304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
The best view of New York might not be in the city itself, but from the harbor looking back at the skyline. Sightseeing cruises are a wonderful reminder that Manhattan is, in fact, an island, and getting out on the water offers a breezy cruise in addition to a fresh vantage point.
With a cold drink in hand, you’ll see not just the Statue of Liberty, but also other top city landmarks from the Brooklyn Bridge to One World Trade Center. These boat tours allow visitors to zoom out and get a new perspective, then return to Manhattan refreshed by the wind, water, light and sheer size of the skyline.
There are different boat experiences to match every type of traveler, and here are some of the best.
(Courtesy of Statue City Cruises)
Duration: At your own pace, with ferries departing every 25 to 30 minutes
Standout perk: Admission to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island are included in this sightseeing cruise and ferry service to Lady Liberty.
The best overall value and experience belongs to Statue City Cruises, which combines the scenery of a sightseeing cruise with the in-depth experience of an attraction tour. Priority entry included with the ticket saves time at the departure point at The Battery. On board the round-trip ferry service, visitors will experience all the sweeping views of a New York Harbor cruise, including skyscrapers of the Financial District and beyond.
The first stop is Liberty Island, home to the Statue of Liberty. Audio tours in a dozen languages are available so you can go at your own pace. Those interested can continue via boat service to Ellis Island, home to the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, which contains several fascinating exhibits and the chance to look up your ancestors. Explore at your leisure, then utilize the ferry service back to lower Manhattan.
Local tip: Choose a time as early as possible in the morning for this experience. Ferry service and crowds at Lady Liberty grow throughout the day and swell on weekends; a weekday morning is the best choice.
Price: From $60 for adults
Standout perk: This cruise provides a true sailing experience on a classic schooner.
Don’t be surprised to bump into New Yorkers on the Shearwater, a schooner with tall sails that entices even jaded Manhattanites to go for a ride. Climb aboard this “Gatsby”-era boat, with capacity for 48 people, from the dock at North Cove Marina at Brookfield Place and set out on a sail down the Hudson River and into the New York Harbor. Trade city crowds for the open water with this cruise, complete with a cash bar, that offers up-close views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Manhattan skyline.
This experience, conveniently available at different times throughout the day, is a match for adults seeking a more sophisticated sail – think: hip vibe, ample bar, music and an emphasis on service. Several upgrades are available, including sails that offer a wine tasting or live jazz on board. Every sailing offers the chance to snap your photograph with Lady Liberty herself, though you won’t be disembarking at Liberty Island.
Local tip: Adults seeking a romantic cruise may want to opt for the Sunset Sail on the Shearwater Classic Schooner.
(Courtesy of Circle Line)
Standout perk: Maximize time with this express cruise, featuring convenient, regular departures.
Families with limited time (or kids with limited attention spans) may appreciate a quick express cruise option. This fast and friendly tour, at just 50 minutes, is a speedy way to get the experience of a boat cruise without it taking a bite out of your day. Hop aboard a boat with Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises – the sister company to New York Water Taxi – and choose between either the open air of the top deck or the temperature-controlled cabin. On a sunny day, the outdoor deck with its sea breeze is the place to be as the boat sails past the Statue of Liberty.
Get unobstructed views of Lady Liberty and snap some family photographs before returning to Pier 16 in the South Street Seaport. Quick, efficient and featuring live narration from a guide, this sightseeing ride is excellent value packed into a short time span.
Local tip: Kids interested in ships may want to visit the South Street Seaport Museum, near the cruise departure point, to see model ships and more.
(Courtesy of SIFerry.com)
Duration: 25 minutes each way
Standout perk: Get out on the water to see the Statue of Liberty without paying a cent.
The best budget sightseeing cruise isn’t a cruise at all, but rather a free mode of local transportation: the Staten Island Ferry. While many of even the most basic harbor cruises start at about $20, this ferry offers a completely free, ticketless cruise in the New York Harbor, bypassing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island along the way. With service every 30 minutes and no reservations or tickets required, the ferry is not only a steal price-wise, but also a convenient option for travelers who don’t want to be tied down to a ticketed departure time.
Stand out on deck and admire views of Lady Liberty during this journey that crosses about 5 miles from Whitehall Street at the tip of lower Manhattan to St. George on Staten Island. The only drawback is that you must depart the ferry in Staten Island and reboard for the trip back to Manhattan – a small “price” to pay for a free boat ride in NYC.
Local tip: Visitors will want to avoid rush hour; these commuter boats can be crowded. Choose a time outside commuting rush hour to maximize the peaceful experience.
Price: From $64 for adults
Standout perk: This intimate cruise on a 1920s-inspired yacht comes with one complimentary drink included.
Board a yacht at Pier 62 in Chelsea for a polished cruise including views of the New York Harbor’s top landmark: the Statue of Liberty. Set sail in style aboard a yacht inspired by the roaring ’20s, complete with a solarium and open-air decks as well as a climate-controlled cabin. Cruise down the west side of Manhattan and check out views of The Battery, the Financial District, Governor’s Island and more.
Of all the available New York City harbor cruises, guests often praise this one for the quality of the staff running the Classic Harbor Line cruises. With an emphasis on service, an intimate group with a maximum of 80 passengers and an onboard stocked bar, this cruise offers a sophisticated option for seeing Lady Liberty.
Local tip: This cruise departs from Pier 62, which is home to a riverfront carousel for kids and a pretty stretch of Hudson River Park. Stop into Chelsea Market for some picnic supplies and relax in the park before your cruise.
(Courtesy of Circle Line)
Standout perk: Watch the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline flicker to life.
Circle Line offers a variety of cruises with different itineraries. One of the most popular is the Harbor Lights tour, a cruise departing from Midtown Manhattan that includes golden sunset views and a photo stop at the Statue of Liberty. See NYC landmarks like Hudson Yards, Chelsea Piers and One World Trade Center before cruising out into the New York Harbor. You’ll get to learn about New York from onboard narration as the itinerary continues past Liberty Island and beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
While the sun sets and the Manhattan skyscrapers flash to life, relax on the outdoor deck space and visit the onboard bar to purchase beer, wine, cocktails and light snacks. A temperature-controlled cabin is available for hot days. Wi-Fi is free on board and allows for easy posting of sunset photos.
Local tip: This cruise departs from Pier 83 in Midtown Manhattan. Arrive early to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum at neighboring Pier 86.
Jessica Colley Clarke is a New York-based freelance writer. She loves to take visiting family and friends out on the water in the New York Harbor for a fresh perspective on the Manhattan skyline and beyond. Colley Clarke used her expertise to write this article.