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Amazing Boat Tours in 11 US Cities

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There are so many neighborhoods to explore, landmarks to visit, and activities to enjoy in the US. But have you ever considered a boat tour? It can be a fantastic way to see and view a city. Some places may be nicer than others.

It might be the water or the land that contains it. Perhaps it’s the people, or perhaps the lack of them! Easy access can be a bonus too. But sometimes “hard to reach” means “hard to beat.” And some places are just plain BOATY! You can discover the country on a boat tour to get an excellent summary of various areas and where to focus your time afterward.

We’ve searched to help us refine this list of our 11 favorite boater-friendly spots in America. We considered public access, convenience, and relaxing getaways that should please anyone looking for a boating adventure!

boat tour
Photo by MayaTheB at Shutterstock

Maid of the Mist Boat Ride- Niagara Falls

  • Duration: 4-5hrs

A complete boat tour of the American side of Niagara Falls lets you see one of the world’s most iconic natural attractions from three different vantage points. After hotel pickup, head over to the Niagara Gorge and descend 175ft to the observation deck at Cave of the Winds, the closest visitors can get to Niagara Falls.

Continue on to the Niagara Falls Observation Tower for the only picturesque view of all three waterfalls of Niagara, which include the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Finally, Come back down and put on a poncho for the famous Maid of the Mist cruise, which takes you right past the falls from May through October.

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

  • Duration: 1-2hrs

To really appreciate Chicago’s famous skyline, admire it from the water on this top-rated Lake Michigan architecture cruise. While most sightseeing boat tours are on the Chicago River, this one gives you a panoramic viewpoint on historical skyscrapers, including Willis Tower, the John Hancock Building, the Wrigley Building, and modern lakeshore attractions like Millennium Park and the Riverwalk.

You can explore all three branches of the Chicago River on a journey through the heart of the windy city. This riverboat tour introduces passengers to Chicago’s legendary architecture, narrated by a professionally trained architectural guide. You can learn about fascinating landmarks in a relaxing way with no traffic to worry about! It’s undoubtedly a unique way to see the city.

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Tour

  • Duration: 3-5hrs

A Visit to see lady Liberty and Ellis Island is a must while in the Big Apple. On this guided boat tour, you board the ferry from Manhattan to visit two of the most well-known historical sites. See Liberty Island and also visit the Statue of Liberty Museum.

Then hop back on the ferry and head to Ellis Island to learn about the millions of people who entered here between 1892 and 1954 in the hope of living the American dream.

For the Express 2hr option, you will have a guided tour of Liberty Island, and you can visit Ellis Island on your own. You will have roundtrip ferry tickets to both Liberty and Ellis Islands and entry into the Museums with all options.

boat tour
Photo by Keith J Finks at Shutterstock

Boston Duck Tours

  • Duration: 1-2hrs

This duck boat tour takes you from Boston Common to the Charles River on an adventure while riding in a rolling/floating piece of American military history. Get to one of three locations for departure, and climb into the amphibious vehicle. Then set out for a tour of Boston highlights. There is a lot to see along the way, and the guide points out the most exciting landmarks and shares stories of Boston’s history.

Roll from the historic State House in Beacon Hill to Boston Common, Copley Square, Newbury Street, and Quincy Market. You also see TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics, and Bunker Hill, a key Revolutionary War-era battle site. Finally, roll to the edge of the Charles River, and continue into the water to see Boston and Cambridge from the river.

Key West Dolphin Watch Sunset Sail

  • Duration: 2-3hrs

The Captain’s Choice Dolphin Watch Sunset Sail is the ultimate VIP sailing adventure! While limited to a few passengers, this 3hr sail is a more private cruise and one of the area’s top attractions. As you leave the Historic Seaport, look for Key West landmarks like the legendary Mallory Square, prosperous Sunset Key, and historic Fort Zachary Taylor.

Once you reach open water, the sails are unfolded, and the adventure begins as your captain tracks dolphins to give you an up-close view of these sly creatures. Afterwhich, grab a drink and relax as your captain positions the luxury catamaran for the perfect view of a famous Key West sunset.

