Many New Yorkers count the Hudson as a comforting, familiar sight, a backdrop that they’ve viewed from any number of vantage points around the city. There’s one perspective, however, that only a lucky few have experienced: from the water itself. Even if you’ve traversed it by ferry or some other motorized vessel, we venture to say there’s no more intimate way to experience the water than by kayak.
As the days grow warmer, it’s not uncommon to find yourself gazing longingly into the cool, rippling water and wishing for a refreshing reprieve. Luckily, a handful of organizations in New York are working to get more people out on the river. The Downtown Boathouse is one of them, offering free kayak rentals from Pier 26, just a short walk from the homes at 70 Charlton. There, a warehouse stores around 200 kayaks, ready to be taken out on a moment’s notice. Spontaneous types, rejoice: the Downtown Boathouse does not take reservations and doles out their vessels on a first-come, first-served basis. No experience is necessary; the only requirements are a proficiency at swimming and a signature on a waiver. The designated embayment is clearly marked with buoys, so even a novice navigator will have no trouble staying on course. The time slots last twenty minutes, and if you’re a beginner, that’s probably all you’ll need before your arms have reached their limit. Conveniently, a shower and changing room are provided.
A staff of around 500 hundred volunteers keeps the Downtown Boathouse going, with the sole purpose of helping New Yorkers access the waterway in their own backyard. Beyond the 20-minute excursions around the embayment, the organization also offers free kayaking classes, where you can learn to deepen your stroke and become more efficient at paddling so you’ll expend less energy. In case you want to take a longer trip into deeper waters, you can also find out how to prevent your kayak from capsizing and how to protect yourself, others, and the kayak if it does get a bit rough. The Downtown Boathouse will soon begin offering longer guided trips on the open water for those who have gained a little mastery.
All that paddling and fresh air are bound to work up your appetite. If you want to continue a nautical-themed afternoon without setting sail for distant ports, head to the beloved Grand Banks. This is no ordinary oyster bar. Set on the sleek wooden deck of a 1940s schooner, this hot spot on the water will make stepping aboard feel like you’re heading out on a sunset cruise. Vogue recently listed the venue as one of its top picks for grabbing a drink outdoors, declaring that “the name of the game here is oysters, rosé, and craft cocktails.” You’ll find a collection of carefully selected East and West Coast oysters, summery cocktails, and gleaming bottles of rosé. There are few better places in the city to watch the Hudson become drenched in the orange and pink light of the setting sun than beneath an old wooden mast, on the water.