Summertime in Minnesota practically requires time on the water. Several public cruises on state lakes this year promise to provide this quintessential experience, with perks from meals to history lessons.

Newest among them is Destiny Cruises’ North Star luxury yacht, which will begin plying Gull Lake, in the Brainerd Lakes Area, on June 15. Built in La Crosse, Wis., last winter, the 120-passenger boat has an observation deck and indoor spaces. The two-hour brunch, lunch or dinner tours run through October and take off from Ernie’s on Gull Lake; adult prices start at $25 (

The mailboat that zips around Lake Vermilion lacks that sort of luxury, but it is steeped in history; the watery mail route dates to the 1920s. Six days a week, through Labor Day, visitors can ride along on the workhorse that delivers letters to people who live on the vast lake’s islands. The boat departs from Aronson Boat Works in Tower at 9 a.m.; an adult ticket is $18 (

For a narrated floating tour of Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi, hop on the 1948 Chester Charles II at Douglas Lodge in Itasca State Park. Daily tours run through early October. Adult tickets cost $16 (

There are also excursion boats that explore Voyageurs National Park (, a fleet that offers views of Duluth from Lake Superior (, a boat that plies the waters of Albert Lea Lake ( and a paddle-wheeler that heads onto Lake Pepin, where the Mississippi River widens and is surrounded by forested bluffs (


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