Ferry & Boat Trips
Much is made of New England’s maritime past — and New Englanders still love traveling on and by water, on the ocean and across lakes. So, do as travelers have done for centuries: take a ferry or go for a cruise. Start with a water taxi from Logan International Airport, with great views of the city’s skyline as you cross Boston Harbor to Downtown. Then cross rivers, cruise vast lakes and spot porpoises as you visit off-shore islands on some of the oldest ferry routes in the USA. Great views are guaranteed.
Upstream from the broad mouth of the Connecticut River, wooden ships were built and launched from photogenic towns like Essex, Chester, Deep River, Haddam and East Haddam. And memories of yesteryear survive thanks to two of the oldest ferries in the USA. Just south of Hartford, the state capital, the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferry started in 1655: that makes it the oldest in the USA! From May to October, it takes three cars at a time on its shuttle runs. And, further downstream, Chester and Hadlyme are linked by an eight-car, 5-minute ferry, operating from April to November. Since 1769, this journey has saved time for passengers; in mid-stream, there are fine views of Gillette Castle. This 100-year-old mansion was built by actor William Gillette, who made a fortune portraying Sherlock Holmes. Visit the castle to see his own eccentric inventions. Also nearby are the Goodspeed and the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. Learn more about Connecticut ferries and boat trips.
In seagoing Maine, ferry out to romantic island retreats, where time has stood still: Monhegan, Matinicus, and Vinalhaven. Office workers and students commute to the city of Portland, Maine, from their homes on the 200 or so islands in Casco Bay. But you can also buy a scenic cruise ticket with Casco Bay Lines to island hop your way round Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Chebeague and Cliff islands. Or, just take the 20-minute run over to Peaks Island for lunch or dinner, or even to stay the night at The Inn on Peaks Island — wonderful views at dawn and dusk. Learn more about Maine ferries and boat trips.
In the old days, journeys were quicker by water; and they still can be. Scoot across Boston Harbor from Boston Logan International Airport to Boston's city center aboard water shuttle or a water taxi. For a day out with a difference, take a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands. And, you can forget the traffic when you take the ferry from Boston to Salem on Boston's North Shore or across the bay to Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. The best-known offshore destinations in Massachusetts are the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, linked to the mainland via a dozen routes. Most ferries take foot passengers and bicycles; car spaces must be booked in advance. In season, you can even shuttle between Nantucket and the ‘Vineyard.’ The shortest ferry ride ever must be the one-minute dash aboard the Chappy Ferry from Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard to the tiny island of Chappaquiddick. Learn more about Massachusetts ferries and boat trips.
With both ocean shoreline and vast lakes, New Hampshire offers nautical variety. Portsmouth has an array of boat trips from its harbor, including cruises on a gundalow, a flat-bottomed barge that was once widely prevalent on local waterways. A trip with a difference is to the mysterious Isles of Shoals, nine islands, nine miles off shore. Inland, the lakes are just waiting to be explored. Largest of all, and one of the USA’s biggest, is Lake Winnipesaukee. From Weir’s Beach, take the M/V Sophie C as she delivers mail and ice cream to five of the lake’s 274 islands. This nautical version of a 'rural route carrier' is also a floating post office. Or, go for a dinner cruise aboard the famous M/S Mt Washington: worth the fare for the beautiful mountain and lake views.
Rhode Island folds round Narragansett Bay like a big hug, so this pretty — but huge — ocean inlet is busy with boating opportunities. On Save The Bay’s Ultimate Lighthouse Tour, view more than 20 active and inactive lighthouse sites, with a stop for lunch at Rose Island Lighthouse where you can take a tour. Other trips include marine science excursions, Prudence Island trips, and sunset cruises, departing from Newport and/or Providence. For something different, take a ferry 12 miles out to sea to visit the relaxed beaches of Block Island. Choose between the traditional one-hour ride and the 30-minute high-speed ferry service. In summer, you can now catch a ferry from downtown Newport. Learn more about Rhode Island ferries and boat trips.
OK, so Vermont is not on the ocean, but Lake Champlain provides New England’s very own laid-back West Coast. Back in 1757, Lord Jeffrey Amherst ferried his troops across Lake Champlain from Fort Ticonderoga (New York) to Larrabees Point (Vermont) to fight the French. Today the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry, the "Fort Ti" cable ferry, carries cars on the same route — in just 7 minutes. Elsewhere, Lake Champlain Transportation Company ferries cross the lake from Grand Isle, Charlotte and Burlington. Otherwise, just sit back and drink in the view aboard the Northern Lights cruise ship on a daily lunch cruise, a narrated trip or a even a concert cruise!
For more information, see driving tours for Boat and Maritime Adventures.