Boston By Boat

Published in the July 2009 issue of Baystate Parent

Boston By Boat

From craft shaped like swans to machines tricked out like monster fish, Boston is home to a flotilla of vessels that ply the city’s waterways. With peaceful ponds, major river, scenic harbor and island-studded open ocean, Boston offers lots of ways to have family fun afloat:

Swan Boats: A 15-minute ride that’s a 130-year-old tradition. Drivers ease elegant paddleboats around the tree-lined lagoon in Boston Public Garden, America’s first botanical garden.; 617-522-1966; $2.75 adults, $1.50 child.

Boston Harbor Cruises: From Long Wharf near the New England Aquarium, this company offers a cruise menu for all tastes, including whale watches, fast ferries to Cape Cod’s Provincetown and harbor cruises that take in lighthouses, the skyline and historical sights. Or ride Codzilla, a 2,800 horsepower beast with fish fangs painted on the hull that flies through the sea at 40 mph, music blaring. Screaming encouraged.; 617-227-4321; prices vary.

Harbor Islands Ferries: From Long Wharf, Pier 10 in South Boston and from three suburban docks south of the city, ferries and water shuttles take you to some of the 34 islands that make up the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Georges Island, with its 19th-century Fort Warren, and Spectacle Island, which offers swimming, hiking trails and marvelous views of the Boston skyline, are among the most popular and accessible.; 617-223-8666; prices vary.

Duck Tours: Travel the streets of Boston in a restored World War II-era amphibious vehicle while a ConDucktor narrates, then “splashdown” into the Charles River. Boston sits on one riverbank and Cambridge on the other. 80-minute tour departs from both the Museum of Science and Prudential Center.; 617-267-DUCK; $29.95 adults, $20 child.

Tall Ships Poincare and Formidable: The crew serves bottled water and ginger snaps, but you’re welcome to bring your own provisions and libations aboard these identical 50-foot square-rigged sailing vessels that accommodate 40 passengers on a two-hour tour of Boston harbor. Depart from Long Wharf’s Boston Waterfront Marina.; 617-262-1119; $25 adult, $10 child.

Entertainment Cruises: Cruise the inner harbor from Castle Island to Old Ironsides while enjoying food, drink and dancing. Spirit of Boston offers a variety of sailings at different times of day, departing from the World Trade Center in Boston’s Seaport District.; 866-310-2469; prices vary.

Charles Riverboat Tours: Float down the Charles, Boston on one side and Cambridge on the other, taking in sights like the Longfellow Bridge, Beacon Hill and the golden-domed State House, the Esplanade, Back Bay, and the campuses and boathouses of MIT, Harvard and Boston University. Hour-long tour departs from the Cambridgeside Galleria.; 617-621-3001. $14 adult, $7 child. Also offers harbor cruises.

Charles River Canoe and Kayak: Paddle the Charles on your own steam. Pick up your hourly or daily canoe, kayak or rowboat rental at Artesani Park in Allston and explore a nine-mile stretch of the Charles River Basin. Guided tours available. Open Thurs.-Sun. in season.; 617-462-2513. Kayak/canoe rentals about $15/hour or $60/day.

Jamaica Pond: Rent a sailboat or rowboat from the boathouse at this 68-acre pond, a glacier-carved kettle depression and a jewel in the F.L. Olmsted-designed Emerald Necklace of Boston parkland.; 617-522-5061. Rowboats $10/hour, sailboats $15/hour.