13 Exciting Boat Rides for Families in New Jersey

The Best Boat Rides for NJ Families, from River Cruises to Whale Watching
Young pirates can search for treasure aboard the Sea Gypsy on the Metedeconk River. Photo courtesy of the Jersey Shore Pirates

Adventures abound on the high and low seas of New Jersey throughout the summer. Young pirates can dress up for a real pirate adventure; sailors can man the rigging aboard the historic A.J. Meerwald; and young naturalists will feel at home in the Meadowland marshes aboard specially rigged pontoon boats. Whalers will enjoy riding ships on the high seas in search of whales and dolphins, and adventurers can always ride the wild white waters of the Delaware River either on rafts or tubes. Who knows when you may regain your land legs?

For more warm-weather fun, check out our New Jersey Kids Summer Activities Guide.

Northern NJ

Cornucopia Cruise Line – Hoboken
Set sail from Hoboken and enjoy stunning views of the New York and Jersey City skylines. From majestic tall ships to the South Street Seaport, there's plenty to see while floating south on the Hudson River and north on the East River. Don't miss the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty while you dine on a tasty dinner buffet. Children ages 2 and under cruise for free. 

Eco-Cruises – Hackensack
Who knew that the Jersey marshes could provide just as much adventure as the ocean? The Hackensack River Keeper offers a different kind of boating adventure. Either you can hop aboard specially rigged pontoon boats to explore the lower Hackensack River watershed and its many waterfowl and animals, or rent a kayak or canoe and explore the area on your own or with a guide. Check out their summer schedule here.


Dine on the water on Miss Lotta or go for a sail around the lake. Photo courtesy of the company

Lake Hopatcong Cruises – Lake Hopatcong
Families can enjoy a lunch or brunch cruise on the recently restored 57-foot Miss Lotta. Or, take a two-hour sail and learn the history of Lake Hopatcong as narrated by a local historian. View the summer schedule here.

Central NJ

White Water Rafting – Milford
If you're after adventure, white water rafting is where the fun is at! Luckily, the Delaware River offers some of the best in water fun, including rafting and tubing. Follow up your river ride with a free barbecue meal! 

Jersey Shore

Delaware Bay NJ Lighthouse Adventure – Cape May
Seven coastal lighthouses are featured on this tour, which sets sail monthly from April through October. Learn more about these famous sentinels that proved their value during wartime and made it possible for Philadelphia to emerge as a major port city. To view upcoming sailing, visit the website.

Fun Time Crabbing – Ocean City
Catching a bunch of blue claws for dinner is the perfect way to make some fun summertime memories. The best part is you can focus on the catch of the day while a captain and crew take you out on a state-of-the-art boat and supply you with all the gear you'll need. Each boat carries as many as six passengers and goes out for three hours. For more information, click here.

RELATED: 7 Great Jersey Shore Lighthouses To See with Kids


Jersey Shore Pirates offers a full pirate adventure, complete with costumes and a treasure map. Photo courtesy of the Jersey Shore Pirates

Jersey Shore Pirates – Point Pleasant
Calling all pirates and their first mates! The Sea Gypsy is ready to set sail all summer long with exciting pirate adventures on the Metedeconk River for kids of all ages. Ye mateys will be decked in pirate costumes, tattoos, and face paint prior to departure. Once on board, the mates will be given a treasure map. Finding the treasure is just half the adventure: there will be secret messages in bottles, and the evil Pirate Pete will try to foil their plans. Once the loot is found, the adventure ends with a celebration of Pete's grog and the pirate limbo! Reservations required.

Naturalist-led Boat Tours – Manasquan
Get to know the Manasquan Reservoir and more about its interesting inhabitants on this 45-minute boat tour led by a Monmouth County Park System naturalist. If you're lucky, you may just catch a peek at local wildlife, including turtles, egrets, herons, ospreys, and maybe even a bald eagle. Tours leave from the Visitor Center and are available on weekends and select Friday evenings. 

The River Belle – Point Pleasant
Sailors of all ages will enjoy cruising along the calm waters of Barnegat Bay, Point Pleasant Canal, and the Manasquan River. In addition to a lunch, brunch, or dinner sail, you can also sign up for a pizza and fireworks cruise and watch the night sky light up over Jenkinson's. Check out the sailing schedule here.


Take a high-speed ride out to sea and watch dolphins frolic. Photo courtesy of Ocean City Boat Ride 

Screamer Speedboat – Ocean City
Thrill-seekers will get a kick out of this high-speed boat ride that takes 38 passengers out to sea to watch dolphins leap and play in the boat's wake. Board the 44-foot high powered Ocean Rocket for 50 minutes of pure fun. Weather conditions impact the schedule, so be sure to view the calendar here when planning your visit.  

The Skimmer – Cape May/Stone Harbor/Wildwood
Consider this boat ride a salt marsh safari of sorts. Enjoy an eco-cruise through the back bays of Cape May County. In this pristinely preserved salt marsh, more than 400 species of birds, more than 300 species of fish, and countless other marine invertebrates make their home. Tours aboard the 40-foot pontoon boat are led by crew members who have expertise in ornithology, marine biology, ecology, and environmental education. 

Whale Watching – Wildwood Crest/Cape May
For those who want to see the big fish, there is nothing more exciting than a dolphin or whale watching cruise. There are a variety of cruises that leave from Wildwood and Cape May throughout the summer—everything from early morning breakfast cruises to evening pizza and hot dog cruises. 

RELATED: Best Tubing and Rafting for New Jersey Families


The A.J. Meerwald Historic Oyster Schooner has a special children's sail on which families can enjoy an educational cruise. Photo courtesy of the company

Southern NJ

The A.J. Meerwald Historic Oyster Schooner – Port Norris
Anchors Away! The A.J.Meerwald, a 1928 Oyster Schooner and real sail ship, has a special children's sail that allows families to enjoy a three-hour educational and fun cruise on the historic boat. You can enjoy a relaxing sail and get hands-on experience with fish, crabs, and more marine animals. The Meerwald sails from various locations throughout the state; check the schedule for the location nearest you.

Originally published 2010; updated 2018