If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, invariable trying to get from point to point by car bumps up against a water barrier that requires a detour to a bridge. The extra distance burns fuel and takes time away from the purpose of getting across the river. Thankfully in many key getaway locations we have the trusty ferry or water taxi. Here’s a look at the aquatic transportation available in top spots for weekend getaways and destination vacations.
Two Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ 08102
There’s joy in Camden and Philadelphia this spring. The RiverLink ferry that connects the two and their many waterfront attractions has been spared the budget axe and begins regular runs between Penn’s Landing and the Camden Aquarium in May. It’s a pleasant ride that offers unobstructed views up and down the Delaware River for just under 15 minutes. A rider can use the ferry to cheer for the Camden River Sharks, attend concerts at the Susquehanna Bank Center or spend a day at the Aquarium. Or go the other way to the Seaport Museum, tours of the historic ships Olympia and Becuna, dine at the Moshulu and Charthouse or just stroll through historic Philadelphia. The service runs every hour on weekends in May and then daily between Memorial and Labor Days. It leaves Penn’s Landing on the hour and Camden on the half hour. The roundtrip adult fare is $7, children (3-12) and seniors pay $6. Toddlers under 3 ride free.
Getting there: From Pennsylvania From I-95 take Exit 20, Washington Ave./Columbus Blvd. and turn left onto Columbus Boulevard. The RiverLink Ferry is approximately two lights past the exit at Walnut Street. The terminal is located outside the Independence Seaport Museum just past the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
From the Schuylkill Expressway take I-676 east to I-95 south, and then follow above directions for exit from I-95.
From New Jersey From I-676 exit at Mickle Boulevard and follow signs for the New Jersey State Aquarium. The terminal is located behind the Aquarium.
CAPE MAY-LEWES FERRY
1200 Lincoln Blvd.
North Cape May, NJ 08204
43 Cape Henlopen Drive
Lewes, DE 19958
Sailing aboard the Cape May-Lewes Ferry is more like an ocean cruise than a ferry boat ride. The five vessels that make up the fleet not only provide expansive decks and indoor picture window seating, but add to the ambience with salons, bars, lounges, food service, kid’s arcades and shops. Seventeen miles separate Cape May New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware and for much of the nearly one-and-a-half hour cruise the opposite shore is out of sight, below the distant horizon. But there are views of two classic lighthouses, a peek at the nearby Atlantic and dramatic sunset scenes on the Delaware Bay. On season, it’s best to make reservations on-line or by phone at: 1-800-64-Ferry. Bicycles are welcome at no extra fee. Foot passengers pay $10 one-way or $18 roundtrip. The ferries carry 1,000 passengers and 100 cars. To check out all the fares, go to: http://www.capemaylewesferry.com/Schedules-Fares
It’s also possible to rent bicycles in advance for pickup at the Lewes terminal. Bike paths and trails are abundant on both sides. A shuttle bus from the Cape May terminal takes you to the center of town and the Cape May beaches.
Getting there: From the Philadelphia area pick up the Atlantic City Expressway to the Garden State Parkway south. Exit right at NJ 109 south/Lincoln Blvd and follow to the terminal.
BALTIMORE WATER TAXI
West Shore of Inner Harbor
Without a doubt the most dynamic grouping of waterfront attractions on the east coast is Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. It’s home to the National Aquarium, a science museum and historic ship collection along with enough shops and restaurants to make heads spin. Getting around the harbor and to Baltimore neighborhoods is as easy as hailing a taxi – in this case, a water taxi. The frequently running boats will take visitors to the hip Fels Point and Canton neighborhoods, even to the most famous flagpole in America at Fort McHenry. While watching the McHenry flag during the British bombardment of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key penned the words to the National Anthem. The fort is a pleasant water taxi ride from the Inner Harbor. An all-day ticket that lets you get on and off at all the attractions is $10. Children (10 and under) pay $5.
