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Where to catch a water taxi tour on LI

Freeport Water Taxi & Tours runs point-to-point service and sightseeing cruises. / Marisol Diaz

It’s early on a Friday evening and you are about to go on a taxi ride. Your driver says hello and asks whether you are ready to depart. Two minutes later, you’re holding onto your hat, hoping it won’t blow off.

You are on the water, in a boat — not a car — and loving the adrenaline rush. On this trip, the ride is quick, bumpy and fun. Returning later that night, the bay might be smooth, silent...

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It’s early on a Friday evening and you are about to go on a taxi ride. Your driver says hello and asks whether you are ready to depart. Two minutes later, you’re holding onto your hat, hoping it won’t blow off.

You are on the water, in a boat — not a car — and loving the adrenaline rush. On this trip, the ride is quick, bumpy and fun. Returning later that night, the bay might be smooth, silent and moonlit.

“That’s one of the best things about taking a water taxi,” says Jon Adams of Fire Island Water Taxi in Bay Shore. “Every trip is a little different — each can be a new adventure.”

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MORE THAN A FERRY

Most Long Islanders are familiar with traditional ferry services. For a reasonable fee and on a set schedule, a big boat takes you across, say, Great South Bay to Fire Island.

Erin Lamberson and her daughter Amelia, 13, of Sound Beach take a tour on the Port Washington water taxi.

But water taxis tend to be flexible, on-demand services, with a lot of options as to where you can get on or off.

Adams’ operation, for example, runs on Great South Bay between Watch Hill and the Fire Island Lighthouse. “Customers simply call us when they want to go from one place to another," he says. "If you want to visit the Fire Island Pines, Sunken Forest or Kismet, for example, but prefer to eat someplace else, it’s all just minutes away.”

TAXI OR TOUR BOAT?

“Personalized service is another real plus for most water taxi passengers,” says Rick Cohen, proprietor of Freeport Water Taxi Tours. “All of our captains double as tour guides. We try to make the trips fun and educational. Our captains are on the water daily and are well-versed about the areas they cover.”

Indeed, you’ll likely get a history lesson. Captains explain facts about the salt marshes between Freeport and Point Lookout on western Great South Bay and the conservation efforts to help restore local wetlands. They’ll point out the few remaining bay houses, note marsh birds and offer suggestions about where to eat and what to do.

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Cohen’s operation, like many water taxi services these days, offers a combination of pickup and drop-off services along with more cruise-style outings. He has a six-passenger, 30-foot vessel for traditional taxi work and a 34-foot yacht that holds up to 44 passengers.

“We can pick you up at your dock and drop you off wherever you need to go, like a traditional taxi service,” Cohen says. “On the tour boat, you can ride to Point Lookout or Freeport, get off, and come back later for your return trip — or you can simply enjoy a boat ride from either destination and back.”

Cohen’s taxi cruise option has a little something extra. On Saturday nights, it has a full cash bar and a steel drum player. Other Freeport Water Taxi cruises include a 6 p.m. happy hour, sunset cruise, and "Harry Potter" or "Game of Thrones"-themed trips. Representatives from wineries, breweries and distilleries occasionally come on the Thursday night wine and spirit cruises to provide free tasting samples.

HARBOR FUN AND PRACTICALITY

At Port Water Taxi in Port Washington, owner Matt Meyran says his customers vary from people who simply need a lift to their mooring to those who would rather cut across Manhasset Harbor than deal with the traffic driving around it. A lot of people use his service to go to dockside restaurants, such as Louie's, LaMotta’s or La Piccola Liguria. Some come aboard for a boat ride on a sunny day. Others want a closer look at the magnificent homes and waterfront along Long Island’s Gold Coast.