Cruises are the new vogue, and smaller port cities are the place to be. Instead of planning your next launch from the overflowing coasts of Florida or New York, broaden your cruise horizons with a visit to one of these 5 fascinating cruise ports that you probably never knew about, but definitely should.
Bar Harbor, ME
Once known as the playground for the super-rich, Bar Harbor is once again making a name for itself as one of the best cruise destinations in the northeast. This little seaside town sparkles with classic Maine charm, and the sprawling Acadia National Park is a mere stone’s throw away. Visitors can bask in Victorian vibes while wandering the quaint streets and enjoying the best seafood that Maine has to offer or lace up their hiking boots and conquer Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in the county and main attraction of exceedingly popular Acadia. For those who would rather not hike, a fully narrated tour on Oli’s Trolley makes it easy to stay in relaxation mode while still soaking up the beauty of the park. So many cruise lines have recognized the intoxicating allure of Bar Harbor that it’s almost difficult to miss a visit to the little port city on any route through the northeast.
This rustic town near the border of Montana is a main departure port for two of the biggest river cruise companies in the country, American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company. Nestled in an elbow of the Snake River, Clarkston serves as a home port for smaller river cruises that explore the Pacific Northwest. American Cruise Lines encourages passengers to embrace their inner pioneer as they follow the paths of Lewis and Clark and learn about the incredibly rich history of the area. The largest ship departing from Clarkston carries 220 passengers and most routes end in either Portland or Vancouver with various shore excursions along the way to observe the Native American and pioneering history of the land.
The barrier islands of North Carolina’s Crystal Coast and Southern Outer Banks are an aspiring pirate’s delight, and Beaufort is just the place to launch your own exploration. Known as the spot where the infamous pirate Blackbeard ran aground in his ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Beaufort is an exciting and family-friendly port where larger cruises will often make a stop and visitors can enjoy small day cruises and local excursions. Lookout Cruises offers daytime trips to some of the best shorelines, trips to see the waterfront by moonlight or even dedicated dolphin watches. Those looking for an authentic pirate ship experience can hop on The Revenge and swashbuckle their way around the banks — or, if you’re brave enough, head out as the moon appears for a haunted pirate cruise.
Astoria is the oldest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, having been established in 1792, which makes it the perfect landfall destination for anyone cruising through the Pacific Northwest. This Victorian-style town is an ideal one-stop shop to learn about the history of the area and experience the spirit of the region. A popular port for larger cruise routes from Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines and situated on the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria is very visitor-oriented. The iconic Astoria Column offers a pictorial overview of the city’s history painted on its outside and a stunning view of the area from the top. Visitors can learn to dig for clams or paddleboard in the Columbia River, visit the Maritime and Heritage Museums or relax and ride the Old 300 Riverfront Trolley around town.
South Padre Island, TX
An up-and-comer in the cruise port world, South Padre Island in Texas is one to keep an eye on. This rapidly developing area is bursting with ecotourism activities and features over twenty miles of beautiful beaches. While the island currently experiences tourism mostly in the summer months, peak cruise months would coincide with its off-season. Passengers could partake in water activities such as snorkeling or fishing, and they can gaze across the channel at the SpaceX launch pad. While South Padre Island currently only serves as a port for day cruises to the nearby Port of Brownsville, it is definitely worth watching as its cruise capacity develops.