Getting there: Follow I-95 South through the Fort McHenry Tunnel ($2 toll) to exit 53 (I-395 North, Downtown). Bear left off the exit and follow signs to the Inner Harbor. Continue in the left or center lane. At the third light, make a right onto Pratt Street. Follow Pratt Street four blocks to the Inner Harbor, which will be on your right.
ANNAPOLIS WATER TAXI
If City Dock is the heart of activity in historic Annapolis, its arteries spread across the harbor to what locals fondly call, “The Maritime Republic of Eastport.” Since auto traffic in and around Annapolis moves at a snail’s pace and parking is difficult at best, the water taxi comes to the rescue. Used largely by boaters who moor or anchor in the harbor, the water taxi is on call to pick up yachtsmen and carry them to restaurants, pubs and shops ashore on both sides of the harbor and to Back Creek. I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes after calling for a boat. It used to be dubbed the “Buck Boat”. Then the fare was a buck. Alas, you can now call it, the “Two Buck Boat”. And don’t forget to tip the skipper. If you arrive by boat and anchor, just call on VHF channel 68 or by phone: 410-263-0033. If arriving by car pick up the water taxi at City Dock.
Getting there: Take I-95 south to route 896. Follow 896 until it becomes 301 south. Follow 301 south to route 50 west and the Bay Bridge. Cross the bridge and continue to Exit 24 (Rowe Blvd. MD 70). There are signs saying to downtown historic Annapolis. Exit to the right, following the Annapolis signs. Stay on Rowe Blvd. Stay in far right lane. Veer right onto Calvert Street. At the traffic light go straight onto Northwest Street. At the next light turn right onto Church Circle. Turn right and enter into the traffic circle. Exit circle onto Duke of Gloucester Street, which is one way. Proceed through first traffic light and turn left onto Green Street. At bottom of Green Street, you are in downtown Annapolis. Follow the traffic around the traffic circle and head straight towards Stevens Hardware. Turn right on Dock Street. Annapolis City Dock is located at the end of Dock Street.
NEW YORK WATERWAY
Heading for the Big Apple? Save wear and tear on the car, your nerves and stratospheric New York parking fees. Take a water taxi from one of the waterfront spots off the New Jersey Turnpike. New York Waterway ferries run from Hoboken, Weekawken, Liberty Harbor and Belford to mid-town and lower Manhattan. One-way fares are a reasonable $8.50 for adults, $5.50 for children (6-11) and $7.75 for seniors. Children under 6 ride free. Some routes offer lower fares. Check out all the routes and schedules at: http://www.nywaterway.com/FerryRoutesSchedules.aspx Schedules are frequent and the boats offer a great opportunity for sightseeing along the Hudson River as well as convenient transportation. As they say up here, “Lincoln, a great president, but a lousy tunnel.” Better to ride the boats.
Getting there: Head north on the New Jersey Turnpike and exit and Liberty State Park, Weekawken or Hoboken.
LAKE CHAMPLAIN TRANSPORTATION CO.
King Street Dock
If you’re heading north to beat the summer heat, the Lake Champlain ferries offer a reasonable and enjoyable passage between I-97 in New York and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Northern, central and southern ferry routes turn the scenic and historic Lake into an aquatic bridge between the two states. The shortest route takes 12 minutes, the longest an hour. One-way fares, including car and driver are $9.50 on the shortest routes, $17.50 – the longest. Scan all the fares at: http://www.ferries.com/rates.asp Visitors can enjoy the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains without the expense and driver fatigue of long detours to bridges.
A few tips: Water taxis are more personal than ferries, especially with knowledgeable skippers who will gladly offer tips on attractions and restaurants. They are customarily tipped, usually $1 a passenger.
Ferry operators run on precise schedules. A delay on one end, backs up the schedule for the whole day. They will not wait. Be early and if reservations are suggested, heed the suggestion.
Accidents have been known to happen, though not frequently. Enjoy the ride, but know where the life jackets are stowed.
By Jay Lloyd