11 Beautiful Stops on a Tour of America's Most Incredible Ferry Rides
Ferries are more than just valuable tools for commuters. If you have time to stop and look around, you’ll notice they can also offer some of the country’s most incredible views.
1. Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Washington
Crossing Puget Sound only takes 35 minutes, but during that time you’ll be treated to views of the Seattle skyline and, behind that, the snow-capped peaks of the Cascades. On a particularly clear day, you should be able to see Mount Ranier, the tallest point in the mountain range, over 100 miles away.
2. Alaska Marine Highway Inside Passage from Sitka to Juneau
Because of the unique geography of Alaska, much of the state is only accessible by air or sea. The 3,500 miles of “Marine Highway” are the only marine route to be designated a National Scenic Byway and an All American Road. In particular, the nearly nine-hour voyage between Sitka and Juneau takes passengers on a tour of the Alaskan wilderness, past glaciers and forests with a chance to see humpback whales, sea otters and black bears.
3. Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor, Maine
Hop aboard the 40-person ferry to the tiny fishing village on Maine's remote Schoodic Peninsula and along the way you’ll be able to take in views of lighthouses along the coast of Acadia National Park. Keep your eyes peeled and you might catch a glimpse of seals, porpoises, and bald eagles.
4. Sausalito to San Francisco, California
If you’re up for it, bike across the bridge from San Francisco to the upscale suburb. But after perusing the art galleries and dining at a waterfront restaurant, load your bikes onto the ferry for a more relaxing ride back into the city. Plus, you’ll get a much better view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island State Park, and the Oakland Bay Bridge.
5. Halls Crossing, Lake Powell, Utah
This largely utilitarian ferry serves as a bridge between the northern and southern sections of Utah's State Highway 276. But during the 30-minute ride across the perfectly still waters of one of the world’s largest man-made lakes, passengers will get to see the spectacular colors juxtaposed between the often clear blue skies and the bright orange Navajo sandstone formations.
6. Boston to Harbor Islands, Massachusetts
Pick one of Boston’s Harbor Islands and head out on the ferry. The ride is quick - depending on which island you’re headed for, the trip runs 20 to 40 minutes - but you’ll get a great view of the Boston skyline and Boston Light, the country’s second oldest working lighthouse.
7. French Quarter to Algiers, New Orleans, Louisiana
Get a great view of New Orleans and see why it’s nicknamed the Crescent City on this passenger ferry across the Mississippi River. The ride takes you from the heart of the action to a charming, residential section of the city.
8. Rocky Hill-Glastonbury, Connecticut
The ferry, which is part of Route 160, connects two towns in Central Connecticut. The short trip would be relatively unremarkable except for its historical importance: It’s the oldest continuously operated ferry service in the United States, dating all the way back to 1655.
9. Catalina Express, California
Take a roughly one hour cruise aboard state-of-the-art, high speed catamarans from stops along the southern California coast out to Catalina Island, which served as a stand-in for exotic locales in early Hollywood films. Look out for whales and flying fish along the way.
10. Waterton Shoreline Cruise, Montana
This one is only half in the United States, as it takes you from the Canadian side of the seven-mile-long Waterton Lake into Montana. Passengers are surrounded by the towering cliffs of the Rocky Mountains and should keep an eye out for otters, beavers, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, or bears along the way.
11. Grand Portage Isle Royale Transportation Line, Michigan and Minnesota
There are no cars allowed aboard the GPIR, or in the rest of the designated biosphere-reserve, for that matter. Instead, the two-day voyage with eight stops provides transportation to hikers and campers looking to traverse the chilly waters. While on board, passengers have a chance to spot an expansive array of wildlife, including moose and wolves.
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