A Boston Harbor Bargain: How to Get on the Water and Beat the Man

Boston Harbor photo by Massachusetts Dept of Tourism

You're in Boston -- at some point you have to shove off land and get on some water. 

That usually means heading down to Long Wharf -- a cacophonous, stress-inducing jumble of kiosks and sandwich boards. Too many flyers. "Barkers" who are either: aggressive, catch-your-eye engagers or bored, is-it-my-lunch-break-yet, I-hate-my-job minimal kiosk occupiers.  

Tourism overload. 

Your Boston Harbor options are more limited than you think

Here's one fact that may reduce your anxiety: one company, Boston Harbor Cruises, controls virtually all of the various boats: they own all the boats. They are The Man (even though, refreshingly, the company is run by a woman).

But there is a Boston Harbor Bargain

The Boston Harbor Islands.

Basically, this is a collection of islands in Boston Harbor, managed by a consortium of national, state, and non-profit organizations.  

Here's what's important to you: they have negotiated a good rate with Boston Harbor Cruises. If you take one of the Boston Harbor Islands boats to an island and back, it's half price or less than the cost of a Boston Harbor Cruises trip.  

The price break

Your basic Boston Harbor Cruise at Long Wharf is $28.95 for adults; $24 for kids. 

If you take a Harbor Island ferry, it drops to: $17 adults; $10 for kids. Nearly half price for adults; closer to 60% off for kids. 

Cost/Benefit Analysis

  • Cost: Slightly more mental activity is required: you have to pick and island and choose your "to" and "from" boats. 
  • Benefit: Works best during the summer, when the ferries run often enough that you can just go out on one boat and easily hop on one back and hour later.  
  • Benefit: Why not stroll around on an island for a little bit?

Two final questions:

What about Codzilla?

You may want to combine your Boston Harbor experience with a thrill ride. Or there's someone in your party who can't abide the thought of a old-school, geriatric "boat cruise." In that case, you're destined for Codzilla


Don't the Duck Tours go in the water?

Yes, but just for a brief stretch in the Charles River. Boston Harbor is a much bigger experience.