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The Hornblower Infinity on the waters around Manhattan.
Scott Barrow

The best boat tours in NYC

All aboard! Book these boat tours in NYC for incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and other iconic landmarks

Written by
Time Out New York contributors
&
Annalise Mantz
Contributor
Alex Floyd-Douglass
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In all of planet Earth, there is no other skyline quite like that of New York City. No matter how they’re viewed, the Big Apple’s skyscrapers and landmarks are iconic. But there’s one way of touring NYC that beats out the rest, hands down – by boat.  

Whether from the upper deck of a yacht or hunkered down on a speedboat, views from the harbor show NYC at its absolute finest. From the Statue of Liberty to the One World Trade Center, you can take in all the biggest sights without dealing with packed subway cars and endless traffic jams. Below are some of the Big Apple’s biggest and best boat tours.

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Best NYC Boat Tours

New York City: Alive After Five Cocktail Cruise
Photograph: Courtesy Hornblower Cruises & Events

1. New York City: Alive After Five Cocktail Cruise

Get a taste of the Big Apple’s nightlife scene with this happy hour boat tour on the Hudson River. The Alive After Five cocktail cruise has everything you need: a fully stocked bar, a dance floor, and a killer DJ. Did someone say tequila?

Manhattan: Private Sailing Yacht Cruise with Champagne
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/dumbonyc

2. Manhattan: Private Sailing Yacht Cruise with Champagne

Don’t want to share your views of the city skyline? You don’t have to on this private tour of the Hudson River at sunset. It’s your party, so you can bring any food or drinks you like on board. The crew will greet you with a complimentary bottle of champagne, too. You’ll feel like a high roller as you kick back on your private yacht for the evening.

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Circle Line: Complete Manhattan Island Cruise
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/bvi4092

3. Circle Line: Complete Manhattan Island Cruise

How better to get your bearing in a city as enormous as NYC than by circumnavigation? The Circle Line’s two-and-a-half-hour tour does a full loop of Manhattan Island, taking passengers past plenty of the city’s most sights in the process. Spanning three rivers and all five boroughs, you’ll even pass within touching distance of Lady Liberty herself. In other words, get your camera ready!

Statue of Liberty Express Cruise
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Statue of Liberty Express Cruise

Perfect for the sightseer who knows exactly what he or she wants, this Circle Line express tour goes right to the Statue of Liberty – no pit stops this time. Listen to an expert guide point out some lower Manhattan landmarks before pausing for photos right next to Lady Liberty. And since this cruise only takes an hour, it’s easy to fit into even the busiest itinerary.

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New York Harbor Hop-On Hop-Off Cruise
Photograph: Courtesy New York Water Taxi

5. New York Harbor Hop-On Hop-Off Cruise

You can't miss the water taxis, they look just like the car versions: big, bright and yellow. These little beauties cruise round New York Harbor daily, passing major sites like the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. You can stay on and complete the entire loop in 70 minutes, or hop on and off as you please, exploring the greats eats, shops and attractions in NYC's waterside neighborhoods.

AIANY Lower Manhattan Architecture Tour
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. AIANY Lower Manhattan Architecture Tour

The area south of 59th Street is packed with architecturally significant buildings: There’s the Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building, the Empire State Building, and One World Trade Center, just to name a few. This 90-minute boat tour led by a member of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects will cover all of Manhattan’s most significant structures, plus the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Sip complimentary beer, wine, or champagne from the bar while you learn about infrastructure, parks, and architecture.

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Put your purse away, because the Staten Island Ferry is totally free. That's right, in one of the most expensive cities in the world, you can find a free ride. This old chugger has been going since before any bridges were built, transporting folks from the 'burbs to Manhattan in 25 minutes. It still functions as a commuter necessity, but more and more sightseers are taking it to get the stunning panoramas of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Boats leave South Ferry at Battery Park and run 24 hours a day.

New York City Sunset Sailing with Wine Tasting
Photograph: Courtesy Manhattan By Sail

8. New York City Sunset Sailing with Wine Tasting

Here’s one for the schmoozy, romantic vacationers. The NYC sunset sailing with wine tasting gives you the chance to gaze out as the sun drops below Manhattan, seeing NYC’s biggest landmarks (including the Statue of Liberty) all lit up in a golden glow. And to top it all off, you’re on a luxurious sailing boat, which is equipped, crucially, with a full bar. Not that you'll need it after your third cab sauv.

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Champagne Brunch Sail in New York City
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Michael Vadon

9. Champagne Brunch Sail in New York City

Fresh air, ocean waves, unlimited prosecco, and a massive brunch spread of bagels, lox, cream cheese, quiche, fresh fruit, and more – it’s fair to say that this midday cruise on the Shearwater really does have it all. Sit back and relax and the crew guides the restored 1929 sailboat out into the harbor. If you’re lucky, the captain will even let you take a turn at the helm.

Circle Line: Beast Speedboat Ride
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Circle Line: Beast Speedboat Ride

Adrenaline junkies will want to book tickets for this supercharged half-hour ride through New York Harbor. The 70-foot speedboat known as the Beast zooms toward the Statue of Liberty at 45 miles per hour, kicking up plenty of waves. In fact, the ride can get so intense that guides recommend wearing wetsuits.

Keen to beat the summer heat?

Want to rent your own boat?

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