Published: Saturday January 18, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday January 18, 2014 MYT 7:31:44 AM

Boat rides to boast about

Wow! Milford Sound is surrounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest. — MCT photos

Wow! Milford Sound is surrounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest. — MCT photos

Here are the Top 10 most scenic boat rides in the world, according to

How about seeing a new destination from the water?

With the best views in mind, the members and editors of ( have selected their Top 10 Scenic Boat Rides.

1. Cruising Milford Sound – South Island, New Zealand

Internationally renowned as one of the most beautiful waterways in the world, Milford Sound in New Zealand had to be included on our list.

Discovered by the Maori people more than 1,000 years ago and located in South Island’s Fjordland National Park, the majestic landscape can be accessed by road, but should be experienced on the water.

The sound is surrounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest, with Mitre Peak towering over 1,692m above sea level as the focus of many photographs. There are a number of day cruises available, as well as kayaking and nature guides. Sightseeing tours from Queenstown and Te Anau to Milford Sound are popular as well.

2. Star Ferry – Hong Kong

The most well-known ferry ride in Asia, the Star Ferry connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon Peninsula to the north. Ferries leave from both the Central and Wan Chai areas of Hong Kong Island, arriving at Tsim Sha Tsui’s Star Ferry Pier on the Kowloon Peninsula. It’s a fantastic way to take in Hong Kong’s skyline during the day, and with ferries departing as late as 10.30pm, it’s also a great way to see the city’s nightly light display, “A Symphony of Lights”.

The Star Ferry also has a Harbour Tour option which circles Victoria Harbour and lasts an hour. It offers Single Ride Round Trip tickets for the day, night and special Symphony of Lights Harbour Cruise.

3. Venice Vaporetto – Venice, Italy

While the most famous boats in this region may be gondolas, few rides in the world will give you the eyeful of a vaporetto in Venice.

Take in the view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Here, a ship is seen in the mist. - Photo by Scott Chernis/Courtesy San Francisco Travel Association/MCT
Take in the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Equivalent to a water taxi, these boats are an easy way to admire all the mansions and buildings that overlook the Grand Canal and the lagoon, while also being helpful for gaining your bearings when first arriving to the canalled city. Every visitor to Venice should ride a vaporetto at least once, although it is expensive.

4. Golden Gate Ferry – San Francisco to Sausalito, California

The San Francisco Bay is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque vistas on the US West Coast. Experiencing it by ferry is both affordable and a perfect way to explore the beautiful towns north of the city’s peninsula.

Start at the San Francisco Ferry Building, which is a tourist destination in its own right, with a renowned farmers market three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) and a great selection of shops.

Board the ferry to Sausalito for a 30-minute ride – wine and beer are sold on board, so enjoy a drink while taking in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. Cyclists can bring bikes for free, so VirtualTourist members recommend taking or renting a bike so you can tour Sausalito’s quaint town before returning to the big city.

5. Washington State Ferries to the San Juan Islands – Anacortes, Washington

Orca whales inhabit the waters from mid-April to early October with the best chance to see them from late May through September. - Photo from San Juan Islands Tourism and Jim Maya/MCT
Orca whales inhabit the waters of the San Juan Islands from mid-April to early October.

Mentioned by multiple VirtualTourist members for the great variety of views, the Washington State Ferries from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands make a great excursion for visitors to the Pacific Northwest. On a clear day, you can see Mount Baker, some of the North Cascades mountain range and even Mount Rainier to the south of Seattle. While the scenery is beautiful, the real draw to the San Juan Islands is the wildlife in the surrounding waters. Orca whales inhabit the waters from mid-April to early October, with the best chance to see them from late May through September.

6. Circular Quay to Manly, Australia – Sydney, Australia

Similar to the Star Ferry in Hong Kong, the ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly, Australia, is a tourist destination unto itself for visitors to Sydney. With exceptional views of Sydney Harbour, particularly the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, multiple VirtualTourist members sited this ride as their favourite ferry ride.

Old Harbor Block Island is an opportunity to see two of New England's most picturesque harbors. - Photo from Block Island Tourism Council/MCT
San Juan Islands is the wildlife in the surrounding waters. Orca whales inhabit the waters from mid-April to early October, with the best chance to see them from late May through September.

While it is often taken just for the views, VirtualTourist members also noted that Manly is also a great day-trip seaside destination. A true beach town located on the Pacific Ocean, Manly offers kayaking, biking and lots of water sports to try, plus the trip from Circular Quay to Manly takes only 30 minutes.

7. Cruising Ha Long Bay – Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam

If you’re headed to South-East Asia and want to enjoy a few days on the water, make a stop at Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. The bay and its islands are a Unesco Heritage Site, famous for the bay’s jade waters and limestone pillars rising from beneath the water.

Many VirtualTourist members have booked two-day/one-night tours from Hanoi, though with more than 1,600 islands and islets, you could spend much more time in the area. VirtualTourist members also mentioned that exploring the natural caves and floating villages by kayak is a great experience.

8. Block Island Ferry – Newport, Rhode Island

An opportunity to see two of New England’s most picturesque harbours, the recently opened Newport-to-Block Island high-speed ferry takes you from Downtown Newport to Block Island in about an hour.

Perfect for exploring a little bit more of New England for just the day, you can visit either location and catch a late ferry around 5pm, back to your origin.

Famous for its wind and harbour, Newport was the site of the America’s Cup race for many years, while Block Island’s free beaches and bluffs are perfect for exploring by bike. It should be noted this high-speed ferry is seasonal and for passengers and bikes only. For vehicles, you’ll need to take the ferry from Point Judith.

9. Rhine River Cruises – Throughout Europe

Many assume cruises are for open seas or hopping between islands, but river cruises are a great way to experience European cities as they were meant to be seen – by coming into port!

At 1,320km long, the Rhine River is perfect for cruising, with views that include cliff-top castles, vineyards and Unesco heritage sites.

Viking River Cruises offers a variety of options from seven-day trips based solely in Germany or an eight-day trip that includes four countries: the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. For those with serious vacation days saved up, the “European Sojourn” tour from Amsterdam to Bucharest is 23 days long!

10. Ferry from St Thomas to St John – US Virgin Islands

Easily accessible for American residents, and particularly affordable in the summer because of hurricane season, the ferry from St Thomas to St John from July to September is recommended by VirtualTourist members. Departing from Red Hook on the far eastern side of St Thomas, the ferry runs to Cruz Bay on St John every hour on the hour starting from 5.30am.

A short 20-minute ride, it’s incredibly affordable and the crystalline waters are reason alone to make the trip. For only a few dollars one way, visitors to St Thomas can take a day trip to St John where over two-thirds of the island is a nature preserve with ample hiking and public beaches to explore. — McClatchy-Tribune Information Service

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Lifestyle, VirtualTourist, River, Cruise, St Thomas, St John, Venice Vaporetto, Milford Sound, Star Ferry, Washington State Ferries, San Juan Islands, Golden Gate Ferry, Hal Long Bay, Circular Quay to Manly, Rhine River Cruises, Block Island Ferry


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