MWA's Best Waterfront Day Trips!

It's no secret that the coastlines of New York and New Jersey have become generally much cleaner and more accessible -- but many people still don't know how to get to all the new waterfront parks, paths and piers that have opened in recent years. WaterWire to the rescue! Read on, and make this the summer that you discover more of this unique urban archipelago's beautiful shoreline. Day Trips:

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DAY TRIP #1

Liberty marina

Liberty State Park Jersey City, NJ

If it's space you crave at the waterfront, head west and grab a Statue Cruises water taxi bound for Liberty State Park across the Hudson River. Seven dollars and ten minutes later you'll disembark at Liberty Landing Marina, a sea of bobbing boats before you (see photo above). Think of Dorothy starting her journey from Oz, and step onto the extra-wide Liberty State Park Promenade that lines this part of the Jersey shore for two glorious, windswept miles. Comfortably accommodating pedestrians and cyclists and banked by sweeping waterfront lawns -- great for flying kites on the river breezes -- the promenade offers incomparable vistas of New York Harbor. Click here to see a map. 457On this trip, you can

  • Walk, jog, bicycle or rollerblade along the waterfront.
  • Land or launch your kayak (call the park office at 201-915-3440 for details).
  • Birdwatch, fly a kite, have a picnic.
  • Go fishing or crabbing (common species include bluefish, shad, striped bass and blue claw crabs. Follow all local laws and consumption advisories. For details, contact the park office).455
  • Drop anchor at Liberty Landing. Need some fishing tackle? Navigational equipment? Visit the Liberty Landing Marine Center (201-433-3009).
  • Wander the self-guided path through part of the 36-acre Richard J. Sullivan Natural Area, one of the few remaining tidal marshes of the Hudson River Estuary.
  • Explore the historic Central Rail Road of New Jersey terminal (see contemporary and historic photos at right), built in 1864 when this area was a freight and passenger transportation hub. bench
  • Take a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (get tickets in the CRRNJ terminal). Grab the shuttle to the Liberty Science Center (home to the nation's largest IMAX dome theater). Hungry? For a dollar, the water taxi will ferry you to the other side of the narrow Morris Canal to Jersey City proper, where you'll find plenty of good eats within a ten-minute walk. Capt. Jim Chambers of Statue Cruises and Osprey Maritime Services knows the area well. He recommends:

Top photo from Liberty Landing Marina; other photos courtesy of NJDEP

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DAY TRIP #2

Rowing on the Harlem River

The Harlem River in 1902

 
Sherman Creek Waterfront Esplanade Master Plan

One hundred years ago, the Harlem River was crowded with rowers. Competitive crews flashed past in their eights, fours, pairs and singles, and at other times and in other parts of the river, gentlemen and ladies took to the water for a relaxing row. Back then, the Harlem River was to New York City what the Charles River was and still is to Boston and the Schuylkill River to Philadelphia: the center of city rowing. Sherman CreekThen came decades of neglect, and one by one the boathouses closed. Today, however, this eight-mile tidal strait that connects the East River to the Hudson, spanned by seven bridges, is being rediscovered, especially by rowers. At least four local colleges send out polished crew teams to practice -- NYU, Columbia, Manhattan College and Fordham -- and even a few high schools, including the public Bronx High School of Science, have discovered this exciting sport. For the non-student who is interested in rowing, two community rowing groups are flourishing on the Harlem River: the New York Rowing Association (NYRA), based at the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse on the Manhattan side, and Harlem River Community Rowing (HRCR) rowing out of Roberto Clemente State Park on the Bronx side. put inBoth groups find themselves responding to a surge in inquiries. "We've really ramped up the Learn to Row programs," said Steve Georgalis of NYRA. He said the organization is working with the NYC Parks Dept. to build two more boathouses along the Harlem River. The Harlem River Community Rowing group was founded in 2006 by a group of college athletes looking for place to row in NYC. They partnered with the Empire State Rowing Association, obtained a few shells, and put together Learn to Row and Masters programs. "Rowing is unlike any other human powered boating in that there's a bit more of a learning curve," said Jenny Sherman, HRCR's head coach. "You have to learn how to work in a group in the boat, and also how to balance this skinny boat." One session of eight lessons, which is about 18 hours of on-water experience, costs $150 -- "but there's a student discount and we can negotiate to make sure our price point works with everyone," Ms. Sherman said. UrgesThe HRCR is based out of a "serviceable set of shipping containers" at Roberto Clemente State Park. The group welcomes "folks who don't have the time or patience to sign up for a full set of classes," Ms. Sherman said. She recommends emailing info@harlemrivercr.org for programming options GETTING THERE To visit the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse on the Manhattan side, take the #1 or A train to Dyckman Street, walk east to Harlem River Drive/Tenth Avenue, cross the Drive and head for the river. To visit Roberto Clemente State Park on the Bronx side, take the #4 to 176th Street or the B or D to Tremont Avenue. Also, Metro-North drops passengers right in the park, at the Morris Heights stop. THINGS TO DO

