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.”
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.
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.
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.
Water taxis are gaining in popularity and, while there are only a few in operation around Long Island, others may launch later this summer. Rates vary widely based on location, where you want to go, time of day and season. Some trips can cost as little as $5, while others might run $150 or more.
Port Water Taxi
AREA Port Washington/Manhasset Bay
TRIPS Service to and from moorings, harbor tours on Manhasset Bay and taxi service to and from locations on demand
FEES Vary. $5 one way, $8 round trip, tours $10 per person half-hour, $20 per person 1 hour (fees apply to local waters only)
INFO 516-767-1691, portwatertaxi.com
Freeport Water Taxi & Tours
AREA Western State Channel, Freeport to Point Lookout
TRIPS Taxi service, various theme trips including wine and spirits, Caribbean with steel drum.
FEES $10 to $25 per person, more for private cruises
INFO 516-521-7744, freeportwatertaxi.com
Fire Island Water Taxi
AREA Great South Bay from Davis Park to Fire Island Lighthouse
TRIPS Beach-to-beach drop-offs and pickup at Fire Island communities
FEES Beach to beach from $10 to $30 per person; Cross-bay rates start at $150 for six fares.
INFO 631-665-8885, fireislandwatertaxi.com
AREA North Fork to Sag Harbor, including Shelter Island
TRIPS On demand; Wednesdays to the Pridwin Hotel on Shelter Island for evening buffet.
INFO 516-459-9603, daytripperboats.com
AREA Hampton Bays
TRIPS Not a water taxi per se, but a free water shuttle that takes patrons on a 5-minute cruise on the Shinnecock Canal between the waterside Cowfish and Rhumba restaurants.