Surely the most scenic way to explore Lago Maggiore is by ferry service. A day or pass for the lake will be really good value and a leisurely way to enjoy the lakeside resorts and the Borromean islands - a hat to protect you from the sun rays is a good accessory to have :-0
The website provides timetables and points of departure around the lake.
Use the local ferry to go around the lake, including the many islands that are scattered around the lake. There are several boat lines, with winter and summer schedule, you can check it out on the web before you head towards your route. This is a website for ship routes on all the major north Italian islands - Maggiore, Como and Garda:
And this is specifically for Lago Maggiore:
The towns on the South-West bank of the lake, Arona, Stresa, Verbania, are on one of the main train routes between Milan and Switzerland. There are local trains that go to Domodossola, near the border, but there are also several trains a day going all the way to Geneva. These ones are faster and do not make many stops, but they all stop at the stations I have mentioned above. Travellers who are not familiar with this region may find it strange that intercity trains stop at these small stations, but a look at the landscape should explain why many people want to come here.
On average, it takes about one hour to reach the Lago Maggiore from Milan.
The train routes on the East side of the lake, instead, are all local, so the trains are slow and make lots of stops.
A public boat service connects all the major towns by the lake, from the northest town of Locarno, in Switzerland, to the most southern Arona and vice-versa. It may not be the fastest way to travel, but it is certainly the most enjoyable.
All the routes are scenic, the boats have seats inside and outside, and they all have bars on board.
There are also one-day tickets that are valid from a certain port to another one and back, with unlimited trips among all the other ports in between.
Going around by car helped us enjoy so many big or small places around the lake bank. Some of the views where breath-taking and others where "just" great. The experience of the ride around the lake was unique.
There is no need to take the speed boat when visiting nearby islands from Stresa, the distance is very short and you can get there in about ten minutes. Besides, slow boat-ride enables you to take plenty of pictures of islands and lakeshore from the water front:
The water taxis are handy if you have lots of luggage or just want to get to the Island and not fight the crowds. Be sure and bargin for the price.
If you go to the hotel for dinner, you might have the taxi pick you up after dinner as the large boats don't run late at night.
To reach Lake Maggiore it's easy. It's one hour and half far from Milan. You can go by train or bus. From the Malpensa Airport there is a bus service. By car you have to take the tollway Milano-Laghi, then the A26 to Domodossola, exit Arona or Baveno.
By train you have to take the train to Domodossola and get off at Arona or Verbania. Already on the way you can see some beautiful landscapes of the lake.
You can visit all the Islands and stop at numerous towns on the mainland using this boat. Lots of fun stuff to see as the boats run all day.
The best way to see the towns of Maggiore lake and enjoy beautiful views is taking the car and going around!
This is a miniature place called Meina.
The only way to get to Borromeo Islands (Isola Bella, Isola Madre) is by ship. You can get on board in Stresa, Baveno, Pallanza or Intra.