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Maui Sunset Dinner Cruise Aboard Calypso

  • Duration: 2h

For a more intimate experience, join the fun and friendly captain with the crew aboard the Calypso for this romantic sunset dinner cruise along the Pali coast of Maui. Step aboard, grab a table and enjoy the boat tour as the friendly crew and captain welcome you.

The captain cruises the shore while you relax, listen to island-style, and enjoy refreshing beverages upon leaving the harbor.

Dinner is also aboard this boat tour with fantastic options like Prime Rib, Baby Back Ribs, Kiawe Smoked Chicken, Island Fish, or a Vegetarian meal. A full bar and island music make for a memorable experience.

boat tour
Photo by Rosamar at Shutterstock

San Diego Harbor Cruise

  • Duration: 2h

You can see San Diego’s top sights from the water with a cruise that passes the Naval Base, Coronado Bridge, and, if your lucky, sea lions. You’ll learn about the importance of the waterway to the city and enjoy the view.

You can meet for this San Diego boat tour on North Harbor Drive, and once you check in, board the boat and sit back and relax. You can sit indoors or outdoors, including on the sun deck, and your cruise is fully narrated. So you can learn interesting facts about San Diego, its history, and landmarks.

What you see depends on whether you’re on the one or two-hour cruise. You can see the Coronado Bridge, the US Naval Base, and the Star of India during both cruises.

Golden Gate Bay Cruise

  • Duration: 1h

It can be challenging to see all the top San Francisco sights in one day. But this boat tour which takes off from Fisherman’s Wharf, lets you see all the top attractions, including the Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and Sausalito, from the water in a short period.

For this Bay cruise, you can use your ticket up to one year after booking. So you can organize your visit to the city around the weather or save it for a spontaneous getaway. As you enjoy this water ride, listen to the audio commentary that fills you in on landmarks and San Francisco history.

Savannah Land & Sea Combo

  • Duration: 5h

This one combines a city tour AND a river cruise. Get insider knowledge from your guide as you zip between historic districts by trolley, then step aboard a Savannah Riverboat and enjoy a voyage down the scenic river.

Sit back and relax on the entire loop through the Savannah Historic District, the Victorian District, River Street, and Savannah City Market. As you drive through the town’s magnificent mansions and dangling Spanish moss, experience the inspiration for John Berendt’s ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.’

After the boat tour, make your way to River Street to board the Savannah Riverboat. Enjoy the waterfront views as you cruise along the beautiful Savannah River and learn about its history from your captain.

boat tour
Photo by Wangkun Jia ay Shutterstock

New Orleans Steamboat Natchez Harbor Cruise

  • Duration: 2h

You’ll get an authentic riverboat experience, traveling like the locals of New Orleans did ages ago when you step aboard this historic riverboat on this Mississippi River cruise.

Once onboard, explore the landmark boat’s vintage accents and period decor. Roam the decks to take in the Mississippi River landscape and the view of New Orleans passing by.

After your harbor departure, listen to entertaining commentary on the sights that pass by as you stroll the expansive deck, enjoy live jazz music in the main dining area, and check out the churning paddlewheel in action. The return journey features music throughout the boat.

Juneau Wildlife Whale Watching

  • Duration: 3h 30m

This 2-hour whale watching adventure begins when you board a coach bus departing downtown Juneau from the Mt. Roberts Tram. A 25-minute journey through the picturesque landscape of Southeast Alaska will take you to Auke Bay Harbor, and you’re off to Alaskan waters and the ultimate whale watching experience.

On your quest for whales, you’ll be on the lookout for bald eagles, seals, sea lions, and black bears. The star of this boat tour is the humpback whale, but you should be on the lookout for the playful orcas.

The cabin is enclosed and heated, but you should probably dress in layers! With the experienced captains and Juneau being one of the best ports for whale watching in Alaska, this tour will be an unforgettable experience.

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