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Places to Stay with Small Ferries

In the last few visits to Europe we have enjoyed week-long stays in Flushing (Cornwall, UK) and Pertisau (Austria), in particular because they both had small ferries running regularly and just being able to jump on a ferry and go somewhere was something I really enjoyed. In fact part of the charm of Venice for us was the same thing - always being able to go somewhere on a small boat.

My husband is not one for going back to places we've already been so I'm trying to find other places in Europe that have small ferries running around lakes or coastal areas but my searches keep sending me to sites for large ferries between countries which is not the sort of thing I'm looking for. We chose both Flushing and Pertisau for other reasons and weren't looking for locations with ferries. It seems like the sort of thing that might need personal knowledge rather than a search engine.

Does anybody have any suggestions?

Posted by
1862 posts

For an off the beaten path destination, look no further than the Masurian Lakes District in northern Poland. Composed of the former German province of East Prussia, the historic region of Masuria is just inland from the Baltic sea coast and once made up the heart of the Teutonic Order. It's dotted with gingerbread medieval towns, Teutonic Knights castles, and other curiosities like Hitler's Wolf's Lair Bunker, all strung together by 1000s of waterways and small lakes. These waterways are navigable by all manner of boats and ferries, a very popular holiday destination for local Poles looking to do some cycling or canoeing. Some good base towns to branch out from would be Olsztyn or Elk.

Here is a recent article on the Masurian Lakes District from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/jul/02/poland-lake-district-rivers-canoe-kayak-cycling

Posted by
16763 posts

The large Bodensee (Lake Constance), which is bordered by Germany, Switzerland and Austria, would be a good option. There are some lovely towns on the lake, and Mainau Island has a large botanical garden. There is some boat service on the lake as well as rail service. I visited that area a very long time ago and cannot provide any current information. This area is popular with European tourists but doesn't draw a lot of US visitors as far as I know.

Several of the northern Italian lakes have inter-town boat service. I know that applies to Lakes Maggiore, Lugano (partially in Switzerland) and Como.

There are lake boats in Switzerland as well. Lakes Thun and Brienz are examples; they're quite near the popular Lauterbrunnen Valley.

There are some nice islands off the Atlantic coast of France, but they are fairly scattered, so I think you'd probably have access to just one island from any given coastal town.

The Dalmatian Coast of Croatia has a lot of islands with boat service (at least during high season). From glancing at the maps at that link (scroll down), I'd say Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik are among the best bases if you want to take multiple boat trips.

There are boats operating out of Kotor, Montenegro, as well. I'm not sure where they go.

There are multiple islands near Naples--Capri, Ischia and Procida. What would be the best base for visiting all of them, I cannot say.

Posted by
1093 posts

So, for places with small boats I'd suggest Gothenburg and the the small ferries that operate both withing Gothenburg on the river, and to the different islands in the archipelago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYzgYwfhB_0

Or maybe Stockholm where there are several routes connecting the city with the differnt islands in archipelago. Apart from the modern boats, there are also steamers used in the summer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqaIbY14Gno

And if you really want to maximise the small ferry experience you can take a canal cruise between the cities on what is claimed to be the oldest passenger ship with accomodation still in operation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnmCPRs6H3s

Posted by
4 posts

Hi, Lake Como in Northern Italy pops up in my mind. We spent there a couple of weeks same years ago and were pleased with the ferry service bringing locals and tourists between the villages of Menaggio, Varenna, Cadenabbia, Bellagio. All are lovely villages, but Bellagio is something special. The botanic gardens are lovely (I Giardini di Villa Melzi) and high-tea at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni will give you a chance to spot George Clooney who own a summer-house on the lake.

Posted by
921 posts

acraven has some great suggestions regarding Italy, Germany and Switzerland. Although not quite as stunning as some of the places mentioned, for Germany I'll add Ammersee (based in Diessen or close to Kloster Andech, bus to ferry) - from here there is easy access to some of the alpine villages and towns of Bavaria, as well to Munich.

