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From Coast to Coast: Discover the 11 Most Scenic Ferry Rides in the USA

From Coast to Coast: Discover the 11 Most Scenic Ferry Rides in the USA

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Looking for a unique way to travel around the United States? Keep scrolling to check out the most scenic ferry rides in the U.S. that your whole family will love!
This list of scenic ferry rides in the USA was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Guest post by Heather Kasvinsky

Are you searching for scenic ferry rides in the USA? 

From the rugged wilderness of Alaska to the sun-kissed waters of Florida, the USA’s ferry routes provide unique perspectives on some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. 

With so many picturesque coastlines, islands, and waterways to explore, choosing the most scenic and memorable ferry rides can be an overwhelming task for travelers eager to experience the nation’s maritime charm. 

To ease this decision, this blog post highlights some of America’s most scenic ferry rides, each handpicked for its distinctive perspective and one-of-a-kind adventure. 

Whether you’re seeking a serene voyage across or a thrilling trip past towering cliffs and glaciers, you’ll discover a ferry ride that not only matches your adventurous spirit but also leaves you with lasting memories.

11 Gorgeous Ferry Rides in the USA

Get ready to set sail on a visual journey through some of the most stunning ferry routes across the nation. 

From serene coastal passages to incredible wilderness explorations, these selected routes represent the diversity and beauty of America’s landscapes!

Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Washington

Length: 35 minutes

Are you looking to see the Pacific Northwest like never before? Hop aboard the Seattle to Bainbridge Island ferry, and you’re in for an absolute treat! 

Ferry awaits departure on Elliott Bay - Seattle, WA
You’ll see the iconic Seattle skyline from Elliott Bay.

Operated by Washington State Ferries, this 35-minute ride across Puget Sound offers spectacular views of the Seattle skyline, Mount Rainier, and the lush landscapes of Bainbridge Island. 

This ferry is a mini-adventure that showcases Washington’s natural beauty. Imagine sipping your favorite coffee as you glide past the Space Needle, with eagles soaring above and the occasional orca making a grand appearance!

It’s considered an essential experience in Seattle. As they say in the Evergreen State, “The ferry ride is part of the fun!” And trust me, Seattle to Bainbridge is a ride you don’t want to miss.

And if you’re visiting in spring, you can go to nearby scenic locations or events like the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. It’s a very Instagrammable treat!

Whittier to Valdez, Alaska

Length: 6 hours

If you have been dreaming of an Alaska escape and are planning a bucket list trip let the ferry ride from Whittier to Valdez sweep you off your feet! 

Image of boats in Whittier Alaska
Whittier Alaska. Photo credit: Heather Kasvinsky

This scenic voyage through Prince William Sound is part of the renowned Alaska Marine Highway System and showcases glaciers, cascading waterfalls, and towering mountain peaks. You may even catch a glimpse of seals, sea otters, bald eagles, and whales along the way. 

Once you arrive in Valdez, a treasure trove of exploration awaits you. From glacier hiking and kayaking to fishing and cultural tours, the things to do in Valdez offer something for every adventurer. 

The ferry ride lasts around six hours, but you’ll find that time flies when you’re immersed in this environment!  The Whittier to Valdez ferry is absolutely a hidden gem in the north. 

San Francisco to Sausalito, California

Length: 30 minutes

Have you ever wanted to see San Francisco from a new perspective? The ferry ride from San Francisco to Sausalito is your ticket to an unforgettable Bay Area experience. 

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

This short yet enchanting 30-minute journey across San Francisco Bay offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the city’s iconic skyline.

As the ferry glides through the waters, you’ll be treated to a refreshing sea breeze and the opportunity to capture photos that’ll make your friends envious. 

Once in Sausalito, explore the quaint shops, indulge in waterfront dining, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk along the harbor.

The San Francisco to Sausalito ferry is a delightful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. It’s a charming excursion that brings the beauty of the Bay Area to life.

Cape May to Lewes, Delaware

Length: 1 hour 25 minutes

The Cape May to Lewes ferry is a beloved route between New Jersey and Delaware, offering travelers a leisurely and scenic alternative to highway driving. 

Cape May - Lewes ferry boat passing the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse off the coast of Lewes, Delaware.
Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

Spanning 17 miles across Delaware Bay, this 85-minute journey provides passengers with stunning vistas of lighthouses, coastal harbors, and possibly even dolphins or whales.

While on board, soak up the fresh sea air, indulge in some local cuisine at the ferry’s café, or simply relax on the sun deck as you traverse the gentle waves. 

Whether you’re heading out on a day trip or starting a coastal vacation, the Cape May to Lewes ferry adds a touch of charm and true elegance to your journey. It’s a trip that highlights the natural beauty of the region!