  • Wander through Swindler Cove, five beautiful acres of plantings at the waterfront, reclaimed by the New York Restoration Project
  • Hungry? On the Manhattan side of the river, try the burgers at Jimbo's Hamburger Palace, 117 Dyckman St., 212-942-9769
  • Need something more filling, perhaps some hearty Dominican food? Try Mamajuana Cafe, a famous local hot spot, at 247 Dyckman St (Seaman Ave & Payson Ave.), 718-213-4691
  • On the Bronx side, Dallas BBQ, at the corner of 207th Street and West Fordham Road, is a favorite with Harlem River Community rowers. "That place is hopping all the time," said Ms. Sherman. "They're got pretty stiff drinks and" -- crucial to rowers -- "lots of food."
  • Make a day of it. Row, or watch the rowers, then retire to a picnic table and grill at Roberto Clemente State Park. Barbecue up a party!

    All photos except the historic photo from the HRCR web site.

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    Day Trip #3

    BK Bridge Night

    Piers 1 and 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park

    That's a rendering above of Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1, drawn by landscape designer Michael Van Valkenburgh many months ago when the park was being planned. Happily, reality is very close to the designer's dream, as the first delighted visitors saw on March 22 when Governor Paterson, Mayor Bloomberg and twelve local officials opened Pier 1. Here are recent photos of Pier 1 by Barry Yanowitz (right and below right). GardeningThe Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy sponsors many free programs, including seining, boating, bird watching, waterfront workouts and outdoor movies.Click here for the full calendar of events. The Conservancy welcomes new members to the Green Team, a group that schedules plantings (photo at left) and clean-ups. BikeThe first of six piers being reconfigured to convert the once-busy maritime and industrial waterfront to a world-class park, Pier 1 offers sweeping lawns, an inviting promenade and the Granite Prospect (a set of steps fashioned from granite salvaged from the Roosevelt Island Bridge reconstruction). Later this summer, visitors will find a salt marsh with native plants, water gardens crossed by small bridges, and a boat ramp for non-motorized watercraft. Click here for more information about the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse. Kiddie PoolSeveral weeks ago, part of Pier 6 -- mainly a fabulous set of connected play areas -- opened to bookend Brooklyn Bridge Park. The rest of the park -- Piers 2 through 5 -- will be built in stages over the next several years and will ultimately encompass Empire Fulton Ferry Park and the existing Main Street Park. Learn more about the future phases of Brooklyn Bridge Park here. Launch an interactive map here and learn about the park's amenities and sustainable features, as well as its points of interest. GETTING THERE If you need to take public transportation to Brooklyn Bridge Park, click here for subway and bus stops, as well as nearby parking garages. The best ways to get to the park, however, are by water taxi or bicycle.

    • Click here for the locations and schedule of the New York Water Taxi. On the Brooklyn side, the water taxi stops at Fulton Ferry Landing and Pier 6. If you catch the NYHarborWay water taxi, you'll pay special, low rate -- even lower on Fridays (see story above). And finally, if you have time to visit Governors Island, you can catch a free water taxi at Pier 6.
    • Nothing beats riding a bicycle across the Brooklyn Bridge. The views! The breeze! Once in Brooklyn, take a left and coast into the DUMBO neighborhood and then turn left (south) again.

    WHERE TO EAT photographing the photographersAre you in for a treat! Several establishments around Brooklyn Bridge Park are famous in the food world.

    • Grimaldi's (19 Fulton Street) - The line may stretch down the block, but there's a reason this pizzeria is popular.
    • Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (Fulton Ferry Landing) - Another tried-and-true spot popular with locals and tourists alike. Pure and delicious ice cream sold from a landmark fireboat house.
    • Buzzito Bar (Fulton Ferry Landing) - New this year, Buzzito Bar offers quesadillas and guacamole and chips.
    • The Landing (Old Fulton Street) -- An oxymoronically gourmet hot dog awaits you.
    • River Cafe (1 Water Street) -- One of the city's most romantic spots, bedecked with flowers and, as night falls, twinkling lights, the River Cafe is the most expensive dining you'll find around Brooklyn Bridge Park.

