With almost year round sunshine, Israel is a great place to hop on board a boat. From rowboats to party yachts, rafts to pedal boats, Israel can offer tourists just about any on-the-water experience imaginable.
ISRAEL21c chose 10 of the top boating experiences that run the gamut from south to north and from easy to adventurous.
- Glass-bottom boats, Eilat
You haven’t really visited Eilat if you haven’t been aboard a glass-bottom boat. Maybe you can see the wildly exotic fish and colorful corals more clearly from the Underwater Observatory at Coral World, but there’s something about the experience of being out on the Red Sea that can’t be topped. Boats are available at Coral World and from entrepreneurs such as Atlantis at the Eilat Marina (1-800-200-312) and Israel Yam. If you’re not claustrophobic, try the Yellow Submarine, which traverses a 45-meter-deep Wall of Corals. Or rent a kayak, sailboat, banana boat or motorboat along the Eilat coast.
- Rafting on the River Jordan
Jordan River Rafting trips leave from a dock about 10 minutes from Rosh Pina in the Upper Galilee, passing through a scented eucalyptus grove (972-4-900-7000), while Kfar Blum Kayaks can be taken along routes including the Hatzbani and Banias streams to the Jordan. Choose a raft for up to six people, a kayak for two, or a kayak-and-zipline option. For ages five and up.
- Sail the Sea of Galilee
Also known as Lake Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee is especially popular with Christian tourists. Guided cruise boats, fishing boats and wooden replica “Jesus boats” are available from operators such as Ein-Gev Sailing Company, Lido Galilee Fishing Boats and Holyland Sailing at the Tiberias Marina.
- Kayak to the grottoes
The limestone grottoes of Rosh Hanikra on the Mediterranean Sea near the Lebanon border are one of Israel’s most visited tourist spots. A two-minute cable car takes you down to the grottoes from the top of the cliff. Between April and November, you can also enter the grottoes via boat from Betzet Beach. Before setting sail with a guide, passengers (ages 10-70) receive training and orientation. Details: 972-52-379-8610.
- Shipshape in Haifa
It only costs NIS 35 (about $10) for a 50-minute sail on the Carmelit, a double-decker ship leaving from Haifa’s Kishon fishing marina (972-4-841-8765/6). Or rent a yacht for NIS 340 per hour (NIS 410 on weekends) for a group outing; Aya-Yam offers packages for romantic outings, birthdays, bachelor parties, etc. Details: [email protected]
- Cruising in Acre
At the ancient port of Acre, NIS 25 will get you a 35-minute excursion aboard a ship operated by Malkat Akko (Queen of Acre). The dayliner has a cafeteria, dance floor, refreshments and a recorded explanation of history and geography as you cruise around the Old City walls or to Haifa or Rosh Hanikra. Information: 972-4-991-3890.
- Gondola, solar cruise in Ra’anana
The expansive Park Ra’anana encompasses several novel features, including Israel’s first fully accessible playground, Friendship Park. There’s an artificial lake with one of the world’s only solar-powered cruise boats, as well as a gondola for hire. Information: 972-9-771-3275.
- Pedal boats near Solomon’s Mines
Timna National Park near Eilat is devoted mostly to the archeological ruins of an extensive copper-smelting plant from ancient times. Unexpectedly, there’s also a manmade lake on the site where you can rent a pedal boat for no additional cost.
- Urban boating oasis in Tel Aviv
Ganei Yehoshua, on the banks of Tel Aviv’s Yarkon River – similar to New York’s Central Park – has one of the Yarkon’s best pedal-boat rental stations, as well as a guided cruise (972-73-757-5896).
10. Paddling at the Children’s Museum
Holon, Israel’s “Children’s City,” houses the world-famous Children’s Museum complex. Right across from the museum, there’s a 200-meter manmade lake where you can take the kids on a pedal boat. The marina is being renovated and will reopen in March 2015 as part of La Park, a unique recreation and leisure center spread over about 6,200 square meters in Holon’s vast Peres Park. Details: 972-3-558-8591.