All aboard: Austria’s best boat trips

“Get ready to set sail”

Discover some of Austria's best boat trips…

  • All aboard: Austria’s best boat trips

    Austria’s known for its snowy peaks and alpine meadows, but its lakes and rivers are worth shouting about too. From impressive mountain backdrops to tranquil lakeside towns, there’s plenty to see when you take to the water. So get ready to set sail in barges, paddle boats and steamships as we share some of our favourite Austrian boat trips.

    Lake Fuschl’s fairy-tale barge

    The Fuschlerin barge wouldn’t look out of place in a storybook, with its cheery red cabin and medieval-style decorations – think painted wreaths and gold scrollwork surrounding a coat of arms. Cast off from the village of Fuschl am See and admire the views as you drift quietly along the wooded shoreline and past the 15th-century Fuschl Castle.

    The barge calls in at a fishery close to the castle, where, if you fancy stretching your legs, you can hop ashore and walk along the edge of the lake back to the village. Or if you feel like taking things easy, stay aboard for the return trip.

    small barge on a lake

    Image credit: Ebner’s Waldhof am See

    Steam around Lake Wolfgang

    Pilgrims had criss-crossed Lake Wolfgang in flat-bottomed punts long before the first passenger service was launched in 1873. The first boat to ferry people around the lake was the paddle steamer Kaiser Franz Josef I, and its distinctive twin paddle wheels are still a familiar sight today.

    The fleet now has six boats, including the country’s largest passenger ship, MS Austria. And with seven landing stages, and the quiet waterside towns of St Wolfgang, Fürberg, Strobl and St Gilgen to explore, this is one of the best Austrian lakes to do a spot of ferry hopping. You could also combine your boat trip with a ride on the Schafberg cog railway – one of Austria’s oldest mountain railways.

    paddle steamer

    Image credit: Salzburg AG Tourismus

    See the sights on a Salzach river cruise

    See a different side of Salzburg as you cruise along the Salzach river on the Amadeus Salzburg boat. You’ll start your journey by the Makart footbridge and enjoy views of the city’s historic centre and castle. After leaving the city behind, the leisurely 8km cruise takes you past waterside villas, with mountain peaks dotting the horizon in the background.

    The standard tour lasts around 40 minutes, but you can also take a slightly longer trip to the Hellbrunn Pier, a few minutes further upstream. Here you can hop on a bus to visit the Hellbrunn Palace, which film buffs might recognise as one of the settings used in The Sound of Music.

    Take to the water on Lake Zell

    To enjoy some of the best views of Zell am See’s old town and the Hohe Tauern mountains, you might want to take to the water. A flotilla of four boats runs panoramic cruises every hour during the summer, so head to the esplanade to hop on board.

    Bag a spot on the open-top deck to get a 360° view of alpine meadows and rugged peaks reflected in the clear blue water. Or for a glimpse into yesteryear, set sail on the Libelle – a wooden motor launch built in 1947. And don’t forget to show your Zell am See-Kaprun Summer Card before boarding, as some trips are included for free.

    Large boat on lake

    Cruise around Achensee

    The Achensee Ferry and Cruise company has been running boat trips on the Tyrol’s biggest lake since 1887. Two years later, a cog railway was opened that took visitors right to the Seespitze pier – and hopping on the railway is still the easiest way to start your journey, as the timetable is coordinated with boat departures.

    Nowadays, three modern boats sail the length of the lake, including the luxuriously decorated MS Achensee, which has marble floors and a banqueting room. But the real star of the show is the scenery – head out on deck to take in panoramic views of the Karwendel mountain range. If you’re feeling peckish, step ashore at Gaisalm for a bite to eat at the waterside mountain hut. And call in at the Atoll Achensee leisure centre to see one of the original steamships that’s been converted into a kid’s adventure playground.

    Boat moored on a pontoon

    Image credit: Achenseeschiffahrt GesmbH


    Start planning your Lakes & Mountains holiday to Austria and set sail next summer.

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Author: Mathew Robinson