date published: June 16, 2008

When the mercury rises, Bostonians tend to rediscover their urge to be beside the seaside. Luckily, life in this coastal jewel of a city presents ample opportunity for landlubbers to discover their sea legs and get out on the open water, or just venture down to Boston Harbor or the banks of the Charles River to soak up the sights and sounds you can only find along the deep blue.

Numerous cruise companies offer boating tours in and around Boston’s waterways. Patrons of the Charles Riverboat Company (refer to cruise listing) can enjoy 60-minute sightseeing cruises along the mighty Charles River and 75-minute tours of the Charles River Locks and Boston Harbor, while those who hop aboard Boston Harbor Cruises’ (refer to cruise listing) high-speed Codzilla vessel can take in Boston at a less-leisurely pace by enjoying an exciting 40 m.p.h. rip-roaring jaunt around Boston Harbor.

Bay State Cruise Company (refer to cruise listing) offers getaways to nearby Provincetown, as well as summer music cruises, aboard its traditional ferry and catamaran ships. Meanwhile, Odyssey Cruises (refer to cruise listing) offers glamorous days and nights at sea, with brunch, dinner and midnight cruises taking place daily aboard its sleek and elegant three-decker. And luxury dining on the open sea has a new home in Boston with the recent arrival of Yacht Starship, a AAA Three Diamond-rated dining yacht that sails daily from the Seaport District all summer long (visit for more information and cruise schedule).

Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships (refer to cruise listing) has been a key figure on the Boston sail scene since 1992, ferrying guests along the coastline aboard the 125-foot schooner the Liberty Clipper. A typical two-hour jaunt aboard the Liberty Clipper—a replica of a mid-1800s Baltimore schooner that was originally built in Mystic, Conn.—takes visitors out to explore the Boston Harbor Islands, or on a swing by the North End and the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Standard sails depart three times daily, at noon, 3 and 6 p.m., from Long Wharf. Liberty Fleet also offers specialty cruises like Friday night steak and lobster sails, Sunday brunches and occasional wine tasting sails. And on weekends, the Clipper kicks it up a notch by inviting the Freedom Trail Players aboard to take visitors through a reservation-only re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party.

And from June 17–22, ship enthusiasts can step aboard a throwback to France’s nautical past when the three-masted barque the Belem (built in 1896) makes its first visit to the U.S. in more than 20 years, as well as the Uruguayan staysail schooner Capitan Miranda (built in 1930). Both ships are open to the public for free tours during their berths in the Hub as part of Sail Boston. Visit for more information and a schedule of events.

The Harborwalk—a planned 47-mile series of connected walkways tracing the Boston Harbor shoreline from Winthrop and East Boston in the north to Dorchester in the south—is close to completion, and has opened up beautiful seaside views to strollers from historic Charlestown down toward the North End and onto the South Boston waterfront. A walk along the Harborwalk offers great views of boats on Boston Harbor, picturesque offshore locales like Deer Island, gorgeous parks like Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park and cultural attractions like the Institute for Contemporary Art. Visit for maps of the Harborwalk and a full calendar of events.

When you can’t decide whether you’d rather take in the Boston sights from terra firma or by rolling on the river, nothing offers a better compromise than a Boston Duck Tour (refer to tours listing). Every day, hundreds of happily-quacking sightseers are ferried up and down the streets of Boston and Cambridge aboard restored World War II-era amphibious vehicles whose drivers point out notable sights on land before slipping into the Charles River for a water view.

Or, you can take a Super Duck Excursion (refer to tours listing), Boston’s newest amphibious tour service, which explores locales like Faneuil Hall, the North End and the Fort Point Channel area, before popping into Boston Harbor for close-up looks at the USS Constitution and the Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge from a view unlike any in the city.

Sometimes the call of the sea is so strong that a seasoned sailor simply needs to hop aboard a boat and strike out on the water away from the cares and worries of life on land—which is all well and good, but not always practical unless you have access to a boat. Thankfully, that isn’t a problem on the Boston waterfront, as a bevy of charter options exist for sailing aficionados.

The Boston Harbor Sailing Club (Rowes Wharf, 617-720-0049) is primarily a member club that specializes in teaching novices how to sail and organizing outings for its members. However, the club also offers charters and rentals of its numerous sailing vessels (to appropriately credentialed sailors) when members aren’t using them. Fully outfitted daysailers, ocean racers and cruisers are available starting from as little as $90 per day.

Others offering charter services include the Boston Sailing Center (starting at $130 per hour, 2 hour minimum, 6 person maximum per boat, Lewis Wharf, 617-227-4198) and Boston Yacht Charters (Seaport World Trade Center, Seaport Boulevard, 617-723-8810), which provides sailboats, schooners and larger yachts capable of carrying anywhere from 12 to 1,100 passengers.

If nautical warfare gets your heart pumping, you won’t want to miss your chance to hop aboard the tall ship Formidable, a brigantine vessel that sails from Waterboat Marina at Long Wharf. This tall ship raises its deep red, square-rigged sails and takes passengers on excursions around Boston Harbor every Tuesday–Sunday (weekday sails are at 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m.).

It’s Saturday’s sails, though, that take the excitement to another level, as those trips (at 11 a.m. and 2 and 5 p.m.) see the Formidable become the victim of an “ambush” by the privateer Poincare. Become a part of the action as cannons blaze, flags fly and your ship becomes part of a fantastic harbor battle re-enactment worthy of Pirates of the Caribbean. Call 508-954-1282 or visit for information and reservations.

They may not be tropical hideaways littered with palm trees, coconuts and white sand, but the Boston Harbor Islands are a collection of more than 30 small islands off the Massachusetts coast that contain both natural and historical resources and can act as idyllic getaways from the hustle and bustle of city life. Island hoppers can take the ferry to Georges Island and tour historic former Civil War prison Fort Warren, journey to Little Brewster Island and climb to the top of the oldest lighthouse in the U.S. or go swimming, hiking or picnicking on picturesque Spectacle Island. For more information, visit

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