Choose a Charles River Cruise

Enjoy touring the city by water on these Boston cruises

Charles River Cruise Boat getting ready to sail
Charles Riverboat Company cruise about to depart

A Charles River cruise shows you Boston sites from a completely different perspective.  On these small boat cruises, you'll see nature and city - close up!

Some Charles River cruises even let you experience the Charles River Locks.  For extra fun, you can tour in style on an old-fashioned riverboat or relax on a romantic gondola.

On the Boston side of the river, you'll see Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and more.  And on the north side of the river, you'll see Cambridge, MIT, and Harvard. 

You can choose from among several cruise operators offering excursions along the Charles. 

Will you find big differences among the cruises?  Yes, you actually will. 

Here's an overview of three different cruises on the Charles River and what you may especially enjoy about each of them.


Charles Riverboat Company

The riverboats used in these Charles River cruises feature panoramic windows - a good thing, because you'll see spectacular sights along both banks of the river.  That's one of their boats at the top of the page.

Picture of Charles River Cruise on a Boston Riverboat / Charles River Cruises -
This is why I love Charles River cruises . . . I took this panoramic photo of Boston and the Charles River while standing at the very front of the Charles Riverboat Company tour - you can barely see the Mass Ave Bridge in the distance

Cruises depart from Cambridge, behind the CambridgeSide Galleria shopping mall.  You can choose from 3 options:

  • The Charles River Tour (60 minutes) takes you west along the river past Beacon Hill, the Esplanade, Back Bay (check out the backs of fabulous mansions!), and all the way down to Boston University.  On the right side of the boat, you'll see Cambridge biotech buildings, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Harvard - don't worry, a narrator tells you what you're passing, and also shares funny stories about Boston.  There are numerous departure times from late morning through the afternoon.  Tickets $17
Charles River Cruises include Sunset Cruises - Photo of Boston's Longfellow Bridge in late afternoon / Charles River Cruises -
BU (Boston University) Bridge - I photographed this on the Charles Riverboat cruise about a minute before we passed under it - It's the only bridge in the world where a plane, pedestrian, car, train, and boat can all cross paths at the same moment
  • The Sunset Cruise (75 minutes) version of the Charles River Cruise covers basically the same area at 6:00 pm and 7 pm from June - August.  The rays of the setting sun rippling across the river is lovely.  Traveling west, you see the sunset and then traveling back east, you see the last rays of sunlight reflected on the arches of the Longfellow Bridge - quite gorgeous!   If you enjoy watching the sunset with a cocktail in your hand, you'll appreciate the full-service cash bar on this cruise.  Tickets $17
  • The Architecture Cruise (90 minutes) usually departs at 9:30am on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and 2:30pm on Saturday.  This is a fascinating cruise narrated by expert guides from Boston by Foot and takes you along Boston Harbor, the Charles River, the Charles River Locks, and the Charles River Basin.  You'll learn about both historic and contemporary architecture on this not-to-be-missed cruise - the only architecture tour by water of Boston and Cambridge.  Tickets $25; advance reservations strongly recommended

Details about Charles Riverboat Company's Charles River Cruise options

Departure location:  CambridgeSide Galleria, Memorial Drive across from the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Cambridge.  Once you're in the mall, go to the Food Court.  The pier with the boats is directly outside the back of the Food Court, in an area called Canal Park.
Open:  May through October (varies slightly for each cruise)
Cost:   About $17 -$25, depending on the cruise - or free with GoBoston Discount Pass 
For more information:  617-621-3001
Nearest T:  Green Line/Lechmere
Nearest parking: CambridgeSide Galleria parking garage - about $3 unless you stay longer and shop


Boston Harbor Cruises (BHC)

In addition to their regular Boston Harbor excursions, Boston Harbor Cruises also offers a narrated Charles River and Locks Cruise.  You'll tour the Charles River and Boston's Inner Harbor.

The cruise is similar to part of the Charles Riverboat Company's Architecture cruise, but you'll see more of the downtown waterfront.

However, the biggest difference is in the details.  The BHC cruise is 90 minutes long, you board the cruise boat at Long Wharf in the Downtown Boston Waterfront which may be more convenient for you if you are staying downtown, and the cruise boat has a more traditional style. 

Photograph of Charles River cruise boat near Charlestown, across from Boston's North End / Charles River Cruises -
Boston Harbor Cruises Charles River Locks Cruise (Charlestown in the background)

Details about BHC's Charles River cruise

Departure location:  Long Wharf
Open:  Late June through early September
Nearest T:  Blue Line/Aquarium
Nearest parking:  Boston parking garages near North End attractions


Gondola di Venezia - Boston Gondola Tours

The private boating tours along the Charles River and its canals and lagoons offered by Boston's only gondola tour operator are in a class by themselves.  The authentic Venetian gondolas accommodate up to 6 passengers, plus the gondolier and optional musician, and you can even bring your kids - but the 50-minute cruises are really designed as romantic interludes for 2.

Photo of Charles River cruise in a Boston gondola - authentic Venetial gondola / Charles River Cruises -

Three gondola cruise packages are offered, with plenty of customization options.  Just to give you an idea, the Il Bacio Cruise includes a cheese and cracker basket, fabulous chocolates, and recorded classical Italian music.  You can bring your own champagne or wine - appropriate glasses, ice, and an ice bucket are provided as part of the tour. 

The Harvest Moon Cruise, offered only during the autumn, is a fabulous fall foliage tour, with the reds and golds of the leaves intensified by the blues of the sky and water.  And the other cruise options are equally wonderful!

These romantic gondola tours do give you an unforgettable Charles River Cruise.  But depending on who you're with, you may not be paying that much attention to the Cambridge and Boston sites that you're passing. 

Details about Boston Gondola Tours

Departure location:  Near the Hatch Shell (near Arlington St), on the Boston Esplanade
Open:  Late-May through mid-October, Friday - Sunday, 2pm - 11pm with advance ticket purchase only; weekday tours may be available by special request
More information and reservations:  Gondola di Venezia: 617-876-2800; you must make reservations in advance.
Cost:  Tours start at $99 plus tax for 2
Nearest T:  Green Line/Arlington - walk down Arlington Street toward the river (north), and use the Fiedler Footbridge to cross Storrow Drive to the Esplanade.  Look for Boston Gondola Tour's green and white poles.
Nearest parking:   Boston Common Garage

More Boston cruises and tours: