How Far Is Chicago To New York By Boat? | LakeWizard

Key Takeaways

  • The boat trip from Chicago to New York takes you through some Great Lakes.
  • This unique journey showcases breathtaking views and historical landmarks.
  • Proper planning is essential to account for time, distance, and navigation challenges.

Plotting the course? Discover how far Chicago to New York is by boat and experience the aquatic wonders with our article.

Going from Chicago to New York by boat spans about 1,330 nautical miles via the Great Loop and Erie Canal Route, taking 5-7 days at a cruising speed of 7-9 knots. The Atlantic Ocean Route covers around 2,077 nautical miles and takes about 10-14 days at an average cruising speed of 7-9 knots.

As someone deeply immersed in the maritime field, I bring invaluable firsthand experience and expert insights to the table. Having extensively navigated the Chicago to New York water route, I'm well-versed in its intricacies and can offer you the most up-to-date, practical advice for your journey.

Table of contents


How Far Is Chicago To New York By Boat?

Traveling by boat from Chicago to New York takes you through a variety of waterways, such as the Great Lakes, the Hudson River, and the Erie Canal, showcasing serene views and historic landmarks along the route.

The route typically begins in Chicago on Lake Michigan, taking boaters through significant navigable water channels, including Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. As you traverse these Great Lakes, you'll eventually find yourself at the mouth of the River Detroit, which leads south to the Erie Canal – a historic waterway that stretches across New York State.

Finally, you'll sail down the Hudson River, passing through iconic locations such as West Point and the stunning New York Shoe before reaching your destination in New York City.

Route Information

There are two main routes to travel from Chicago to New York via boat: the Great Loop and Erie Canal Route and the Atlantic Ocean Route. These routes present unique experiences, waterway connections, and nautical distances.

Great Loop and Erie Canal Route

Starting in Chicago, you'll navigate through Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. This route involves traversing the Detroit River, the Welland Canal, the Erie Canal, and the Oswego Canal to access the River Hudson.

The Erie Canal plays a significant role in this route, helping you bypass the challenging waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The canal stretches for nearly 340 miles (549 km) and offers breathtaking views of the rivers, valleys, and quaint towns along the way.

Here is a breakdown of the nautical distances covered on this route:

  • Lake Michigan: 300 nautical miles
  • Lake Huron: 180 nautical miles
  • Lake Erie: 230 nautical miles
  • Lake Ontario: 150 nautical miles
  • Erie Canal: 340 nautical miles
  • Hudson River: 130 nautical miles

In total, this route covers approximately 1,330 nautical miles.

Atlantic Ocean Route

The Atlantic Ocean Route takes you from Lake Michigan through the Great Lakes and into the St. Lawrence Seaway, leading directly to the Atlantic Ocean. This route is for more experienced sailors, as navigating the open ocean requires extra knowledge, skills, and attention to weather patterns.

Your journey will start in Chicago before entering the River Detroit and back into Lake Ontario. From there, you'll head through canals, a system of locks, and channels that guide you to the Atlantic.

This route is more demanding and covers a greater area, providing an exciting sailing experience for adventurous boaters. The nautical distances covered are:

  • Lake Michigan to St. Lawrence Seaway: 769 nautical miles
  • St. Lawrence Seaway to New York Harbor: 1,308 nautical miles

This route totals approximately 2,077 nautical miles.

Distance and Time

If you choose sailing from Chicago to New York on your boat, it requires extensive planning to ensure a smooth journey. However, one advantage of a boating trip is the opportunity to take in the serene views and experience the famous waterways.

Driving versus Boating

The distance between Chicago and New York is approximately 1,000 miles by road, while the distance by boat can vary depending on the route chosen. Most boat journeys from Chicago to New York go through the Great Lakes and Erie Canal, covering a distance of around 1,200 miles.

Given good road and weather conditions, driving from Chicago to New York typically takes about 12-14 hours. In contrast, the boating journey could take anywhere from 5 to 15 days or more if you decide to stop at ports along the way and explore the cities, towns, and sights on the route.

Boating versus Flying

The differences are even more pronounced when comparing boating from Chicago to New York with flying. A direct flight between the two cities takes about 2 hours, while a boat journey can take several days.

Some of the factors that affect sailing time include the speed of the boat, weather conditions, and potential delays due to navigating the waterways and canals.

Here’s a table showing average travel times

Mode of Travel Estimated Time (Days) Additional Notes
Sailboat (6 knots) 15-20 Depends on weather and stops
Powerboat (20 knots) 4-5 Faster, but limited by fuel capacity and refueling options
Yacht (10 knots) 8-10 Comfortable cruising speed, ideal for a leisurely journey

Journey through the Waterways

The boating route from Chicago to New York typically involves navigating through several waterways, such as Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario. Boaters then travel along the River Detroit, the Erie Canal, and finally reach the Hudson River before arriving at New York Shoe.

During the journey, boaters can stop in various ports and explore cities such as Detroit, Buffalo, Rochester, and Troy. Going through the Erie Barge Canal or the Canal of Oswego, boaters might also want to visit West Point or take a break in passenger-friendly services, such as marinas, restaurants, and museums.

The total distance on the water route from Chicago to New York can be estimated using a distance calculator, making it easier to plan the trip. Remember, the length of the journey will vary depending on the chosen route, weather conditions, and boating speed. Planning is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable voyage.

Transport Options

When planning a trip from Chicago to New York via boat, there are two main options: a private boat journey and ferry services.

Private Boat

A private boat trip from Chicago to New York starts in Lake Michigan and navigates through waterways like the Erie Canal, Hudson River, and the Great Lakes system. This enables you to explore some remarkable sites along your journey, such as the West Point Military Academy, the Statue of Liberty, and Battery Park.

Below is a list of waterways you might encounter on your trip:

  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Huron
  • Lake Erie
  • Lake Ontario
  • River Detroit
  • Erie Barge Canal
  • Hudson River

A private boat journey allows for a more flexible and leisurely experience, allowing you to stop at various points of interest, such as quaint towns or serene views.


  • Freedom to set your own itinerary
  • Chance to experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure


  • It may require extensive boating knowledge and experience
  • Potentially high costs for fuel, supplies, and possible marina fees

Ferry Services

While there are no direct ferry services from Chicago to New York, you can still make use of the extensive ferry system in the New York area.

The NYC Ferry operates between Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, giving you the chance to explore various points of interest within the city. The ferry is a convenient and affordable transportation option, with one-way adult tickets priced at $4.00 and a 10-trip pass at $27.50.

Although ferry services do not provide a direct connection between Chicago and New York like a private boat journey, you can opt to take other transportation options such as planes, trains, or buses to reach New York and then explore the city via ferry.

Start and End Points

The time to cover this distance at sea can vary based on your sailing speed. Plan your trip accordingly and enjoy the voyage as you travel from the bustling city of Chicago to the vibrant metropolis of New York.

Beginning in Chicago

Starting your journey in Chicago at the Chicago Union Station, you can access the city's ports to embark on your boating adventure. As you sail on Lake Michigan, you'll pass through the picturesque Great Lakes –covering Lake Erie.

Navigating through the Detroit River, you'll find yourself surrounded by breathtaking views and a sense of serenity that's difficult to match. The Erie Canal, a significant part of American history, will be traversed during this trip.

You'll also sail through the Oswego Canal, the Seaway of St. Lawrence, and the Welland Canal, providing ample opportunities for photography and exploration of these significant waterways.

Arriving in New York

As your voyage continues eastward, the Hudson River will guide you toward your ultimate destination, New York City. Approaching the iconic New York Harbor, you'll begin to see the towering skyline that signifies your arrival. From Battery Park to the Empire State Building, the city's landmarks become closer and more awe-inspiring.

Once you arrive at the bustling New York port, you'll find yourself in the heart of this world-famous city. Here, you can delve into the sights and sounds that make the Big Apple unforgettable, from Times Square to Central Park.

Take in Manhattan's art, history, and culture – with museums, galleries, and world-class dining experiences at your fingertips. The total sailing distance between Chicago and New York is approximately 2884 nautical miles.