The Hudson was undoubtedly recognized for the big, beautiful gift that it is long before Henry and the Half Moon showed up. The “Great Waters in Constant Motion,” a tidal estuary up as far north as Troy, was a natural thoroughfare and the place to go for over 200 species.
When the humans moved in, the river was the heart of valley manufacturing and commerce. You can still see the ruins of the brick kilns, the old factory buildings, and gravel pits. Organizations like Riverkeeper, Clearwater, and Scenic Hudson have come a long way toward healing
her scars, and the “River that Flows Both Ways” now has her bountiful banks adorned with places for play and contemplation. Here’s our guide to rollin’ on the river all summer long, from taking in the stunning views to jumping on in.
“THE HUDSON WAS UNDOUBTEDLY RECOGNIZED FOR THE BIG, BEAUTIFUL GIFT THAT SHE IS LONG BEFORE HENRY AND THE HALF MOON SHOWED UP.”
GET OUT ON IT
BOAT RENTALS, PRIVATE CHARTERS, KAYAK TOURS, DINNER CRUISES—TAKE YOUR PICK. There’s even a water taxi running between Newburgh and Poughkeepsie. Sail on the majestic sloop Clearwater, a replica of the cargo sloops that traveled the Hudson during the 18th and 19th centuries. Try a sunset sail on the Black Swan out of Kingston, or charter her for an overnight—they’ll pack your meals with fine local takeout. Charter the luxurious 40-foot Osprey from Osprey Marine and live like nautical royalty. (The Osprey folks will join you on your own craft and school your sailing or powerboating skills too.) Or take a Hudson River Cruise out of Kingston aboard the Rip Van Winkle. You can take a sightseeing cruise or go all out and join them for a music cruise. Dance under star-splashed skies to a live band while enjoying the Rip’s full bar. You can also take sailing lessons, or rent a fully equipped pontoon boat, canoe, or powerboat and go exploring on your own. There are dozens of picnic spots and playgrounds. There are places to swim (Riverkeeper regularly updates information on the best locations) and drop in and Jet Ski or sun on the beach at Kingston Point.
Even if you’re aquaphobic, with no intention of leaving dry land, the river’s aura extends up onto the banks and lends its flowing estuarian energy to the river towns.
TOUR BY WATER:
Many communities have waterfront parks with boat ramps or docks where you can pull in.
In SAUGERTIES where the Esopus joins the Hudson, you’ll find Ulster Landing Park, the Village Beach, and Tina Chorvas Memorial Park, all great places for a picnic or swim. It’s just a quick hike up the hill to the business district, where you’ll find delights like Lucky Chocolates, Miss Lucy’s, and ‘Cue, along with world-class antique and vintage shopping. If you want to stay the night, the boutique Diamond Mills hotel will bask you in luxury; you could also enjoy a meal at its high-end tavern, which serves handcrafted cuisine from CIA-trained chefs.
KINGSTON is a port of call that’s hard to beat. First (heading south) you’ll see Kingston Point Beach, where families spend happy afternoons enjoying a sandy, watery playground. (Look for the river-polished fragments of brick; they’re chunks of Kingston history.) Make a right at the lighthouse, glide up the Rondout Creek, and choose your pleasure. The entire city waterfront is redesigned for fun—studded with fine eateries like Mariner’s, home of a classic clambake platter, Savona’s Trattoria, offering fine casual Italian, and newly opened Ole Savannah, as Southern on your taste buds as anything you’ll find in New York State. Visit the home port/education center of the Clearwater and the Hudson River Maritime Museum to deepen your understanding of the connection between the river and the surrounding human landscape. Or pop into the Kingston Heritage Area Visitor’s Center, where they’ll hook you up with everything you need to know to visit like a rock star. You’ll also find a couple of art galleries and creative retail therapy like Milne’s At Home Antiques—pick out a favorite piece and have it shipped, or have them design you the sleek contemporary piece of your dreams.
A few short minutes south on the west bank, you’ll encounter PORT EWEN. For a picnic and a leg stretch here, try George Greer Memorial Beach.
On the east bank in RHINECLIFF sits the splendid Rhinecliff Hotel, which can be reached by boat. They’ll feed you anything from bar snacks to fine cuisine, fill your ears with jazz over Sunday brunch, or put you up for the night in vintage railroad hotel style (these days, of course, that includes flat screen TVs and whirlpool tubs). Also on the river in Rhinecliff is China Rose, serving artful and innovative Chinese cuisine. Try the goat cheese and crabmeat wonton!