In Austria, take a look at St Gilgen on Wolfgangsee (close to Salzburg and Berchtesgadener Land).

More in Germany, short ferry rides on the Mosel river from village to village. You can stay in any number of villages, though most visitors tend to congregate in Cochem.

My favourite is the simple two stop ferry on Konigssee, which may not be what you are looking for. And your Pertisau has me thinking.

Posted by
3203 posts

If the ferry is the main focus, I can mention three:

Ireland #1, Between Killimer and Tarbert this Shannon Ferry ride is really short, less than 2 miles, and the trip across the water avoids a very long journey inland, through the city of Limerick, to get from one point along the coast to the other. The boat is small, but not tiny; it does take cars (but not like the big ferry like we had between Sicily and Mainland Italy), it stays in Ireland, and boy, is it short.

Ireland #2 - Another ferry, really, really tiny (foot passengers and/or bicycles only), really, really short (less than a half mile), connecting Cahersiveen on Mainland Ireland with Knightstown, on Valentina Island, just barely off the coast. Valentina Island, by the way, is where boats depart for Skellig Michael tours.

Scotland, between Glenelg and Kylerhea this ferry is also tiny, and the trip’s also less than a half mile. Although it takes cars and people, they can only squeeze in a handful of vehicles, fit like pieces of a puzzle. The ferry could probably fit in your driveway! On the east end is a very small town on Mainland Scotland, and on the west end is the magical Isle of Skye. Both the mainland and that island have their own charms!

Posted by
5634 posts

Yes, to Lake Como. We spent two weeks in Bellagio exploring the lake And it’s towns and villages by ferry from north to south. Bought a ferry pass.

Posted by
2941 posts

Not in Europe, but if you want to travel before Europe opens, Consider Puget Sound- San Juan Islands in Washington State. You can take ferries (both foot ferries and car ferries) to your heart's content.
If you want to come, just drop a note in the "beyond Europe forum". Many members live here, and like me, ferries are a part of our normal life.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you for your suggestions. I am taking a note and working through them. So many of them are in areas I would never have thought of looking which is really great.

Posted by
1017 posts

Here's a link to a list and map of ferries of all sizes in Denmark: http://www.faerge.dk/

Unfortunately it is not translated, but you can click on the links in the map and some of them will show you pictures - some are even translated - others are dead-ends :-(

Posted by
1093 posts

Stockholm With more islands than days in a year,

That's a bit of an understatement. Most estimations I've seen says that there are somewhere around 20,000-25,000 islands in Stockholm archipelago.

Posted by
605 posts

I agree with Lake Como, Italy and to this day it's on our list of favorite trips. We based out of Varenna and used the ferry almost every day there. Lake Lucerne and the lakes around Interlaken (Thunersee, Brienzersee) in Switzerland are nice, but the ferries can be pricey. The lakes area to the east of Salzburg, Austria - Wolfgangsee, Attersee, Traunsee etc.

Posted by
1093 posts

Cool, but you can't take a ferry to each one can you. :-)

No, most of them are uninhabitated, but there are ferries to quite a lot of them. You can easily spend the summer in Stockholm and take the ferry to a new island every day. Vaxholmsbolaget serves around 300 destinations in the archipelago.

Posted by
3227 posts

I misread this as "Fairies". So my initial comment has been retracted. :-)

Although, that would be an interesting question as well.

Posted by
6128 posts

Consider Puget Sound- San Juan Islands in Washington State. You can take ferries (both foot ferries and car ferries) to your heart's content.

Lovely scenery, especially when sunny, but serviced by boats of 300+ ft length, not sure it fits OP desire for 'small' ferries.

My interpretation of 'small ferry' was something like Lake Como or the Cinque Terre

Posted by
4684 posts

Do note that ferries can have substantial schedule changes between high and low, winter and summer seasons. Some don't run at all on some routes off-season. Places like the Italian lake district are even more "seasonal" than the Naples area (for example.) It might be helpful if you gave the longest time you want to be on a ferry, and whether you get seasick.