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ECHDC and Buffalo Boat Tours Launch the New Big Kahuna Boat at Canalside

Boat will take passengers on scenic tours of Buffalo’s waterfront

See photo here

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) announced the christening today of the Big Kahuna, a new tiki tour boat docked at Canalside. The newly built, multi-hulled boat is the latest to be added to the fleet of Buffalo Boat Tours and will carry passengers on daily scenic Buffalo waterfront trips.

“There is no better way to enjoy Buffalo’s waterfront than aboard a beautiful boat with an ice-cold beverage while listening to island music,” said ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia. “Governor Hochul has provided the leadership needed to capitalize on Buffalo’s extraordinary waterfront and the new boat gives Western New Yorkers yet another way to experience our greatest natural asset.”

The Big Kahuna, which was built in Florida this past winter, is a custom design vessel that is 50 feet long and 14 feet wide with two outboard engines. The top speed of the vessel is around 8 knots, and it can carry up to 45 passengers. The tiki boat will serve beverages and snacks. There are also snacks available for purchase.  It runs seven days a week for both public cruises and charters, with a family excursion and three adult tiki trips running daily.

Passengers will board the Big Kahuna from the dock on the Central Wharf at Canalside. They will then enjoy a 90-minute trip past historic landmarks, including the impressive series of grain elevators. The cruise also provides excellent views of Buffalo’s skyline.

The Big Kahuna is operated by the Hilliman family. It joins the Hilliman’s fleet of boats that include the Spirit of Buffalo sailing ship, the Harbor Queen, and the Queen City Bike Ferry.

“People can’t get enough of our exciting tiki boat experience,” said Captain Rich Hilliman of Buffalo Boat Tours. “Customers are thrilled to be out on the water, socializing with friends, and seeing our beautiful Buffalo from a whole new point of view. We look forward to welcoming new visitors and return customers on board for an excursion that will be the highlight of their summer.”  

Tickets can be purchased online at buffaloboattours.com or from the kiosk on the Central Wharf at Canalside.

For more information on the Big Kahuna and other exciting activities at Canalside, please visit www.buffalowaterfront.com.

The Big Kahuna joins the other entertainment options at Canalside, including Explore & More Children’s Museum, the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, water bikes, kayaks, bike tours, festivals, and more- to build upon New York State’s $100 million investment in Buffalo’s waterfront.

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Bringing The Big Kahuna to Buffalo is another great attraction to add to our waterfront that will draw more people to Canalside, while giving City residents more outdoor fun this summer. Buffalo’s network of waterways is among our City’s greatest natural assets, and I thank Governor Kathy Hochul and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for their continued investment in Buffalo’s revitalized waterfront. What a great way to kick off the summer season!” 

Senator Tim Kennedy said, "With the summer season approaching, this new tiki tour boat brings yet another opportunity for people to enjoy Buffalo's waterfront, all while navigating through iconic reminders of our city's rich history. I applaud the Hillman family for bringing yet another interactive experience to our inner and outer harbors."

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, “Within the last decade, we’ve seen Buffalo’s waterfront transformed from a neglected brownfield site to one of the region’s most bustling and visited tourist sites. The Big Kahuna represents the latest addition of highly engaging offerings that will get Western New Yorkers to reconnect with our greatest natural asset. I thank ECHDC, Buffalo Boat Tours and the Hilliman family for launching this creative new endeavor that will show its passengers our waterfront in a brand-new way.”

Buffalo City Council Member Mitch Nowakowski said, “Canalside is truly on of the gems of the Fillmore district, Buffalo and all of Western New York. I am so grateful to New York State for all of their support, and I have worked closely with Rich Hilliman to prepare for this wonderful kickoff to summer. I am excited to see people out enjoying our gorgeous waterfront this year."

Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Canalside is continuing to evolve to meet public demand for new destinations and experiences. This builds on the growing ways to explore and enjoy Buffalo’s waterfront and waterways.”

About Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC) is governed by a nine-member board consisting of seven voting directors and two non-voting, ex-officio directors. The seven voting directors are recommended by the New York State Governor and are appointed by the New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development as sole shareholder of ECHDC. The two nonvoting, ex-officio director positions are held by the Erie County Executive and the City of Buffalo Mayor. For more information on ECHDC, visit: www.eriecanalharbor.com.


Pamm Lent (Governor’s Office) | [email protected] | (716) 846-8309 | (800) 260-7313

Laura Magee (ESD/ECHDC) | [email protected] | (716) 846-8239 | (800) 260-7313