New Jersey may be known as The Garden State, but it also boasts an impressive variety of rivers and lakes, too. Many come with cruises and tours, allowing families to explore the aquatic and coastline scenery via one of the world’s oldest means of transportation. We’ve compiled a list of seven riverboat and lake cruises across New Jersey to enjoy this summer.
1. Eco-Cruises – Hackensack River
While not a traditional New Jersey riverboat cruise, the Hackensack Riverkeeper’s Eco-Cruises program still offers a special nautical voyage. Passengers set sail along the Hackensack River and through its wildlife-rich estuary, the Meadowlands. The program uses two specially rigged 30-foot pontoon boats to facilitate such trips.
These eco-cruises educate passengers about the vital and important resources of the lower Hackensack River. They feature three trips. The first, Meadowlands Discovery, cuts through the Meadowlands to learn about the numerous wetlands. This includes the Mill Creek Marsh, Kingsland Creek and Berry’s Creek Canal. Participants will get to see shorebirds, herons and other waterfowl.
The second trip is that of Boating Through Bergen, which takes people from the southern Meadowlands to the city of Hackensack. The city’s maritime history becomes the central focus of the cruise. Goers will learn about the coastal schooners and cargo steamers of Bergen County. They’ll even get the chance to see the USS Ling, a World War II-era submarine.
Excursion Around The Bay is the third offering. It takes passengers from the Hackensack River through the entire length of Newark Bay, to Staten Island, and then back again. Sights include Kearny Point, the place where hundreds of warships were built during World War II, and Ports Newark and Elizabeth. The final destination is the Bayonne Bayshore, where numerous parks and historic sites can be found.
Cruises generally last two-and-a-half hours. Due to COVID restrictions, Adult Group Eco-Cruises have a max occupancy of seven people. Information about booking can be found on their site.
2. Lake Hopatcong Cruises – Lake Hopatcong
One New Jersey lake cruise company worth checking out is Lake Hopatcong Cruises. Their vessel is Miss Lotta, which it claims is the largest boat on the largest lake in New Jersey. Miss Lotta is a recently refurbished 57-foot Skipper-type liner able to accommodate up to 49 guests. She features a fully enclosed dining room, upper deck, full-service bar and a state-of-the-art audiovisual system. A gyro stabilization system keeps the voyage smooth, while the staff provides comfortable and outstanding service.
The company offers a variety of cruises, such as the Kentucky Derby Cruise, Eagle Sightseeing Excursion, and the VIP Block Party Cruise. They also offer themed cruises, from star-gazing to mystery. Additionally, Miss Lotta can host private cruises or weddings.
Voyages depart from Nolan’s Point and travel through Lake Hopatcong. They sail six days a week from May to October. Reservations can be made online or via phone.
3. The River Lady – Toms River and Barnegat Bay
What’s a New Jersey riverboat cruise without a paddlewheel? That’s what the River Lady has to offer. Its claim-to-fame is being one of New Jersey’s sole genuine reproductions of a 19th century Mississippi paddlewheel riverboat. Many of its features demonstrate the lengths its crew has gone to in order to replicate that Victorian-era aesthetic, from the two dark-red paddlewheels at the stern to the two smokestacks at the ship’s bow. The interior deck is climate-controlled, allowing maximum comfort.
At 85 feet in length, the River Lady can host up to 150 passengers for many occasions, including family celebrations, marriage proposals and corporate events. Passengers can book sightseeing, lunch or dinner cruises. Voyages pass by waterfront homes and properties, historic areas, and even the occasional sailboat race.
Riverboat cruises are available from May to October and last an average of two-and-a-half hours. Passengers can book trips from the cruise company’s website.
4. The River Queen – Manasquan River, Point Pleasant Canal and Barnegat Bay
Another paddlewheel riverboat reproduction, the River Queen cruises along the inland waters of New Jersey’s Manasquan River, Point Pleasant Canal and Barnegat Bay. It offers a variety of cruise packages. These range from sightseeing, lunch and dinner cruises, to special events including Mother’s and Father’s Day, Fourth of July, and even a murder mystery dinner. The cruise also offers venues for weddings, banquets, birthdays, and other celebratory occasions.
During the cruise, passengers can learn about the historic landmarks dotting the shores. The ship is air-conditioned and comes with a full cash bar that offers mixed drinks, beer, wine and soda. The seating is completely enclosed.
The River Queen sails from the second week of April until December 31. Each voyage lasts for one-and-a-half hours. Booking can be accessed on the cruise’s site.
5. Navesink Queen and Mariner – Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers, Sandy Hook Bay
The Classic Boat Rides company offers the Navesink Queen and Mariner riverboats for public and private chartering. Both provide Bluetooth sound systems and feature sunset cruise, live music performances and other sources of entertainment. They also host weddings, rehearsal dinners, bar/bat mitzvahs, and other occasions.
The Queen is a paddlewheel riverboat capable of carrying 150 passengers. She features a full canopy roof and heated cabin main deck, a full-service bar, two 57-inch TVs in the main cabin, and other modern amenities. She runs from April to January. During colder seasons, her passenger capacity moves to 75.
The Mariner is a smaller, wooden charter boat capable of carrying up to 40 passengers. This makes it perfect for private occasions. She comes equipped with a full-service bar, custom catering from area restaurants, a restroom and a generator. One of her unique offers is that of a scattering of ash service.
More information about chartering can be found at Classic Boat Rides’ website.
Southern Jersey Cruises
6. Maurice River Cruise – Maurice River
Though a smaller vessel, the riverboat that comes with the Maurice River Cruise services allows passengers the full pleasure of viewing the beautiful Maurice River and its surroundings. The cruise begins at Union Lake, Millville, before heading down the river for approximately one hour. Patrons are allowed to bring their own food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages. The company strongly recommends people bring a camera.
Running from May through October, the cruise lets passengers view the variety of wildlife inhabiting the surrounding foliage. Sailings are available on Fridays and Saturdays at either 1 p.m. or 4 p.m., and Wednesdays at 6 p.m. for the company’s sunset cruise. Information about how to make reservations can be found on the company’s website.
7. Cape May Fleet – Cape May
No doubt whale and dolphin watching is something many people want to do in New Jersey, and perhaps the best cruise company to do it with is the Cape May Fleet. The company features several impressive vessels from which passengers can choose.
The Cape May Whale Watcher is its signature vessel, at 110 feet and constructed especially for whale watching and dinner cruises. It has a max capacity of 405 passengers, with two large decks and cabin seating for 100. It offers air conditioning and heating, a large bar area, an observation platform for viewing whales and dolphins, handicap accessibility on the lower deck with no door sills, and an ample snack bar. Other boats include the Miss Chris, the Atlantis and the Water Lily, which all share similar features and services.
Aside from whale and dolphin watching, the company offers history tours, fun kid activities, fireworks, air shows, specialized dinner cruises and other themed voyages. The vessels sail from March until December from the Miss Chris Marina in Cape May.
Have you taken any of these New Jersey riverboat cruises? Let us know in the comments below!