HONG KONG FERRY TOPS THE BILL
The Society of American Travel Writers has just published a poll of its members, who ranked the world's best ferry rides. An interesting concept, I'd say, as who doesn't like a ferry ride?
Think about it. The Toronto Islands are a nice park but half the fun is taking the boat and the sense of anticipation as the city skyline slides behind you and the tree-lined shore and the bays and boats creep into focus ahead of you. So congrats to SATW for the idea, and here's a list of their favourites, with a few comments from yours truly, who's been lucky enough to ride a couple of them.
1. Star Ferry, Hong Kong. Probably a no-brainer. Classic skylines on both sides of the harbour, bustling crowds, exotic smells and historic boats.
2. San Francisco to Sausalito, California. You dance past Alcatraz with great views of the Marin hills, the Golden Gate Bridge and the yacht harbours of Sausalito, which is a great little town for walking and milling about or slurping an ice cream cone. Some lovely restaurants right on the water. And you can slip into the restored Ferry Building in San Francisco, which has great local produce and wine shops.
3. Staten Island Ferry, New York. Awesome views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty. A definite top-three.
4. Washington State Ferries, Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands. Haven't done this one but it's a stunning area.
5. British Columbia Ferry System, including Vancouver to Victoria. Most definitely deserving, with the lovely islands and rocky shores and mist-covered mountains of lower B.C. and Vancouver Island, not to mention the numerous islets that pop up as you drift past.
6. Sydney Harbour to Manly, Australia. Lucky enough to catch this one during the 2000 Summer Olympics. The Sydney Harbour is one of the great urban/natural places on earth, and the cliffs surrounding Bondi and Manly are absolute stunners. The colour of the water is remarkable.
7. Greek Islands. Do yourself a favour and grab an early morning boat from Athens to one of the local islands, such as Hydra, for a day trip. Or go overnight to the Cylcades or some further-flung spot. But don't do it in summer. Instead, aim for May or October, when the crowds have dissipated. A cold Mythos beer and some Greek olives and hummus, or perhaps some rich, Balkan yogurt in a bowl with a drizzle of honey and a cup of coffee if it's morning. What more could you want?
8. The "Blue Canoes" of the Alaska State Ferry System. Don't know anything about them, myself, but SATW says overnight passengers can pitch their canoes on deck, which sounds pretty cool.
9. "Norway in a Nutshell" Tour and ferry ride. A great way to see the fjords as you go from Flam to Gudvangen, said one society member. Have to take their word on this one.
10. Ferry from Mallaig to Isle of Skye, Scotland. About time for the British Isles to appear, doncha think? Haven't had the pleasure but the Isle of Skye sounds lovely and mysterious and wonderfully Scottish.
Anything missing? Personally, I've always wanted to take the ferry cross the Mersey River in Liverpool, owing to one of my favourite songs - the old classic by Gerry and the Pacemakers. And I'm dying to take the boat from Long Beach to Santa Catalina in California.