Ferrytales

SHORTEST TRIP

Real McCoy: Rio Vista to Ryer Island, CA. This boat makes athree- to five-minute run across California's Cache Slough. Said tobe named after one of the engineers that designed the vessel, theReal McCoy is operated by the California Department ofTransportation and runs continuously, but avoid 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.,when the ferry stops for operators' meal breaks. On State 84, 3miles north of Rio Vista. FARE: Free. INFO: www.snugharbor.net or510/286-6444.

BEST URBAN DAY TRIP

Golden Gate Ferry: San Francisco to Sausalito, CA. It's a30-minute mini-cruise across San Francisco Bay―with views ofAlcatraz, Angel Island, and the city―to a Mediterranean-stylevillage. Once in Sausalito, ride, shop, dine, or celebrity-watch atthe town's No Name Bar (757 Bridgeway; 415/332-1392). Daily service departs frombehind the remodeled Ferry Building. Go early to take yourbike―there's room for 25 of them. And sail late in the dayfor a sunset view of the Golden Gate Bridge. FARE: $6.15, $3.05ages 65 and over, $4.60 ages 6-12. On weekends, ages 12 and underfree with a paying adult. INFO: www.goldengatebridge.orgor 415/923-2000.

BEST DESERT VOYAGE

The Charles Hall Ferry: Hall's Crossing to Bullfrog Marina,UT. To bridge a gap in State 276, this car ferry sails over thesun-dappled waters of Lake Powell, northeast of Las Vegas.Connecting the marinas at Hall's Crossing and Bullfrog, the runpasses the soaring red rock of the Glen Canyon National RecreationArea and covers about 3 miles in a 25- to 30-minute trip. Somelucky kids ride the ferry on their bus route to school. It runsdaily, weather permitting. FARE: Passengers $3, $1 ages 5-11;vehicles from $16 (tickets sold onboard; cash only). INFO: www.nps.gov/archive/glca/ferry.htmor 435/684-7000.

MOST HISTORIC

Virgelle Ferry: Missouri River Crossing, MT. Since 1913there's been regular ferry service on this stretch of the Missouri,northeast of Ft. Benton, Montana (on the Virgelle Ferry Road).Today's trip is not much changed from those early days. First youring a buzzer to summon the two-car, 50-foot ferry. Then a cable,powered by a John Deere diesel engine, pulls you and the ferryacross on a roughly five-minute trip. The ferry runs daily untilthe Missouri ices up (usually mid-November). FARE: Free. INFO: www.russell.visitmt.com,800/527-5348, or 406/761-5036.

MOST ROMANTIC

Catalina Express: Dana Point to Catalina Island, CA. Fromthe 1910s through the '40s, Hollywood used Catalina as a stand-infor exotic islands in numerous movies. Today a one-hour cruisetakes you from L.A. to this island paradise, still rich inHollywood glamour. Stars like Errol Flynn, who shot Captain Blood here, haunted spots you can still visit, likethe ballroom in the art deco-style Catalina Island Casino (now amuseum and theater). You'll sail to the island in comfort on astate-of-the-art vessel at speeds of up to 37 knots (about 43 mph).Regulars say morning trips are calmest and that the Bloody Marysonboard are superb, with spicy pickled beans in place of the usualcelery. You might see schools of dolphins or sea lions (the boatslows for wildlife spottings); in winter or spring, look forconvoys of migrating gray whales. FARE: $49, $44 ages 55 and over, $38 ages 2-11 (round-triponly). INFO: www.russell.visitmt.comor 800/481-3470.

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