4. Alaska Marine Highways
You can easily and comfortably see Alaska's splendid natural attractions by boat — and you don't have to splurge on an expensive cruise to do it. Sign up for a trip on the Alaska Marine Highway System. You can opt for a day cruise to such scenic spots as Glacier Bay and the Kenai fjords — where the sights might include whales, orcas, brown bears and tidewater glaciers — or hop on and off for multiday mini-vacations along the Alaska coastline. One sample itinerary takes you from Valdez via the Prince William Sound to the picturesque fishing town of Cordova, where fishermen draw big red and king salmon from the Copper River and hiking trails wind through forests of Sitka spruce and hemlock. The fleet of 11 big blue, white and gold ferries plies some 32 state ports.
Time: Times vary. Cost: Rates vary. Contact: Alaska Marine Highway System.
5. Jamestown to Scotland Wharf, Va.
Sometimes ferry-hopping is as much about what you don't see as what you do see. When you travel the state-run ferry service for cars and buses between the island of Jamestown and Scotland Wharf, you won't thrill to icy glaciers or urban skylines. The inky blue waters of the James River barely give up a ripple. But here, at the site of the first permanent English settlement in the United States, still waters run deep. You can only imagine the clash of cultures as English sailing ships bore down on the mossy banks of the island. In 1607, the island was enveloped in swampy tidewater flats, which were part of the resource-rich territory of the Powhatan tribe, whose chief had a daughter named Pocahontas. Today the banks of the James River are still pocked with marsh reeds and dense vegetation, above which the Old Church Tower — a totem of the victors — proudly rises. Time: 15 minutes. Cost: Free. Contact: Virginia Department of Transportation.