes 30 to 45 minutes.
Travemünde, Germany to Malmo, Sweden
Europe is known for its fabulous public transportation. From convenient and frequent train journeys to a wide array of ferries, your options to explore Europe are endless. If you find yourself in Lubeck, Germany, save some time in your itinerary to take the ferry from Travemunde to Sweden.
This 9-hour ferry connects North Germany to Sweden, allowing visitors to explore both countries easily.
On board, you'll find spacious private cabins, a play area for the kiddos, buffet-style meals, and even a Finnish sauna. This ferry ride is known for some of the most breathtaking sunsets that can be enjoyed from any of the observation decks.
Sydney to Shark Island, Australia
Just stepping foot onto the continent of Australia is a bucket list moment for many travelers. Although you will have countless options for spending your time, a ferry ride to Shark Island should make the list.
This scenic ferry ride departs from the Darling Harbour and makes five different stops. During the ride, you'll see panoramic views of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
Bluebridge Ferry, New Zealand
There are not many places in the World as beautiful and diverse as New Zealand, so it is no surprise that a ferry ride here is extremely scenic. Bluebridge Ferries brings passengers across the stunning Cook Strait. The three-and-a-half-hour rides depart from the Wellington Harbour and end at the quaint town of Picton.
If you can peel yourself away from the out-of-this-world views, you'll find a delicious café, lounge bar, family room, and movie theater on board. Keep your eyes open if you are hoping to spot a bottlenose dolphin or whale swimming along with the ferry.
Thames River, London
Undoubtedly, the best way to explore London is via a river ferry. The river ferries, which are called Uber boats, run year-round between 23 piers. You can choose to hop on and off the boats or simply enjoy the views from the comfort of the ferry.
If you were to stay on the boat for the entire duration, you'd get to check out all of London's best sights, including Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, and the Millennium Footbridge. There's even a complimentary audio tour recording on most of the boats.
Golden Horn Ferry, Istanbul, Turkey
Photographers will love the short ride aboard the Golden Horn Ferry. This 30-minute ride takes passengers from Eminonu to Ortakoy. The ferry service allows visitors to explore the Golden Horn, or the natural harbor that divides the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
Onboard, you can relax in the comfortable seats while taking in views of Istanbul's iconic landmarks, including the Galata Bridge and the picturesque neighborhoods.
Split to Dubrovnik (Island Hopping), Croatia
Island hopping by ferry is a stunning way to experience the Adriatic coastline and numerous islands. After departing from Split, passengers can sail down the famous Dalmatian Coast while viewing the historic towns and lush landscapes.
If you were to sail straight through from Split to Dubrovnik, the journey would take around 5 hours, but it's worth it to plan a few stops at the charming islands along the way.
Navimag Ferry to Patagonia
The Navimag Ferry to Patagonia is arguably the most scenic ferry in South America. The trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales takes four days and three nights. Onboard, you'll be greeted with three meals a day, an expert guide, yoga classes, and other opportunities for educational classes.
The route will take you through winding channels and past giant glaciers, providing unparalleled views of the rugged Patagonian wilderness. Although there are quicker ways to reach Patagonia, this ferry ride is one of the most scenic.
Hong Kong's Star Ferry
Last but certainly not least, the Hong Kong Star Ferry is a short yet historic ferry ride that deserves a spot on this scenic ferry rides list. It's been transporting passengers since the 1880s, and visitors will appreciate the affordable and nostalgic way to check out Hong Kong's skyline.
Which Scenic Ferry Ride Will You Choose?
From getting the best views of The Statue of Liberty to whale watching along the Inside Passage, it's no surprise the journey can sometimes rival the destination. The ferry rides on this list offer inexpensive alternatives to crowded cruise ships and a convenient way to get from point A to point B. It's truly hard to believe that these are public transport options.
Which scenic ferry will you board first?
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.