Hyannis to Nantucket, Massachusetts

Length: 1 hour

The ferry ride from Hyannis to Nantucket is a quintessential New England experience, serving as a gateway to the idyllic island known for its cobblestone streets, historic lighthouses, and sandy beaches. 

Ferry passes by Brant Point lighthouse at sunset on Nantucket Island, in Massachusetts.
Nantucket ferry.

As you make the one-hour journey across Nantucket Sound, you’ll love the expansive ocean views and the feeling of escaping to a simpler time. The ferry itself offers comfortable seating and amenities, allowing you to relax and anticipate the island’s charm. 

Once in Nantucket, the possibilities for exploration are endless, from biking and beachcombing to indulging in local seafood.

For residents and visitors alike, the Hyannis to Nantucket ferry isn’t merely a mode of transportation; it’s the beginning of an island jaunt! Embracing the romance of sea travel, this boat ride sets the tone for a memorable and serene island getaway.

New York City to Staten Island, New York

Length: 25 minutes

One of the iconic things to do in the Big Apple is the New York City to Staten Island ferry ride. It offers an unparalleled view of some of the city’s most famous landmarks. 

Image of the Staten Island ferry and Statue of Liberty
Staten Island Ferry in NYC.

As you cruise through New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty stands tall, and the Manhattan skyline creates a very cool backdrop.

The 25-minute journey is a favorite among locals and tourists, providing a refreshing break from the city’s hustle. The ferry itself is a spacious vessel where you can enjoy the fresh harbor breeze and capture photographs that epitomize New York’s grandeur.

Whether you’re on a sightseeing mission or simply seeking a pleasant commute, the New York City to Staten Island ferry is a classic New York experience. It captures the city’s essence and delivers a special perspective of the area!

Port Angeles to Victoria, Washington

Length: 90 minutes

The ferry ride from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia, is a captivating journey that allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. 

Views of forested islets and Olympic Mountains of Washington State from rugged Coast trail in East Sooke Regional Park, Vancouver Island, BC
There are lots of gorgeous sights along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this 90-minute voyage offers breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains, verdant forests, and serene coastal landscapes.

Passengers can relax on the spacious decks, often catching sight of marine wildlife such as seals, eagles, and even whales. With comfortable amenities and picturesque views, the journey itself becomes an unforgettable part of any travel itinerary.

The Port Angeles to Victoria ferry ride goes beyond mere transportation. It offers a moment of tranquility and wonder, connecting two vibrant cities while providing a great perspective on the region’s natural splendor.

Haines to Juneau, Alaska

Length: 4-5 hours

The Haines to Juneau ferry ride immerses travelers in Alaska’s stunning beauty.

As part of the Alaska Marine Highway, passengers can witness glaciers, rugged mountains, and coastal inlets. The ride provides ample opportunity to observe wildlife such as eagles, bears, and whales. 

Image of a ferry in Alaska
Photo credit: Heather Kasvinsky

After docking, why not elevate your adventure with a flightseeing experience? A Juneau helicopter tour offers an exhilarating continuation of your trip, providing a bird’s-eye view of the landscapes you’ve just sailed past. 

Imagine soaring over ice fields, descending onto glaciers, and capturing the amazing beauty of Alaska from above. It’s a perfect complement to the ferry ride, taking your exploration to new heights.

The combination of the Haines to Juneau ferry and a Juneau helicopter tour is a recipe for an unforgettable Alaskan bucket list item. From sea to sky, it’s an exploration that showcases Alaska’s grandeur.

Fort Fisher to Southport, North Carolina

Length: 35 minutes

The ferry ride from Fort Fisher to Southport, North Carolina, offers a very delightful and scenic alternative to the traditional highway route. 

Fort Fisher North Carolina
Fort Fisher in North Carolina.

Connecting two charming coastal towns, this ride across the Cape Fear River gives you a relaxing break from driving and an opportunity to embrace the area’s maritime culture.

As the ferry sails past salt marshes, sandy beaches, and historic lighthouses, passengers are treated to a glimpse of the natural beauty that characterizes this part of the state. 

The Fort Fisher to Southport ferry ride invites you to slow down and take in the simple pleasure of travel by water.

It’s a convenient and enjoyable experience that adds a touch of adventure to your North Carolina exploration, creating great memories along the Cape Fear coast.

New Orleans to Algiers Point, Louisiana

Length: 5 minutes

The New Orleans to Algiers Point ferry ride is a local treasure, providing both a practical means of transportation and a special way to enjoy the city from the water. 

