Picking the right vehicle to see natural wonders like Niagara Falls, the Everglades, Oregon’s coastal dunes, San Francisco’s skyline and Arizona’s Red Rocks can transform sightseeing into an unforgettable adventure.
Tour companies are beefing up their fleets of jet boats, dune buggies, airboats, Segways and jeeps to make sure groups of any size can join in on the fun. Here are five great vehicular tours to add some adventure to your group’s next excursion.
Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
Lewiston, New York
In addition to viewing Niagara Falls, groups can hop into a Whirlpool Jet Boat and power through the whitewater rapids created by the falls. The 1,500-horsepower boats speed through Class V whitewater rapids on the Niagara River, take daring 360-degree turns and skirt past the Niagara Whirlpool, too dangerous for boats to enter.
The Wet Jet Tour operates in an open jet boat, so guests can expect a drenching, regardless of ponchos, wetsuits and booties offered by the company.
“Our boats are specially designed for the Niagara River and travel on top of the water and scoop up the water and throw it on the guests,” said Jessica DiCarlantonio, group sales director at Whirlpool. “It’s like you’re jumping into a swimming pool — you get wet from head-to-toe, completely soaking wet.”
During the calmer stretches of river, guides give a detailed history of the Niagara Gorge. From Lewiston, New York (other tours leave from the Canadian side), guides explain the massive power plants, the battles of the War of 1812 and the history of the Underground Railroad with Lewiston being the last stop before slaves escaped into Canada.
For the thrill of the rapids without the soaking, groups can book a private tour in a Whirlpool Jet Dome. It’s the same tour, but the dome jets have pneumatic doors that close when crossing the rapids. The doors stay open during the historical portions, and guests can snap photos of the gorge that DiCarlantonio says are some of the most spectacular natural shots from the Niagara Falls area.
Everglades Safari Park Airboat Tours
The swamplands and shallow waters of the Florida Everglades are best toured by airboat, which uses the equivalent of an airplane propeller inside a cage to fly across the tropical wetlands.
“The airboat tour is the best way to see the real Everglades because the water is very shallow and full of lily pads, which make it impossible for just about any other form of vehicle to go out there without causing harm to the environment,” said Robert Szymankiewicz, the operations director for Everglades Safari Park.
Several airboat companies troll the Everglades, but Everglades Safari Park has run a fleet of airboats for nearly 50 years. Their boats accommodate groups of any size.
Every 30 minutes, a narrated Eco-Adventure tour launches from the dock for a 30- to 40-minute airboat ride. Guides point out exotic grasses and vegetation, as well as birds and animals like blue heron and alligators.
“Everglades Safari Park has been around for over 48 years, and many generations of wildlife have lived side by side with the airboats,” Szymankiewicz said. “The airboats are part of the environment, which allows the viewing of wildlife up close and personal without startling them.”
There are treks into the 1.4 million-acre Everglades National Park with a professional guide, a two-hour island-hopping tour and a spectacular ride into the sunset. Every tour includes an alligator show and access to the park’s jungle trail and exhibits, which include Gator Island and the chance to take the classic Everglades photo with an alligator.