Once we had been in Venice for a day and had our bearings, we got a 36 hour ticket for the water bus in order to see as much of the area as possible without paying for expensive tours. The boats are sometimes crowded, hot and sweaty, but a good way to get about at reasonable cost. We visited Murano ( OK, dominated by the famous glass works with their touts and outlets) and Burano (exceptionally pretty). On the journey from Murano to Burano, the boat stops at Mazzorbo before going to Torchello, then Burano. If you want to skip Torchello, get off at Mazzorbo. Everyone will think you are getting off at the wrong stop but persevere. There seems very little to see, but it is pretty, peaceful after the crowded boat journey, and has a good cafe/restaurant alongside the canal which makes a good lunch stop. You then take the short walk over the bridge to Burano. Burano is a jumble of brightly-coloured cottages, lace shops, canals and waterfront, and seems to have more character than Murano.
On our last day we just got on random boats and stood on deck, watching the sights go by. If you have a guide book you can effectively make your own tour. After travelling around Venice we went over to Lido, where there is a sandy public beach about 15-20 minutes walk from the first boat stop (I suspect there are better stops and/or a bus to the beach but we were just meandering). Lots of hotels/restaurants/bars etc, the Venetian sea-side but not tacky. Our final boat was down the Grand Canal.
As long as the weather is fine and you can get a spot on deck for all but the longest journeys, this is a great way to spend some time and see the sights.
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