The latest update for this article is written by Lindsay Podolak.
From lakes to reservoirs to the Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey’s many bodies of water offer multiple opportunities to take to the sea. Fun and educational boat rides are a great way for families to explore the state’s waterways. Spend a relaxing day on the water with your kids aboard one of these family-friendly boat rides, including pirate-themed cruises, whale watching tours and crabbing boats.
Fun Time Crabbing
Location: 1810 Somers Point-Mays Landing Road, Egg Harbor Township
Details: Spend a fun day crabbing in the calm inshore bay areas and creeks of Ocean City. The folks at Fun Time Crabbing want everyone on board to have a good time. The staff happily uses a variety of crabbing methods, depending on the comfort level of those on board. There’s even a mate aboard to assist with the kids. No need to bring a thing, all crabbing gear is provided. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Why I like it: Fun Time Crabbing truly makes your family’s experience its top priority. Whether that means extending the outing because you’re having fun or lending you a steamer to cook the crabs in, this crew goes above and beyond.
More info: www.funtimecrabbing.com or call 609-736-3109
Salt Marsh Safari Skimmer Tours
Location: 1001 Ocean Drive, Wildwood Crest and 1057 Stone Harbor Boulevard, Stone Harbor
Details: Hop aboard The Skimmer for a unique adventure on the back bays of Cape May County. The experienced crew teaches you all about the nature of the pristine salt marshes, including over 400 species of birds, more than 300 species of fish and plenty of marine invertebrates. Everyone aboard gets the chance to touch local wildlife and learn why these precious ecosystems are vital to the world. Tours depart from either the Cape May Inlet Marina (located between Cape May and Wildwood) or The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor.
Why I like it: This is the excursion for those apt to get seasick – because you’re on the back bay, the boat won’t be rocking in the waves.
More info: www.skimmer.com or call 609-884-3100
Location: Brick, Long Beach Island & Ocean City
Details: Looking for a truly swashbuckling adventure? Take the whole family for a fun outing on one of New Jersey’s pirate adventure boat rides. Kids can dress the part and work with their boat captain to fight off intruders, shoot water cannons and look for buried treasure in the calm waters of New Jersey’s rivers and bays. Pirate cruises are offered at multiple locations in Beach Haven, Brick and Ocean City.
Why I like it: Beach Haven’s Black Pearl Pirate Tours has a fully-stocked bar so thirsty parents can wet their whistles after a hard day of managing their pirate crew.
More info: www.piratesoflbi.com, www.jerseyshorepirates.com, www.piratevoyages.com or call individual locations
Manasquan Reservoir Boat Tours
Location: 311 Windeler Road, Howell
Details: Take a 45-minute tour of the Manasquan Reservoir. Tours are led by Monmouth County Park System Naturalists and allow guests to view the local wildlife, which includes turtles, herons, egrets and resident bald eagles. Tours are available on Wednesday afternoons and on the weekends, but call to confirm the schedule. Boats and kayaks are also available to rent for those who wish to explore on their own.
Why I like it: At $6 per adult and $4 per child, this tour is easy on the wallet.
More info: www.monmouthcountyparks.com or call 732-751-9453
A.J. Meerwald Historic Oyster Schooner
Location: 2800 High Street, Port Norris
Details: Join the crew of the A.J. Meerwald for a fun and educational adventure. Sailing trips are 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours and provide an interactive and exciting experience for all ages. Guests on the boat help raise the 3,500-square foot canvas sail and learn about the boat’s historic role in the oyster industry. Themed sails are also offered, including pirate, music, birding and lighthouse options. The boat sails from various locations throughout the state.
Why I like it: Kids’ cruises set sail from Cape May, Atlantic Highlands, Jersey City and Beach Haven, so check the schedule to see when the A.J. Meerwald will be sailing near you!
More info: www.bayshorecenter.org/a-j-meerwald or call 856-785-2060
Cape May Whale Watcher
Location: 1218 Wilson Drive, Cape May
Details: Captain Jeff and his seasoned crew lead trips into the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Guests can check out many species of marine life, including both whales and dolphins. Narrations by the Captain accompany the excursions, as he discusses the area’s local history. In addition to dolphin and whale watches, sunset dinner cruises and lighthouse tours are also offered. Sailings take place from March through December.
Why I like it: Captain Jeff has the only vessel to offer a “Marine Mammal Sighting” guarantee. If no whales or dolphins are spotted during the trip, guests receive a free pass for another tour.
More info: www.capemaywhalewatcher.com or call 609-884-5445
Screamer Speedboat Tours
Location: 244 Bay Avenue, Ocean City
Details: Zoom along the Atlantic on the Screamer, a thrilling high-speed boat ride! Enjoy a comfortable, safe trip aboard the 44-foot long, high-powered, custom-designed Ocean Rocket. Dolphin sightings are common–watch them as they jump in the Screamer’s wake. Each ride lasts 50 minutes and the boat is available for private charters.
Why I like it: Book online and use the promo code “GOSCREAMER” to save $3 off your ticket price.
More info: www.oceancityboatride.com or call 609-398-5800
The River Belle
Location: 47 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach
Details: The River Belle offers both sightseeing and dining cruises along the beautiful waters of the Manasquan River, Point Pleasant Canal and Barnegat Bay. Relax and enjoy the beauty of the Manasquan River while learning about the area’s history from the knowledgeable crew. The River Belle also hosts fun themed events, such as Pizza & Fireworks Cruise, Murder Mystery Cruise and Father’s Day Brunch Cruise.
Why I like it: The River Belle is fully enclosed and heads out on the water, rain or shine.
More info: www.riverboattour.com or call 732-892-3377