Ahoy There! Whale Watching, Cruises and Boat Tours in Ireland

Kellie Kearney

April 3, 2022

boat tours ireland

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Do you have a wannabe pirate or a budding sailor at home? We’ve compiled a list of top boating-themed days out in Ireland.

Whether it is a big boat, cruise or one of many guided boat tours in Ireland, you are bound to find something for that extra special day out this summer for your nautical fan and that the whole family can enjoy too.

Fun Days Out and Boat Tours in Ireland

Get ready to set sail! For fun and educational days out, taking to the high seas on a boat tour, cruise or ferry is hard to beat.

Boat tours in Ireland offer an opportunity to discover the amazing coastline and waterways around the country, as well as a chance to see wildlife such as dolphins, whales, sharks, puffins and seals.

Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Tours, Cork

Ballycotton Lighthouse sits beautifully in the skyline just over the seaside town of Ballycotton, and is a great activity or day out for all the family in Cork.

Passengers will travel in their open-topped boat, visit the Ballycotton Island summit and get an opportunity to explore the lighthouse. Tours are daily and last approximately 90 minutes round trip.

Seafari, Kenmare

seafari seal

Seafari Cruises are a great way to explore the wildlife of Kenmare Bay. You go out on the bay in a comfortable and sheltered passenger vessel, out to one of the largest seal colonies in Ireland. See if you can spot Kathleen, a stunning seal with a red coat. The rumour is that Kathleen is a selkie, a seal which was once human according to legend.

You may also get to see otters, white-tailed sea eagles and other sea-birds. Humour and fun are part of a Seafari cruise and whilst the boat is not often rocked by waves in the calm waters of the bay, it is frequently rocked by laughter. Tea, coffee, squash and biscuits are offered on all cruises and for those feeling a nip in the air there is a medicinal shot of rum.

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Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tour, Kerry

The Eco Marine Tour are specialists for whale watching, dolphin and bird watching trips on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.

The tour regularly encounters porpoises, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and minke whales. Orcas (killer whales) can occasionally be observed in passage, and humpback and fin whales show up in these waters in the late summer and autumn months. You can also come up close to the world’s second largest fish, the giant basking shark, as you travel below the breathtaking cliffs at Slea Head Drive and the towering Cathedral Rocks of Inis na Bro.

The Great Blasket Island and its smaller neighbour Beginish are also home to a colony of about 700 inquisitive grey seals who often come close to the boat!

Cork Whale Watch

whale tail for whale watching trips in Ireland

When it comes to unique wildlife encounters there are few things as breath-taking and humbling as coming face to face with the world’s largest creatures.

You’ll find some of the best whale watching opportunities in the North Atlantic aboard the Holly Jo with Cork Whale Watch. West Cork, on the Irish south coast attracts minke whales, fin whales, and humpback whales to feed in its rich waters every year.

While trips are suitable for families with young children, they are a minimum of 4 hours duration and as some children get easily bored remember that turning back to port is not an option. There are no nappy changing facilities on board. Cork Whale Watch advise therefore that trips may not be suitable for children under 5 years of age, especially outside of spring/summer months.

Ferry from Kerry to Clare

Catch the ferry from Killimer in Kerry to Tarbert in Clare. It is a 20 minute journey across the estuary linking the iconic tourist destinations of the Kingdom of Kerry to the Banner County of Clare. Ferries leave every hour during winter months with extra half hour ferries during the summer.

You will enjoy views of the majestic Shannon Estuary and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the dolphins, which in the summer, can sometimes swim so near the ferry, as if just to entertain you. The captain will announce if he spots dolphins so keep an ear out and your eyes peeled!

Ferry on the Irish Sea

Why not bring your sailor on a trip across the Irish Sea to Fishguard or Holyhead for the day or for a mini break? On board, there’s lots to do with kids during the journey – eat, drink, play and explore!

Top Tip: Sign up to the Stena Line and Irish Ferries newsletters. They regularly do sales on foot passenger tickets and a trip for a family of six could cost as little as twenty quid.

Dublin Bay Cruises

View the stunning landscapes of the Dublin Mountains, Ireland’s Eye, Lambay Island, Dalkey Island, Joyce’s Martello Tower, the Baily Lighthouse and more on board one of the cruises.

Sail between Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire and Howth seven days a week between April and October.

Top Tip: Keep an eye on their Facebook page. They regularly have special family offers up for grabs. Also your Dublin Bay Cruise ticket allows the holder to travel the same day between Howth and Dun Laoghaire by DART for just €2.


Plan a whole range of family days out with this brilliant checklist of 99 fantastic places to visit around Ireland!

Crop Download 99 Places to Visit in Ireland with Kids Checklist - Mykidstime

Liffey River Cruises

boat tours in ireland

The bright red, glass-roofed tour boat, ‘Spirit of Docklands’ operates between the city centre and the Docklands, exploring the historical sites and landmarks along the River Liffey. The Liffey River Cruises operates daily, with a journey time of approximately 45 minutes.

