Focused on the skyline of Manhattan, the dingy underworld of the subway, the lights and glamour of Times Square, we often forget something that shouldn’t be so overlooked: New York is a port city! There’s water everywhere, just begging to be treated on the same level as Central Park — as an escape from the noise and heat and bustle of the city proper. With that in mind, here are the best ways to get on the water in New York City.
Ah, the tried-and-true standby. You’ll find guidebooks dating back to who-knows-when touting the Staten Island Ferry as the most reliable way to see the city’s crowning maritime gem: the New York Harbor. One of the few things in NYC that’s actually gotten cheaper over time (it used to cost 50 cents for a round trip; now it’s free), you’ll glide past Governor’s Island, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal. 4 South Street.
Brooklyn Barge Bar
Opened in 2015, this seasonal, floating bar is perfect for anyone who loves the idea of being on a boat, but doesn’t quite have the stomach for a boat trip. No, at the Brooklyn Barge Bar, you’re less likely to get seasick than you are to get sick from a few too many Barg-o-lattas (the house take on a michelada). Docked on the East River in Brooklyn’s hip Greenpoint neighborhood, the bar (which also serves food) offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline.
Brooklyn Barge Bar. 3 Milton Street, Brooklyn.
The Hudson River’s answer to Brooklyn Barge Bar, Pier 66 Maritime offers summertime food and drinks without the same view, but with a little more history than its East River counterpart. Set on Pier 66 in Hudson River Park, the restaurant offers access to a suite of ships, including a former railroad barge, a fireboat, and a once-shipwrecked lightship (think floating lighthouse) called The Frying Pan – a name that often colloquially replaces “Pier 66 Maritime”.
Pier 66 Maritime. Hudson River Park at West 26th Street. 212-989-6363
A more sophisticated, younger cousin to Pier 66 Maritime, Grand Banks is an oyster bar (from Mark Firth of Marlow & Sons) set aboard the Sherman Zwicker, a sleek fishing boat from the 1940s. Eating off a changing menu of wild-caught seafood, while sitting just feet from the water, you’d be hard-pressed to find a meal that feels fresher. To help wash it down, maritime-influenced cocktails are provided by Lauren Schell, formerly of Manhattan stalwart Milk & Honey.
Grand Banks. Pier 25 in Hudson River Park.
Of course, eating and drinking isn’t the only way to get on the water in New York (just the best). For the more active-minded, there are plenty of opportunities in New York to get the oars or paddles moving. Specifically, Hudson River Park offers five spots to kayak, one for row boating, and two for sailing. Among other programs, lessons are offered for beginners and experts.
Hudson River Park. Multiple locations. 212-627-2020.