Niagara Falls, one of the greatest natural sights in both the USA and Canada, straddles the border between the two countries. Thanks to its popularity, there are plenty of tours particularly from Canada, with downtown Toronto located roughly 80 miles (130km) away. A boat ride usually forms part of any tour to one or more of the three famous waterfalls (Horseshoe Falls right on the border, and American and Bridal Veil falls located in the US; collectively Niagara Falls), with options departing from both the Canadian and USA sides of the frontier. Adding a boat component to your trip is a thrilling way to get up-close and personal to the raging torrents, and different types of boat are available from standard passenger ferries to jet boats. In all options, prepare to get wet!
Tours of Niagara Falls occasionally incorporate other sights along the way, including various landmarks in and around the border town, as well as visits to nearby wineries. However, for this list, focus is primarily on the best tours offering boat trips as a central facet of the itinerary. Each of the options listed below runs on a daily basis, unless specified otherwise. During the research we took a number of considerations on board, such as the price, duration of the trip, passenger comfort and the reviews of previous customers to bring you the top six Niagara Falls boat tours from either Canada or the USA.
FROM: $25/per person
The best value option is this boat tour only ticket, available to those with their own mode of transportation to Niagara Falls. This is one of the only boat tours available on the Canadian side of the border, and therefore only incorporates Horseshoe Falls, which is arguably the most impressive of the three. Head towards the clouds of mist, created as tons of water pours over the edge every minute, while the broad walls of the falls seem to close in on three sides. This tour starts with a funicular trip down into the Niagara Gorge, which leads down to the landing bay for the ‘Voyage to the Falls’ boat. Once aboard, you’ll head to the base of the falls on the 20-minute boat ride. Ponchos are provided to protect your clothes from getting wet, or you can stay dry inside and observe the impressive view through the glass windows. An outdoor viewing platform and jump the queue pass are also included in the price.
From $63/ per person
If a gentle drift into the falls’ mists is a little too sedate for you, then it might be worth considering the more adrenaline-inducing jet boat tour instead. Over on the American side of the gorge, follow the course of the Niagara River northwards beyond the falls, as it rushes onwards to Lake Ontario. This 45-minute tour isn’t plain sailing though as river landmarks with names like Niagara Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole Rapids suggest. Hold on tight as the jet boat clatters over rapids and takes you right to the edge of the whirlpool, interspersed with more tranquil sections of the river where you’ll get a chance to hear the onboard narration and see surrounding landmarks like Brock’s Monument. All protective splash gear is provided. As with above, this tour does not include transport to the departure point.
From $72/ per person
If you don’t have your own transportation and want a more thorough and multifaceted tour of Niagara Falls, it’s well worth considering a longer day tour, like this one from Toronto. Setting out mid-morning, board the coach and head to one of the Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries first (because who doesn’t need a couple of wine tastings before hanging over a huge waterfall?). You will then press on to get your first view of the mighty falls, with a stop at the Floral Clock, before you’re presented with a choice: take a buffet lunch with a view; take a ride on the Niagara SkyWheel, a huge Ferris wheel with waterfall views; take the Voyage to the Falls boat cruise to the base of Horseshoe Falls. Sadly, you can choose only one of these options, although the boat ride poses the best experience of the falls and best value for money too. The tour then returns to Toronto to cap off a solid nine- or ten-hour trip.
From $108/ per person
On the American side of the Niagara Falls there is a counterpart to Canada’s Voyage to the Falls boat ride; it’s known as the Maid of the Mist. Departing from Niagara Falls City in New York State, with pickup available from local hotels, the tour begins with a descent into Niagara Gorge to the Cave of the Winds observation deck; one of the closest views of the falls available (just a few feet away). Then get a view of all three falls before taking the boat to the edge of Horseshoe Falls. It’s important to note that, although this tour runs daily throughout the year, the Maid of the Mist boat is seasonal, running from early May to late October, replaced by a viewing of The Niagara Legends of Adventure Movie out of season. Meanwhile the Cave of the Winds is open from early May to late December, to be replaced by the New York State Power Vista. In-season though, this is one of the best ways to appreciate the falls’ awesome power.
From $116/ per person
A similarly intrepid alternative on the Canadian side of the border is this five-hour tour that includes a boat ride, tunnels and a tower. Pop on a rain poncho and hop on the Voyage to the Falls boat for a foray into the mist kicked up from the water’s plunge. Head up to the top of Skylon Tower for wide-ranging views over the falls, before delving behind them on the Journey Behind the Falls, located in the Table Rock Center. This latter experience, open year-round, follows a series of short tunnels, behind the waterfall, which you can glimpse through occasional openings in the tunnel wall. You’ll end up at an observation deck offering a better view of the water as it cascades into the gorge below.
From $160/ per person
If you have the proper visas to move freely across the border, then the best way to experience Niagara Falls, by far, is to see it from both the Canadian and American sides. While Canada has arguably the better view of Horseshoe Falls, the larger of the three Niagara Falls, there are plenty of fantastic excursions on the American side too. This deluxe, seven-hour tour starts out with a Maid of the Mist boat cruise in season (May to October), or with the Journey Behind the Falls on the Canadian side out of season. Of the many other stops included on this tour you can expect to ascend the Skylon Tower, visit Niagara Falls State Park on the US side, get the best views of all three Niagara Falls, and see the wreck of the Old Scow, a small barge that almost went over the falls by mistake in 1918.