From meandering canals to bustling rivers, the waterways in Venice, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Sydney, New York and Bangkok are some of the most sailed and storied to be found globally. And what makes them all the more cruiseable? Why, the beloved vessels bobbing atop, of course. Give tired trotters a reprieve and discover your chosen city one gentle lilting, lapping wave at a time via these ferry rides, the best to be found in the world. Alight, off you go!
Sehir Hatlari Bosphorus Cruise, Istanbul
At the convergence point of the Orient and Occident, bisecting Istanbul’s Eastern and Western continental boundaries, beset with cultural, architectural and maritime marvels sits none than the glittering Bosphorus Strait. With its heavily settled banks and international cast spanning everything from tankers and ships to ferries and fishing boats, the Bos is a one-stop spot when it comes to bearing witness to the local life and times of modern Constantinople. So rather than schlepping to and fro across the city, why not let Sehir Hatlari (City Boat Lines) do the heavy lifting with one of their two Bos-crossing jaunts. If you’re pressed for time, a two-hour tour whisks you up from Eminonu Pier and back to Galata Bridge, taking in magnificent palaces and shore-side landmarks along the way. Or if you’re looking for an entirely bum down, feet up kind of experience, join the 6-hour sojourn sailing 20 nautical miles from the Sea of Marmora to the south-west bank of the Black Sea where splendid coastline, lush green hills, Byzantine archi and the dazzling sapphire blue harbour of Anadolu Kavagi are the order of the day.
Pro-tip: Arrive early to queue for tickets at Eminonu pier as there is no advance booking, and be sure to pick up an audio guide so you miss nary a nugget along the way. en.sehirhatlari.istanbul
Circular Quay to Manly Wharf, Sydney
Australia’s Emerald City is a natural-born flirt when it comes to glistening bodies of water and seaside action, as regular Manly Ferry commuters would no doubt attest. Traversing the famed harbour from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf, the 30-min circuit takes you almost within reach-out-and-grab distance of some of the city’s most sought-out must-sees from the Opera House and Harbour Bridge to Victorian cottages, skyscrapers, bays and beaches – and that’s just on the journey over. Once you arrive in Manly there’s the world-famous beach itself, plus charming The Boathouse eats, snorkelling, surfing and much more.
Pro-tip: Catch a sunset ride home and pull up a seat on the outdoor deck to take in spectacular harbourscapes as the glowing sun throws its last sprays of light across the iconic Opera House shells. myfastferry.com.auEmbed from Getty Images
Staten Island Ferry, New York
Much more than just a beloved, centuries-old commuter vessel, the Staten Island Ferry has ascended to nothing short of icon status thanks to it awesome, blockbuster-side route and pop-culture prominence across everything from movies and TV shows to books and music videos. Shipping more than 70,000 souls back and forth each day, the ever-reliable, 24-hour-a-day ride sails right by Governors Island and Lady Liberty herself with stunning vistas back towards lower Manhattan – and best of all, is free!
Pro-tip: If you’re boarding from Manhattan side, skip up to the top deck and park it outside for unobstructed views of the Statue of Liberty. siferry.com
Sure, they’re not as widely recognised as the quintessential gondola – or George Clooney’s bateau de choix, the sleek Venetian water taxi – but locals and savvy visitors alike all stand-by the convenience and cost-effectiveness of the city’s budget-friendly waterbuses, the vaporetti. Accessible in the main canals as well as around the lagoon and nearby islands, individual vaporetto will whiz you by all the noteworthy including Piazzale Roma, Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square, all for a flat fee of €7.50 per 75-min ride, or €20-€60 for a 1-day to 1-week pass. Bargain, Brigitta.
Pro-tip: You’re already saving cents, now make sure you save some time to check out the outlying isles – take Line 12 to Burano or Line 9 to Torcello for a quaint sightseeing affair. actv.avmspa.it
Star Ferry, Hong Kong
Few sights are more synonymous with Hong Kong than its building and peak-crammed skyline, and nowhere offers a more awe-inspiring vantage of both sides of the harbour than the treasured Star Ferry fleet. The vintage-era, green-and-white double-deckers have been floating over from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui and back across to Wanchai since 1888, and if you like what you see by day, chances are you’ll have your socks totally knocked off when you see the glittering cityscape lit up by night. Unmissable.
Pro-tip: Zip up to the upper deck for the most Insta-worthy snap spots. starferry.com.hk
Chao Phraya River Express, Bangkok
As far as bang-for-buck experiences go, Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River Express is hard to beat anywhere globally, with all manner of local life from gleaming palaces and temples to trundling cargo barges and everyday river activity yours for the ogling for a mere THB 15-32 per ride. Traversing between numerous piers dotted up and down the riverbank, with exotic neighbourhoods just a pixie skip beyond the dock, uncovering the best the Big Mango has to offer has really never been easier or more atmospheric.
Pro-tip: The orange-flagged Express Boat is your best bet for exploration as it stops at all the main piers along the river. Or, if you’re looking for a more intimate Venice of the East experience, hop-off at Tha Chang Pier where boatmen offer thrilling rides along the khlongs on a narrow longtail boat. chaophrayaexpressboat.com
Sailing away sometime soon?