It's summertime, and we're on an island! Yes, make your time in this maritime city count, by leaving your landlubbing ways behind, and taking to the waterways of Manhattan's surrounding rivers and harbor in search of some offshore R & R. Happily, there are many more options than just humdrum sightseeing, tourist-targeted sailings (though seeing the Manhattan skyline and Lady Liberty from the water is always a treat, no matter how long you've lived here). Even locals will love this standout selection of 10 top NYC boat trips, from schooners to sailboats to speedboats (and beyond).
Schooner Sailings with Classic Harbor Line
Sail off into the sunset, refreshing beverage in hand, and leave your worries back on land. No, this isn't some Caribbean-isle escapism fantasy—you can easily head out on your own little two-hour get-away-from-it-all adventure right here in Manhattan, aboard the tall-ship sailing vessels of Classic Harbor Line. The company operates two schooners, complete with billowing white sails, out of Chelsea Piers, with chipper mates onboard to hoist the sails and an MO that oozes pure R & R. Read up more on Schooner Sailings with Classic Harbor Line.
Hidden Harbor Tours of New York's Working Harbor
It's easy for us New Yorkers to forget that we're actually islanders, and even easier to lose sight of the size and scope of the working port that our city's harbor once was . . . and very much still is. In fact, New York Harbor today only trails Long Beach and Los Angeles in California amongst the nation's largest ports in terms of size, and holds the title of the busiest working port on the East Coast.
For some insight into this behind-the-scenes side of NYC, Hidden Harbor Tours (run by the Working Harbor Committee) has launched operations aboard NY Waterway to showcase a fascinating back-door peek into the goings-on of New York Harbor (including both the New York and New Jersey waterfronts) that's far removed from the typical tourist boat circuits that normally ply these waters. Read up more on Hidden Harbor Tours.
Sunday Jazz Brunch Sailings on Hornblower
If a boat, brunch, booze, and tunes sound like a perfect summer-fun recipe, sign up for the two-hour Sunday jazz brunch sailings from Hornblower New York. The excursions are inclusive of a buffet brunch (brimming with classic breakfast favorites and a carving station) and dessert station, as well as free-flowing, unlimited, mimosas, and a selection of coffee and teas. Plus, there's a live jazz ensemble and onboard DJ to rock the boat in the very best way. During the sailing aboard the yacht, you'll also get photo ops with landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and more. All for just $70 per person–Sunday brunch has never sounded so good (visit hornblowernewyork.com for more details).
Sailing Lessons in NY Harbor with Offshore Sailing School
There are several sailing schools in NYC where beginners can sign up to learn the ropes on sailing—quite literally—for about the same price as a ticket to a Broadway show. Hook up with one of the best, the Offshore Sailing School, based out of Pier 25 in Tribeca (or out of their newly debuted location at the North Cove Marina in Battery Park City), which has been a well-reputed mainstay on the NYC sailing circuit, teaching New Yorkers how to sail for 50 years now.
For beginners looking to get their feet wet (without actually having to get their feet—or any other part of their bodies, for that matter—wet, thanks to the school's top-rate, well-balanced sailboats), Offshore offers two-hour-long introductory sailing lessons for $150/person. The hands-on classes are limited to four students per sailboat (and require a minimum of two participants), and are held entirely on the boat, foregoing any need for classroom time. Read up more on Sailing Lessons in NY Harbor with the Offshore Sailing School.
Audubon's Sunset "Eco-cruises" on New York Water Taxi
Those in the know might say that this city is for the birds—quite literally! Check out the habitat we share with our feathered friends via the NYC Audubon Society's special sunset eco-cruises, which showcase the "wild side of New York City" on a trio of early-evening, naturalist guided sailings aboard New York Water Taxi. Cruises sail from the South Street Seaport (Pier 16) to either North Brother Island, with its egrets and ruins; the egret rookeries of Hoffman and Swinburne Islands; or to Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Reserve. Not only will guests sneak a peek at any of the thousands of herons, egrets, and ibis that nest around NYC, but they'll score some great cityscape views, too. Tours run on Sundays through August 16—visit nywatertaxi.com for more details.
Gospel Brunch Sailings on Spirit Cruises
Put some soul into your sailing with the special Saturday gospel lunch excursions hosted by Spirit Cruises. Guests aboard the two-hour cruises (embarking at noon on select Saturdays, from Chelsea Piers) will enjoy live performances from the New York City Gospel Choir, a group of professional gospel singers that carry spirited tunes. Enjoy a listen to authentic gospel, while digging in on a special menu of herb-baked chicken, roasted salmon and tilapia, baked mac & cheese, rice and peas, and more. Be sure, too, to head up to the open-air rooftop deck to enjoy passing cityscape views. Upcoming sailings for 2015 are scheduled on August 8, August 29, September 5, October 3, and December 5—read up more here: spiritcruises.com.
Photography Tours with NY Media Boat
Photography buffs in search of that perfect shot should sign up stat with New York Media Boat, offering your not-at-all-average tour of New York Harbor and its surrounding waterways. The custom outings, aboard a U.S. Navy-designed Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) (guests are outfitted with waterproof jackets), get up to six photographers out on the water and up to unique angles of NYC's superlative skyline and bridge spans. In fact, the boat is a go-to for major news agencies (like CNN) that are out on the hunt for that one-of-a-kind NYC angle, which would be otherwise impossible to capture on land. Apart from the obvious NYC waterfront attractions, tours can be customized to take in more obscure parts of the city, from lighthouses to nature preserves, submarines to forgotten shipyards, along with glimpses of New York Harbor's industrial past and present. Sailings are suitable for all photographers' skill levels – see nymediaboat.com for more info.
North River Lobster Company Cruises on the Hudson River
Lobster lovers rejoice: You can chow down on those scrumptious crustaceans, throw back signature cocktails, and cruise out onto the Hudson River, thanks to this perfect summer outing proposed by the 2014-debuted North River Lobster Company. Essentially a floating lobster shack, up to 450 patrons can set out aboard one of four to six casual (and complimentary!) 45-minute sailings embarking from Midtown daily, where seafood-centric indulgence (including a raw bar and Maine lobster dishes) comes paired with plenty to wash it all down with, including cocktails served up in mason jars and frosty buckets of beer. Read up more on on the North River Lobster Company.
Manhattan Architecture Tours with AIANY
In addition to running their transporting schooner sailings, which we love, Classic Harbor Line also claims two classic-style, teak-detailed yachts in their fleet, which play host to architecture tours that are organized and narrated by members of the AIANY. Choose from several different itineraries leaving from Chelsea Piers, like the classic "AIANY Around Manhattan Architecture Tour," which circumnavigates Manhattan; the "AIANY Lower Manhattan Architecture Tour; and more. Listen to well-informed commentary on Manhattan's waterfront architecture, while enjoying light hors d'oeuvres and a complimentary alcoholic beverage. See more at sail-nyc.com.
Craft Beer Tours with Urban Oyster
NYC's microbrewery scene has been positively booming over the last few years, and the pros at Urban Oyster tours guide guests to the very best of the city's craft brew culture. For the summer and fall season, the company has teamed up with Manhattan by Sail to offer a slate of two-hour-long, craft beer-specialized sailings aboard the line's Clipper City vessel, a replica clipper ship. Sip on five craft beers from a rotating roster of local New York brewers, complete with tasting tips from onboard beer pros; enjoy cheese and charcuterie snacks; and take in sweeping views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. See more at manhattanbysail.com.