A tour guide gives entertaining snippets on Dublin life specific to the Liffey and Docklands throughout the journey, offering passengers an intriguing insight into Dublin folklore and history.

Dalkey Island Ferry Trips

boat tours in ireland

Travel back in time with a short ferry trip to Dalkey Island from Coliemore Harbour.

Take in the sea air, visit the ancient 11th century church and marvel at the construction of the Martello Towers. The origins of Dalkey Island go back 6,500 years and Ken the Ferryman will fill you in on the stories of the island. You can even walk the paths where the Vikings held a slave camp in the early 900s!

Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship

Jeanie Johnston for instagram places in Dublin

The popular Dublin attraction sits at Custom House Quays. It is an authentic replica, built in Tralee, Co. Kerry that has sailed to North America and to many ports in Europe in the 19th Century.

Expert guides tell the story of emigration through actual passengers who sailed on the ship, while the dimly-lit quarters depict what a journey was like for emigrants.

Viking Ship Cruises, Athlone

Hop on board a Viking Longship at Athlone Castle and travel to Lough Ree, the ‘Lake of the Kings’.

This Viking ship is a theme vessel, measuring 21 metres long. It’s the longest serving timber passenger ship on the inland waterways of Ireland.

Dunlewey Centre, Ionad Cois Locha

Dunlewey is located in a small rural community in the Donegal Gaeltacht. Well known for its world-renowned weaver Manus Ferry, passengers can enjoy stories of times gone by from their highly experienced tour guides or take a trip out on the Dunlewey Lough.

Take a story-telling trip on the 50-seater boat, the Grainne Rose. Along the way, view the double-peaked summit of Errigal and the glimmering granite of the Poison Glen from new angles. You will pass near the site of a prehistoric Crannog, the first ‘Dunlewey’, which now lies beneath the water – and you might even spot the Green Lady, ghost of the Guinness Estate, across the Lough.

Corrib Princess, Galway

boat tours in ireland

Hop on the Corrib Princess, which departs from Woodquay in the city centre and tour the Corrib river and lake.

See what Galway looks like from the water as you pass by the university on the left and go up towards the ruin at Menlo on the right.

Watch out for swans nesting or salmon swimming or just watch the world go by!

Aran Islands Doolin Ferry

Explore the Wild Atlantic Way by sea. Doolin Ferries operate a fleet of four ships and sail from March to October.

Budding sailors can sail to all three Aran Islands: Inis Mor, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr, or maybe do a one-hour trip to the Cliffs of Moher.

Killary Fjord Boat Tour, Co. Galway

killary cruises

Take a 90 minute trip on Killary Fjord for uninterrupted views of the spectacular scenery on Killary Fjord Boat Tours. The Fjord boasts some of the finest scenery in the West of Ireland and because of its sheltered nature, the waters are always calm. No seasickness – guaranteed!

The boats have plenty of space with café, bar and toilets on board. Pushchair and wheelchair accessible. A highly enjoyable trip for all ages.

Dunbrody Famine Ship


The Dunbrody is an exact replica of the original ship built in 1845 and is located in New Ross, Wexford. The experience is like no other, with a guided tour, costumed performers and themed exhibitions.

This top attraction is open all year round and the ship is also wheelchair accessible.

Titanic Belfast and Titanic Cobh

Titanic Belfast is the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience and a must-see attraction in Northern Ireland. Here, you will get to explore the shipyard, walk the decks and uncover the true legend of Titanic in the city where it all began. The experience extends over nine interactive galleries and exhibition with multiple innovative interactive features.

You can also visit Titanic Cobh in County Cork to experience life as a passenger joining the maiden voyage of the Titanic at Queenstown as it was known then. Will you be one of the survivors?

Rowing Boats at Clara Lara, Wicklow

Win a family pass for Clara Lara

As above, the rowing boats at outdoor water adventure park Clara Lara are a fun introduction to boating for kids.

Hidden in the vale of Clara, County Wicklow this is one of my favourite family days out. They have waterslides, Tarzan ropes, go karts, zip lines, climbing frames, obstacle courses, a massive playground and lots of boats, including amphicats (a type of canoe), rowing boats and a massive pirate ship that you can board.

boat tours ireland

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Published On: April 3rd, 2022 / Categories: Ireland / Last Updated: January 22nd, 2023 / Tags: , /

About the Author: Kellie Kearney

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Award-winning blogger Kellie Kearney is a mammy of six. Kellie spends her days bribing her kids, counting to three and making memories, whatever the weather, finding free or cheapish family-friendly days out just so they will sleep through the night! (She also hosts a series ‘Adventures of Eire’ over on her award-winning parenting blog www.mylittlebabog.com)

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