The 10 Best New York City Boat Tours

Escape the crowded city streets and admire the iconic skyline from the water.

U.S. News & World Report

The 10 Best New York City Boat Tours

Best New York City Boat Tours

Architects can receive continuing education credits when they take an American Institute of Architects cruise with Classic Harbor Line.(Courtesy of Classic Harbor Line)

Taking a boat tour is a must-do when visiting New York City, as it gives you a full view of the mighty Manhattan skyline and many of its famous bridges and buildings. Whether you're looking for a leisurely kayak trip along the Hudson River or a romantic sunset sail, you'll find a cruise to suit your interests. Consulting both expert opinion and traveler sentiment, U.S. News gathered 10 of the best New York City boat tours.

Classic Harbor Line – AIANY Around Manhattan Architecture Tour

Admire some of the city's most significant architecture on this nearly three-hour cruise from Classic Harbor Line. With a member of the American Institute of Architects as your guide, you'll spot iconic art deco and Beaux Arts structures, Frank Gehry designs and the newest additions to the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Reviewers who enjoy the cruise's quiet atmosphere describe it as the highlight of their trip and say it offers a unique perspective compared to other boat cruises in the city. Tickets cost $86 per person or $68 for students ages 14 and older; children 13 and younger are not permitted to cruise. Tours depart once or twice daily, though they run on Saturdays only in the winter. The company also offers sunset, brunch and jazz cruises.

Circle Line Sightseeing – Best of NYC Cruise

See all of the Big Apple's top landmarks with this 2 1/2-hour cruise from Circle Line Sightseeing. The tour, which departs from Pier 83, completely circles Manhattan. During the trip, you'll see the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium and more. Reviewers say the tour provides a great overview of the city and describe onboard guides as engaging storytellers. Tours typically depart daily, though specific times vary depending on the season. Boats are equipped with free Wi-Fi and an onboard cafe. Tickets start at $44 for adults and $37 for kids ages 3 to 12. The company also offers an express cruise to the Statue of Liberty and an evening Harbor Lights cruise, among others.

The BEAST Speedboat Ride

Those who love a good thrill may want to check out The BEAST Speedboat Ride. The boat reaches speeds of about 45 mph as it makes its way from Pier 83 to the Statue of Liberty. Reviewers say the ride is fast and fun and warn you'll likely get wet if you sit in the back. Tours, which last about 30 minutes, run early May through the end of September and depart hourly from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You must be at least 40 inches tall to ride, and tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for children. You can save on admission to several top attractions, such as the 9/11 Memorial and the Empire State Building, by purchasing The BEAST combo tickets.

New York Media Boat – Adventure Sightseeing Tour

Designed for photographers, the Adventure Sightseeing Tour takes riders on a U.S. Navy-designed boat past key city sights like the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and Chelsea Piers, among others. The captain stops the boat multiple times throughout the 90-minute narrated cruise for both up-close and panoramic photo opportunities. Participants praise the informative guides and say the tour is a great option for kids, who are sure to enjoy the thrilling boat speeds. Others say the cruise yields great photos. Tickets for the tour, which runs multiple times daily, cost $95 per person. The company also offers private charters.

Manhattan Kayak Company – Skyline Kayak Tour, Novice

For a unique perspective of the New York skyline, consider this tour from Manhattan Kayak Company. The Skyline Kayak Tour, designed for kayakers with little to no experience, spends 15 minutes teaching you how to kayak followed by a 45-minute paddle on the Hudson River. Reviewers say it is a great value and a fun way to see the city. Tickets cost $60 per person. Participants must be 13 or older, and minors must be accompanied by an adult. Tours depart at varying times and days during the week. Manhattan Kayak Company also offers intermediate and advanced kayak tours, as well as stand-up paddleboard tours.

This boat excursion with Tribeca Sailing will take you by one of New York's most iconic sights: Lady Liberty.(Courtesy of Captain David Caporale/Tribeca Sailing)

Tribeca Sailing – Sunset Statue Sailing Tour

Hop aboard a classic sailboat and marvel at the New York City skyline as the sun sets over the harbor. Passengers will see a variety of iconic landmarks, including One World Trade Center, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and may even go beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Reviewers say the tour offers a unique and memorable way to see the city and applaud the friendly captain. Cruises, which are limited to just six passengers and last two hours, depart at 6 p.m. each day, except in November when tours depart at 4 p.m. Cruises do not sail December through March. Tickets cost $110 per person, and patrons are welcome to bring their own food and drinks (including alcoholic beverages) aboard. The company also offers daytime tours and private tours.

Hornblower Cruises – Hop-On, Hop-Off New York Sightseeing Cruises

Tour New York City at your own pace with this hop-on, hop-off cruise. The 90-minute tour stops in midtown and downtown and allows cruisers to hop on and off up to three times. The narrated cruise, which is equipped with onboard concessions, offers views of top attractions like Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Hudson Yards. Reviewers warn that the boats are old, however, and that the tour does not show much of the city. The tour departs from Pier 78 or Brookfield Place Terminal downtown multiple times daily. Tickets cost approximately $35 per person, with discounts for seniors and children. Hornblower also offers a traditional sightseeing cruise of the city, as well as a happy hour cruise with a DJ.

New York Water Taxi

Whether you're looking for a leisurely cruise or an efficient way to explore four New York City neighborhoods, you'll be able to do both on the New York Water Taxi. The full tour takes about 70 minutes and offers views of the High Line, One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. You also have the option to disembark at any of the four stops and board again at a later time. Stops include midtown, downtown, the Seaport and Brooklyn's Dumbo. Reviewers say the tour is fast and efficient, and they recommend it to tourists. All Day Access passes start at $37 for adults and $31 for children ages 3 to 12. The taxi departs about every 30 minutes from each stop from roughly 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. New York Water Taxi also offers a two-day access pass and a VIP tour.

Manhattan By Sail – Clipper City at the Battery Daytime Statue of Liberty Cruise

This 60- to 90-minute cruise takes you around the city on one of the largest passenger sailboats in the U.S. The boat offers large decks perfect for enjoying skyline views as you cruise around the New York harbor. Plus, you can purchase snacks and drinks on board. Reviewers describe the tour as interesting, relaxing and informative and say the crew is personal and professional. Tours operate multiple times daily with limited availability in the fall and winter. Tickets cost $45 for adults and $25 for children 13 and younger. Manhattan By Sail also has a nightly Chocolate & Cocktail Sail, a sunset cruise and more.

Bateaux New York – Luxury Sightseeing Lunch Cruise

Enjoy an elegant cruise on a European-style, glass-enclosed boat with Bateaux New York. The two-hour cruise, which takes passengers past top New York City landmarks, also includes a three-course lunch, a pianist and narration. Alcohol is available for an additional cost, and dressy-casual attire is recommended (no jeans). Reviewers say the service is excellent and the food delicious. Tickets cost approximately $70 for adults, $50 for children ages 3 to 12 and free for kids younger than 3. Cruises depart at noon Monday through Saturday; winter departures are limited. Bateaux New York also operates brunch and dinner cruises.

Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler has written for U.S. News since 2014 covering a range of travel topics, including ...  Read more

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