The next time you’re in a new (or even a familiar) city, consider using a ferry to get around. The vessels, often used primarily by commuters, can be just as convenient as a subway or bus—and the views are even more spectacular. Here are nine ferries with some of the most breathtaking views around the world.
1. Vanice’s Vaporetti
When the whole city is a series of islands, boats and ferries become the de facto mode of transportation for its denizens. Skip the touristy gondolas and take advantage of the hop-on, hop-off vaporettibus-boats (smaller and quicker than the moniker implies), which stop at small gray-and-yellow booths along the canals. Tickets, which can be procured from machines at most stations, can be purchased in time increments from an hour to a full week. On the route from the rail station to popular island of Lido (where the film festival occurs), you can spot St. Mark’s Square, as well as a parade of ornate bridges and palazzos.
2. Dubrovnik’s Jadrolinija Ferries
You don’t have to own a private yacht to soak up Croatia’s scenic Dalmatian Coast. Five districts maintain ferry service between bustling ports, and the ride between Dubrovnik and Rijeka is long but particularly impressive. As you sail across the sapphire-blue Adriatic Sea, you’ll breeze past islands both uninhabited and popular (vacation spots such as Zadar and Split), as well as the medieval buildings and Roman ruins scattered around the sleepy fishing island of Vis.
3. Hong Kong’s Star Ferry
One way to take in this city’s towering metropolitan skyline is via the tourist-packed Victoria Peak Tram; a ride on the Star Ferry is the other. Embark just before 8 p.m.—it might be slightly more crowded than it is during the daytime, but you can witness the full spectacle of the Hong Kong Symphony of Lights. Every evening, 40 skyscrapers surrounding Victoria Harbor go all out with a synchronized light and laser beam show, and the only way to fully appreciate the extravaganza is from the water.
4. Istanbul’s Sehir Hatlari Ferries
The fact that this bicontinental city is split in two might seem inconvenient if you’re exploring it for the first time, but savvy travelers know to hitch a ride on the Sehir Hatlari ferries that shuttle between popular neighborhoods on the European side (Eminonu, Besiktas) and those on the Asian part (Kadikoy, Uskudar). Aim for a sunset journey: As you zip across the Bosphorus, you’ll be able to watch the sun drift below the horizon behind the Boukoleon Palace (Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia.
5. London’s Thames Clipper
In a city as packed as London, you’re bound to get caught up in traffic if you’re moving about by car or one of the double-decker buses; the Underground can also be congested, especially during prime commuting hours. One way to circumvent all the congestion: a leisurely ride up or down the Thames. The city’s Clipper boats depart from major piers along the river every 20 minutes, passing sights like the London Eye, the O2 Center and the Tower Bridge. (Pro tip: These vessels also serve beer, wine and spirits.)
6. New York City’s Staten Island Ferry
You can hop between most of NYC’s five boroughs via the subway and bus system, and in the winter, we fully endorse those options. But in the other three seasons, it’s much more pleasant to hop onboard one of the local ferries. Our favorite is the free Staten Island Ferry, which leaves from Lower Manhattan: On the 20-minute journey, you’ll get gorgeous views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan’s southernmost skyline.
7. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Ferry
The San Francisco–Sausalito route is one of the most popular Golden Gate Ferry routes—and for good reason. The 30-minute cruise on the San Francisco Bay yields unparalleled views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and other landmarks, such as Alcatraz and Angel Island, that you simply can’t get on land.
8. Seattle’s Washington State Ferries
A number of state-run commuter ferries traverse the Puget Sound, hopping between the main port of Seattle and those on the various islands (Bainbridge, San Juan, and Lummi among them). Regardless of which path you take, you’ll have a prime vantage point from which to enjoy the skyline (Space Needle included) and majestic Mt. Rainier. Once you get out on the water, the view is pure Pacific Northwest: lush greenery and, if you’re lucky, an orca or two.
9. Sydney Ferries
On a 30-minute, government-run ferry jaunt between Sydney and the beach-side suburb of Manly, you’ll whiz past the famed Opera House and Harbour “Coathanger” Bridge, as well as Victorian cottages and myriad skyscrapers. Keep your eyes peeled, and you might also catch a glimpse of a bottlenose dolphin or southern right whale.