Budget Travel

Your membership includes:

  • Access to our exclusive booking platform with private rates.
  • Newsletters with weekend getaways, trip ideas, deals & tips.
  • Sweepstakes alerts and more...
  • Don’t have an account?Get a FREE trial membership today. No credit card needed. Sign up now.
  • FREE trial membership. No credit card needed. Limited time only. Already have an account? Log in here.
    By creating an account, you agree to our Terms of Service and have read and understood the Privacy Policy
Close banner

The Most Scenic Ferry Rides in the U.S.

By Laura MacNeil
updated February 21, 2017
The Seattle to Bainbridge Island ferry
Courtesy Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau
From Alaska to Maine, these remarkable trips bring you within gawking distance of some of America's greatest natural and man-made treasures.

Alaska Marine Highway System
Leaves from: Juneau's Auke Bay Terminal
Alaska's ferries cover 3,500 miles of coastline, but the 150-mile voyage across the Inside Passage from Juneau to Sitka is extraordinary. The 10-hour trip takes you past humpback whales, sea otters, black bears, pristine spruce and hemlock forests, and the sprawling, blue-tinged Mendenhall Glacier. In clear weather you can see the spectacular peaks of the Coast Mountains. The ship's outdoor heated solarium lets you bask in the views while fending off cold winds; indoors, the ship's cafeteria serves local salmon and beer brewed in Alaska.
Can I bring a car? Yes
Cost: Adults $45 one way, kids $23, cars $79
More info: dot.state.ak.us
Photos: 1 of 3

Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Wash.
Leaves from: Seattle Main Terminal, Pier 52
Glide past sailboats and cruise liners on this quick hop across Puget Sound, with views of Seattle's skyline and the snow-covered flanks of the Cascade Range. Weather permitting, you can even make out the 14,410-foot peak of Mount Rainier, about 100 miles away. Disembark on Bainbridge and spend the day exploring the island's hiking trails and downtown cafés (try the caramel pecan French toast at Café Nola), then time your return trip to watch the dusk settle over Puget Sound, and the city itself.
Can I bring a car? Yes. And to get to Bainbridge's hiking trails, you'll need one. You can also pick up a cab at the dock, but you might have a hard time getting back.
Cost: Adults $6.75 one way, kids $5.50, cars, $11.50, bikes $1
More info: wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/
Photos: 1 of 4

Staten Island Ferry, New York City
Leaves from: Whitehall Terminal
See classic views of the city's skyline and the Statue of Liberty from the decks of this massive, bright-orange passenger ferry. Depart from Manhattan about an hour before sunset, grab a soft pretzel and a beer from the snack bar, find your sweet spot on the multi-decked vessel, and enjoy the show. Then hitch a ride on the next ferry back as darkness falls and the city's skyscrapers light up, and do it all over again.
Can I bring a car? No
Cost: Free
More info: nyc.gov
Photos: 1 of 3

Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor, Maine
Leaves from: Bar Harbor Inn Pier
On this short excursion to Winter Harbor, a picturesque fishing village on Maine's remote Schoodic Peninsula, a 40-seat powerboat winds through clusters of lighthouse-topped rocky islets in Frenchman Bay. Free up space on your digital camera, because you might also catch glimpses of seals, porpoises, and bald eagles—and fabulous photos of Acadia National Park's spruce forests and granite shores are virtually guaranteed.
Can I bring a car? No
Cost: Adults $30 round trip, kids $19.50, bikes $6
When: June 23–Aug. 31
More info: downeastwindjammer.com
Photos: 1 of 2

San Francisco to Sausalito, Calif.
Leaves from: San Francisco Ferry Terminal
It's about 30 minutes one-way on this ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. The ferry sells wine and beer, so you can toast good times with friends as you skirt past Alcatraz Island and take in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Get off the ferry at Sausalito and walk among the town's cute art galleries and shops or stop for fresh seafood at the many waterfront restaurants. Cyclists can bring bikes (yes, the ferry has bike racks) and tour Sausalito's colorful hillside homes before pedaling back across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Can I bring a car? No
Cost: Adult $7.50 one way, kids 6–18 and seniors $3.75, bikes free
More info: goldengateferry.org
Photos: 1 of 3

Halls Crossing, Lake Powell, Utah
Leaves from: Halls Crossing
This 25-minute run in a simple, flat-bottom ferry to Bullfrog Marina links the northern and southern sections of Utah's State Highway 276. On this serene stretch of Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, watch the extraordinary glass-like reflections of orange Navajo sandstone formations and Utah's prevailing clear-blue skies.
Can I bring a car? Yes
Cost: Adults $5, kids under 5 and seniors free, cars $20 one way
More Info: udot.utah.gov
Photos: 1 of 1

Boston to Harbor Islands, Mass.
Leaves from: Boston's Long Wharf
The ferry to Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area might just be the best way to see Boston's skyline. The passenger-only catamaran has a snack bar serving beer—act fast if you're thirsty, because it's only 15 minutes to the first stop. Spectacle Island is a former landfill turned ecological park with five miles of walking trails and supervised swimming off a restored beach. The second stop, Georges Island, is home to Civil War-era Fort Warren. The scenic highlight of the route is a view of the last manned lighthouse (and oldest continually used lighthouse site) in the country: Boston Light on Little Brewster Island.
Can I bring a car? No
Cost: Adults $14 round trip, kids $8
When: May 9–Oct. 12
More info: harborexpress.com
Photos: 1 of 3

Keep reading