If you really want to experience all of the wonders Earth has to offer, you’ll need to get on a boat. After all, water covers more than 70 percent of the surface of our planet, so putting aquatic expeditions into your travel plans is a no-brainer if you’re a curious globetrotter.
Boating is about more than just getting from point A to B, though. It’s a worthwhile travel experience in its own right. After all, how else can you see glow worms in sea caves in New Zealand, take in the twinkling Manhattan skyline from a floating hot tub, or tour the Nile like the royals did hundreds of years ago? Boating experiences like these can form some of the most memorable travel experiences of your life.
Ahead of your next trip, check out 10 of the coolest boating experiences the world has to offer.
New Zealand: Watch Glow Worms Light Up an Aquatic Cave
New Zealand’s Lake Rotomahana is home to spectacular steaming cliffs that are a must-visit destination for boating enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. But it’s worth visiting nearby Lake Ōkāreka after dark, when magical glow worms light up the small caves along the lake. Paddle Board Rotorua can help you see the sparkling constellations created by the bioluminescent creatures on tours by paddle board or kayak. On a clear night, you can also catch views of the Milky Way over the lake. The boating experience is extremely popular, so be sure to book in advance.
Botswana & Namibia: Go on an African Safari by Houseboat
The Zambezi Queen by Mantis is a luxury houseboat that takes travelers on unique floating safaris in Chobe National Park’s namesake river, home to one of the world’s largest elephant populations. The boating experience gives guests up-close views of the tusked giants, along with the potential for sightings of buffalo, leopards, lions, antelope, and more. After seeing the animals, you can make use of the houseboat’s plunge pool before retreating into your luxurious suite, where you can take in uninterrupted views of the scenery from your balcony.
Croatia: Visit a Wine Cellar Only Accessible By Boat
Vino lovers, you’re in for a treat with the Waves and Wine Experience, available through Riva Marina in Hvar, Croatia. It will take you to a wine cellar nestled within an old limestone chasm that’s only accessible by boat. There, you can enjoy a wine tasting that includes the local red, “Plavac Mali,” in an atmospheric subterranean setting, while noshing on cheese, bread, and olive oil. Take a dip in the sapphire waters of the Adriatic Sea before heading back to dry land.
New York: Throw a Hudson River Hot Tub Party
If you’re looking for an exclusive party in New York City, skip the long lines outside of nightclubs and head to the Hudson River, instead. Through online resources like Discover Boating and the peer-to-peer boat rental company Boatsetter, you can soak up twinkling views of the city while soaking in a hot tub aboard a 39-foot party boat. The trips last from two to eight hours and can be booked any time of the day or night. This is a soiree that will make you see boating in an entirely new way.
Egypt: Tour the Nile Like a Royal
When royal travelers wanted to see the ancient wonders of the Nile in the 18th and 19th century, they hopped aboard a dahabiya, a luxurious sailboat unique to Egypt. These stunning vessels, which can be traced back to the time of the Pharaohs, faded from the Nile in the early 20th century, as travelers started using railways instead. But the boating tradition has recently been revived thanks to companies like Nour El Nil, which has worked with a veteran sailor to build new authentic dahabiyas from the ground up and infused each one with incredible character. Multi-day dahabiya cruises with Nour El Nil can take you to rarely visited tombs and temples along the Nile, as well as local villages, for a boating trip you’ll never forget.
Finland: Cruise Lake Saimaa on a Luxury Steamship
When you’re exploring a body of water as majestic as Finland’s Lake Saimaa, you’ll want to do so in style. Enter the S/S Paul Wahl, a century-old ship as stately as the lake itself. The steamship has recently undergone a renovation to transform it into a luxury cruising vessel that makes guests feel like they’ve stepped back in time, complete with handmade furniture, a champagne bar that glistens from floor to ceiling, luxury suites lit by antique sconces that once hung on the exterior of the vessel, and impressively large tiled bathrooms with brass fixtures. Travelers can arrange for cruises between two and six days long, giving you plenty of time to make yourself feel at home on the ship, appreciate the untouched beauty of Saimaa, enjoy freshly caught fish and ingredients foraged from the forest, and search for the lake’s famous rare seal.
California: Paddle Through Giant Sea Caves
The Channel Islands are home to some of the world’s largest sea caves, and Channel Islands Expeditions will help you see these awesome chambers up close on kayaking tours from the Santa Barbara Harbor. The full-day tour starts aboard the company’s 65-foot expedition vessel. You’ll make your way to Channel Islands National Park, one of the least visited national parks in the country, over the next 2.5 hours, keeping your eyes peeled for dolphins and whales on the journey. Then, you’ll hop into kayaks to explore volcanic sea caves, including the famous Painted Cave, named for the colorful lichen and moss that make its walls look iridescent. Finally, you’ll cool off with a snorkeling excursion with sea lions in kelp forests—perhaps the most enchanting part of this boating excursion.
England: Get Pampered on a Floating Spa
England’s Monkey Island Estate marries boating with wellness on its one-of-a-kind Floating Spa in the middle of the River Thames. It draws inspiration from the famous Apothecaries’ Barge, a wellness vessel that offered therapeutic syrups and powders off the riverbank at Chelsea Physic Garden in the 17th century. While the experience has historic roots, the Floating Spa offers modern treatments, like massages and facials, made even more relaxing by the gentle rocking of the barge on the water.
Sweden: Join the Crew of a Working Icebreaker Ship
In Swedish Lapland, you can experience what it’s like to work as a member of the crew of the Arctic Explorer, a 60-year-old icebreaker that helps keep shipping routes open on the sea during the frigid winter months. The two-hour cruise includes opportunities to meet the captain and crew members, see the engine rooms, and relax in the cozy saloon. You can also slip into a dry suit for an effortless float in the Arctic Sea and walk on the ice to take selfies with the icebreaker in the background.
Hong Kong: Ride an Iconic “Junk Boat”
The tall wooden ships with three red sails in the Victoria Harbour known as “Junk Boats” are an iconic symbol of Hong Kong—and yes, you can take a ride in one. Aqua Luna has a variety of junk boat tours to choose from, including dim sum cruises, evening harbor cruises, and floating afternoon tea. Perhaps the best boating tour, however, is the Symphony of Lights Dinner and Cruise. It treats travelers to an eight-course dinner, along with the best seats in the city to see Hong Kong’s famous laser show.