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Ferries combine cool travel with cool destinations

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Take a ferry for a sunset cruise, out to the Harbor Islands, or even to Salem for a day trip.

Beantown is not exactly a beach town; summer days sweating on the T, or even setting down a towel on the BU Beach, are a far cry from bodysurfing in the Atlantic.

But Boston does have great seaside escapes. There’s no need to stay landlocked all summer; you can treat yourself to an ocean air revival with any of the cruise and ferry options that leave daily from Long Wharf, just a block from Quincy Market.

Here are three favorites.

Boston Harbor Cruises
Take your pick: sunset cruises, tours of the Charles River, whale watches, historic Boston sightseeing from the waters of Boston Harbor (one of the few vantage points from which Boston’s layout and structure seem to make sense). There’s even a salsa boat cruise every other Sunday. Another option is a murder mystery cruise, which becomes floating dinner theater; visitors enjoy gourmet food, witness a murder, and search the boat to figure out who dunnit.

Have a birthday or celebration coming up? Get a bunch of friends together and take advantage of group discounts.

Here’s more information on cruise times and prices.

Boston Harbor Islands
This is an ideal pick for a hot summer day: islands with white sand beaches, green hills, and plenty of picnic tables. The islands are underused these days, although for generations they were as much abused as used, turned into garbage dumps, prison barracks, and remote forts. Check out views of the city as red wing blackbirds fly by and visitors toss Frisbees. Boats leave every hour for Spectacle and Georges islands and multi-island trips are offered. If an afternoon isn’t enough to satisfy your wilderness spirit, try camping for a night on one of the rustic islands that allow it (reservations necessary).

Bring kites, Wiffle ball equipment, or a football. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Here’s more info on the Boston Harbor Islands.

More scheduling and reservation details are available here. Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children ages 3 to 11, and free for children under 3.

Salem Ferry
Day trips often mean sitting in traffic, getting lost, or spending too much time trying to find a parking space. Taking the Salem Ferry eliminates all those hassles. The 55-minute ride leads from Boston to the heart of Salem, where you can visit the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, and a historic downtown filled with shops, restaurants, and parks.

And given Salem’s year-round obsession with witches and anything related to them, you can pick out your Halloween costume and decorations before the crowds arrive in October.

Schedules and fares are available here.

Anna Webster can be reached at annaweb@bu.edu.

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