    Above photo by Barry Yanowitz; playground photo by Robert Simko

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    Day Trip #4

    Bicycling Along the Hudson River

    From the Battery to the mouth of the Harlem River, the stretch of Hudson River along Manhattan's west side is scenic and mostly flat; in short, a wonderful bike ride. End to end, it's about 14 miles, but cyclists (and pedestrians) can intersect the path at many points along the way. We recommend starting your ride, helmet firmly in place, as early as you can; by 9am, if possible. As the day progresses, the bike path can get crowded. decorated resize crop redroof mergedIn this travelogue, we'll begin at Pier A, the landmark Victorian piershed that is the dividing point between leafy, historic Battery Park and Battery Park City. Start pedaling north. You may either cycle up the riverside esplanade used also by pedestrians or the bike path adjacent to the highway. Past Stuyvesant High School, you've ventured into Hudson River Park territory. Pier 25 will open later this summer featuring a town dock, locations for historic boats, a miniature golf course, beach volleyball and more; Pier 26's opening -- and with it, the River Project -- is not assured until more funding has been obtained. As you cycle north, admire the sloped plantings and satisfying design of the park -- it's a pleasure that increases each time a new segment opens. Photo at right courtesy of Friends of Hudson River Park.

    boardwalkAt Pier 54 (near Little West 12th Street), look up at the arched iron entranceway to see the faded remains of letters that once said "Cunard Lines." Titanic survivors were brought to this pier in 1912. In 1915 the Lusitania departed from this pier on a voyage that ended in disaster when the ship was torpedoed by the Germans. The pier was used by Cunard until the 1930s. It's possible to veer off the bike path at Chelsea Piers and cycle slowly along the waterfront on the other side of the big recreation center and admire the docked boats (e.g. Bateaux New York, Classic Harbor Line, Offshore Sailing School). pier 66 maritimeOpen Paddles" twice a week, on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, and provides instruction (left) and coaching along with the equipment. These guided group tours, many with guest speakers, launch into Paerdegat Basin, a channel that connects Canarsie, Brooklyn to Jamaica Bay. paddling4Take note of Sebago's All Club Invitational for human-powered boats, this Saturday, July 17, 10am to 5pm, rain or shine. Sebago's directors promise "kayakers, canoeists, outrigger canoes, sunfish sailors, laser sailors, rowers, rowboats, sculls and dragon boats from the tri-state area."
    paddling5If you plan to participate, contact Sebago at allclub@sebagocanoeclub.org so that the club can plan for food, parking, etc. For this particular event, you must have your own boat; otherwise you may borrow a kayak for the regular Open Paddles. Click here for directions to the Sebago Canoe Club. Click here to read the Sebago Canoe Club blog. Where to eat? After your paddle, you'll probably be hungry. Head toward Avenue L. Ambiance Caribbean Restaurant at 9413 Avenue L got a great review about six months ago from the Village Voice. Urbanspoon suggests Original Pizza at 9514 Avenue L and Dougie's Jamaican Cuisine at 9604 Avenue L, among other Canarsie restaurants.

    Photos by Andy Novick

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    Day Trip #6

    City Island: New England in the Bronx

    City Island Stroll down City Island Avenue and you'll swear you're in New England. This folksy village of crab shacks and yacht clubs can't possibly have a Bronx zip code. But a short ride on the BX29 from the Pelham Bay Park station at the end of the #6 subway line brings you to this quaint, nautical community only 1½ miles long and a half mile wide at its widest point. (While the best way, of course, to reach City Island is by boat, advocates take note: there is no ferry service to the island.) Ship BuildingCity Island was settled in 1685. The island's first commercial business was the production of salt using solar power to evaporate seawater, established in 1820. Soon after, Orrin Fordham, a Connecticut ship builder, planted oysters off City Island, the first American to farm the bivalves. This revolutionized the oyster business and contributed to the ascent of New York to the top of the oyster market at the end of the 19th century. By the 18th century, the tiny island had become a major shipbuilding center, known for construction of luxury and racing yachts, including a number of America's Cup winners. At left, the 12-meter Constellation under construction in a City Island shipyard in the 1960s. YachtToday City Island boasts numerous marinas and yacht clubs, fishing boats and lobstering businesses, bait and tackle shops, and many restaurants with seafood on their menus. Picturesque and relaxing, the island can be explored in a day. Antique stores, art galleries, craft shops and restaurants dot the main street, City Island Avenue, while hundreds of boats bob at the edges. At right, a Columbia University sailor practices off City Island. Click here for the City Island Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors a free seaside trolley that picks up passengers at the Pelham Bay Station on the first Friday of every month. The City Island Historical Society and Nautical Museum is open every Saturday and Sunday, 1pm-5pm, at 190 Fordham Street. Johnny'sWhere to eat? Get your fill of clam chowder, fried calamari, frogs legs, clams on the half shell, steamed lobster, all kinds of fish and, yes, burgers, hot dogs and other non-seafood fare at these and other fine City Island eateries: Johnny's Reef RestaurantThe Original Crab ShantyCity Island Lobster HouseSammy's Fish Box

      - , 2 City Island Avenue, 718-885-2090 - , 361 City Island Avenue, 718-885-1810 - , 691 Bridge Street, 718-885-1459 - , 41 City Island Avenue, 718-885-0920 - City Island Diner, 304 City Island Avenue, 718-885-0362 - The Harbor Restaurant, 565 City Island Avenue, 718-885-1373

    Grab a lobster roll, pull up a picnic table and admire the view. Seagulls have claimed pilings. The water sparkles, the boats go by. Life is good. top of page

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