Cruising: Views from the top deck

Seeing a destination by boat is one of the best ways to experience it. Here are 10 of the world’s best scenic boat rides.
Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.
Mitre Peak in Milford Sound.

1 Golden Gate Ferry - San Francisco to Sausalito, California
The San Francisco Bay is one of the most picturesque vistas on the West Coast, and experiencing it by ferry is an affordable and perfect way to explore the beautiful towns north of the city's peninsula. Start at the San Francisco Ferry Building, and board the ferry to Sausalito for a 30-minute ride - it sells wine and beer, so enjoy a drink while taking in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay. Cyclists can bring bikes free, so VirtualTourist members recommend taking or renting a bike so you can tour Sausalito's quaint town before returning to the big city.

2 Star Ferry - Hong Kong, 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 the Central and Wan Chai areas of Hong Kong Island, arriving at Tsim Sha Tsui's Star Ferry Pier on Kowloon.

Hong Kong ferries ply the bay. Photo / 123RF
Hong Kong ferries ply the bay. Photo / 123RF


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 Symphony of Lights display.

The Star Ferry also has a harbour tour that circles Victoria Harbour and lasts an hour. It offers single-ride round-trip tickets during the day, night, and a Symphony of Lights Harbour Cruise.

3 Venice Vaporetto - Venice, Italy

The most famous boats in this region may be gondolas, few rides in the world will give you the eyeful of a vaporetto. These boats are an easy way to admire the mansions and buildings that overlook the Grand Canal and the lagoon. Every visitor to Venice should ride a vaporetto, although expensive, at least once.

The sun sets over the Grand Canal in Venice.
The sun sets over the Grand Canal in Venice.


4 Cruising Milford Sound - South Island, New Zealand

Internationally renowned as one of the most beautiful waterways in the world, Milford Sound has to be included. Discovered by the Maori more than 1000 years ago in Fiordland National Park, the majestic landscape can be accessed by road, but should be experienced on the water. The sound is bounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest on either side, and Mitre Peak towers 1692m above sea level as the focus of many photographs. A number of day cruises, kayaking and nature guides, are available. Tours from Queenstown and Te Anau are popular as well.

5 Washington State Ferries to the San Juan Islands - Anacortes, Washington

Boasting a great variety of views, the Washington State Ferries from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands are a great excursion for visitors to the Pacific Northwest.


On a clear day, you can see Mt Baker, some of the North Cascades mountain range and even Mt Rainier, to the south of Seattle. The scenery is beautiful, but the real draw is the wildlife. Orca inhabit the waters from mid-April to early October.

6 Cruising Ha Long Bay - Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam

If you're headed to Southeast 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 level. You can book two-day/one-night tours from Hanoi, though with more than 1600 islands and islets you could spend much more time in the area. Exploring the natural caves and floating villages by kayak is a great experience.

7 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 about 5pm back. Newport was the site of the America's Cup race for many years, and Block Island's beaches and bluffs are perfect for exploring by bike. The ferry is seasonal and for passengers and bikes only. For vehicles, you'll need to take the ferry from Pt Judith.

8 Rhine River Cruises - Throughout Europe

River cruises are a great way to experience European cities as they were meant to be seen - by coming into port. At 1233km long, the Rhine River is perfect for cruising and has 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 include the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland. For those with holidays saved up, the "European Sojourn" tour from Amsterdam to Bucharest is 23 days.

9 Ferry from St Thomas to St John - Virgin Islands

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 at 5.30am. The 20-minute ride is incredibly affordable and the crystalline waters are reason alone to make the trip.

 St John in the US Virgin Islands.
St John in the US Virgin Islands.


For only a few dollars one way, visitors to St Thomas can take a day trip to St John where more than two-thirds of the island is a nature preserve with ample hiking and public beaches to explore.

10 Circular Quay to Manly, Australia - Sydney, Australia

The ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly is a tourist destination unto itself for visitors to Sydney. With exceptional views of Sydney Harbour, particularly the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, multiple VirtualTourist members cited this ride as their favourite ferry ride. It is often taken just for the views but VirtualTourist members also noted Manly is also a great day trip. The trip from Circular Quay to Manly is only 30 minutes.

- AAP

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