Sunset above New Orleans with Mississippi River, Louisiana
See New Orleans from the Mississippi River.

Crossing the Mississippi River, this short but scenic ride connects the bustling heart of New Orleans with the historic neighborhood of Algiers Point.

During the brief journey, passengers enjoy great views of the New Orleans skyline, the Crescent City Connection bridge, and the vibrant river traffic. 

Algiers Point, with its picturesque streets, charming architecture, and laid-back atmosphere, offers a delightful contrast to the city’s lively downtown.

Whether you’re a visitor seeking a novel perspective on New Orleans or a commuter enjoying the daily rhythm of the river, the ferry to Algiers Point is a cherished part of the city’s fabric. 

Key West to Dry Tortugas, Florida

Length: 2.5-hours

The ferry ride from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park is a remarkable journey to one of Florida’s most isolated and enchanting destinations. 

Northern Side of Fort Jefferson on Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Concrete Walkway around Fort Jefferson with the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico surround it.
Dry Tortugas National Park.

Covering a distance of 70 miles through the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this 2.5-hour trip transports passengers to a world of unspoiled beauty and historical intrigue.

As the ferry approaches the Dry Tortugas, the majestic Fort Jefferson comes into view, it’s a really cool site! The surrounding turquoise waters teem with vibrant coral reefs, making it a haven for snorkeling and marine exploration.

The Key West to Dry Tortugas ferry provides not only a gateway to adventure but also a scenic voyage filled with opportunities to spot dolphins, sea turtles, and a variety of seabirds. 

It’s a must-do for those seeking a unique blend of natural wonder and historical fascination, all within a day’s journey from the lively atmosphere of Key West.

Tips for Travelers on Ferry Rides

These tips will help you prepare for your trip and make the most of the scenic ferry rides across the USA.

Seasonal Considerations

Research the best time of year for your chosen route, taking into account wildlife sightings, weather conditions, and changes in scenery.

The best time to visit Alaska definitely differs from the best time to head to Florida! In addition, some ferry schedules vary seasonally. 


Dress in layers and bring weather-appropriate clothing, including sun protection and rain gear, depending on the location and time of year. For Alaska ferries bring gloves, a knit hat, and a warm jacket.


Bring a good camera and know the best times for photos, such as sunrise or sunset. Consider packing a portable battery bank for charging your phone and more if you are on a longer boat ride.

Book in Advance

Popular routes may sell out quickly, especially during peak seasons, so consider booking your ferry tickets in advance in person or online.


Check the ferry’s accessibility features if you need accommodations for mobility or other special needs.

Safety Precautions

Familiarize yourself with the ferry’s main safety protocols and follow the crew’s instructions during the journey.

Food and Amenities

Some ferries may have dining options on board, while others may not. Plan your meals and snacks accordingly, and know what amenities are available as part of the ferry service.

U.S. Ferry Rides FAQs

What are some of the most scenic ferry rides in the U.S.?

Some of the most scenic ferry rides in the U.S. include the Staten Island Ferry in New York, the Washington State Ferries in the Pacific Northwest, the Alaska Marine Highway System, and the San Francisco Bay Ferry in California.

Are ferry rides a good way to see landmarks and scenery?

Absolutely! Ferry rides often provide unique perspectives on city skylines, landmarks, and natural scenery that you can’t get from land.

Are ferry rides expensive?

The cost of ferry rides can vary widely depending on the length of the journey, whether you’re a pedestrian or driving a car, and the specific ferry service. Some, like the Staten Island Ferry, are actually free!

Do I need to book ferry rides in advance?

For some ferry services, especially those that are popular with tourists or that offer vehicle transport, it can be a good idea to book in advance.

What should I bring on a ferry ride?

Consider bringing layers as it can get windy, sun protection like sunglasses and sunscreen, and a camera to capture the scenic views.

Best Ferry Rides in the United States Worth Doing

As we wrap up our exploration of the USA’s most scenic ferry routes, it’s clear that these rides offer a one-of-a-kind way to enjoy the country’s varied landscapes. 

From Alaska’s icy vistas to Florida’s tropical waters, and everywhere in between, each ferry journey presents something different. 

We hope this guide helps you find the perfect route for your next trip, whether you’re seeking relaxation, excitement, or a bit of both. 

So grab your ticket, hop on board, and enjoy the view. Happy sailing!

About Heather

Heather Kasvinsky is a culinary adventurer who loves hiking and camping, from the familiar trails of her Vermont home to the remote corners of Alaska near her family’s off-grid cabin.

Looking for more U.S. travel inspiration? Check out best fall destinations for families on a budget, warm winter destinations in the U.S., and fun Christmas getaways in the U.S.

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