A tad south, you’ll find the POUGHKEEPSIE waterfront, another fine place to drop anchor. Take the elevator to reach the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park for a whole new perspective on the mighty waters or dine at a waterfront restaurant. Loop busses connect the train station/waterfront to the rest of the Queen City. Check out some of the fine restaurants that have sprung up, like the Artist’s Palate, a fine bistro and wine bar in a gallery setting, with sleek décor and edgy industrial accent notes. (The folks who run the Artist’s Palate have expanded to offer Canvas, a neighboring event space.
Roughly fifteen miles farther south, the BEACON waterfront offers a host of attractions. Right there down by the riverside are Riverfront Park, Long Dock State Park, the River Pool, and Denning’s Point State Park, complete with the LEED-gold-standard Center for Environmental Education and Innovation that serves as its visitor’s center. A very short walk uphill and you’re at DIA: Beacon, where you can immerse yourself in world-class contemporary art. Take a slightly longer walk, and you’re right in the lively beating heart of Beacon, where you’ll find smaller arts venues like eclectic indie merchants and Back Room Gallery, offering a variety of mediums like sculpture, painting, and print. There’s mouthwatering food at Poppy’s Burgers, micro-handcrafted suds aplenty at The Hop, and bewitching dessert to finish it up at Get Frosted Cupcakes.
Beacon is at the east end of the Newburgh Bay, one of the splendid locations that stunned Henry Hudson with its beauty and continues to stun to this day. And just across that bay (if you don’t want to take your own craft, you can hop aboard the restored ferry or the water taxi) is the NEWBURGH waterfront, one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes the Hudson Valley has to offer. Patrons can enjoy Hudson Valley living in half a dozen eateries and bars. There are day spas, paddlewheel sightseeing boats, and Gully’s, a unique family-style floating restaurant that’s a bit more laid back.
SWEET BLUE HIGHWAYS
On the west side, Route 9W is the closest land-based thoroughfare, and there are spots along it with sudden breathtaking views, along with a number of fun stops. You can roost in the hills at the elegant Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa, where you can also dine on fine cuisine at Henry’s at the Farm. Speaking of views, they serve up a splendid sunrise.
Swoop down at your leisure to the pleasures of MARLBORO AND MILTON. There’s Stoutridge Vineyard, where fine wines and distilled spirits are handcrafted from the fruits of 200-year-old arbors and orchards. There’s also The Falcon, a restaurant/gallery/venue where name acts play nights throughout the week for no cover charge—donations only. The eats are locally sourced and delicious; check their site for an updated schedule. (There is a nearby dock just down the street from The Falcon.) And Frida’s Café, located just a few minutes north on 9W, is the place for fresh homemade cookies and croissants.
Heading north on 9W up past HIGHLAND, you’ll come to a string of monasteries and retreat centers amid rolling hills and splendid views that locals call Holy Highway. Drive through this to reach Ulster Park and El Paso Winery, where you can relax on the deck with fine wine, cheeses, and specialty “nibbles.” While you’re in town, don’t miss the Apple Bin, a fine farm market and quaint country store where you can stock up on seasonal fruit and produce, local honey, and specialties, like pear cider and gourmet pancake mix.
You’ll also pass Black Creek Preserve in ESOPUS, which is definitely worth the stop. Minutes from the parking area, you’ll reach a bridge crossing a ravine, and the beauty of this spot alone warrants a visit. You can then proceed on a two-mile loop that passes an overlook and small inlet on the Hudson. It’s a great place to bring the kids!
Just a little further north in PORT EWEN, river history has spawned an annual celebration called the Tugboat Trail. See how many of the craft you can spot as you drive along 9W.
In RED HOOK, Poet’s Walk Park is a must-do. This gentle uphill stroll meanders through meadows, eventually leading to a charming (and romantic) gazebo with gorgeous views of the Hudson. If you go in the morning, the healthy bird population here is sure to serenade you as you walk.
North of Poughkeepsie in HYDE PARK, you can learn how the other half used to live. Hyde Park is where river town meets royalty. Two estates, the Roosevelt home and the Vanderbilt mansion, are open year-round as national historic landmarks; take the full tour or picnic in the gardens, and don’t miss Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill. Refresh yourself with tea and sweet treats at Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall, which—despite its regal name—offers a casual café and lunch fare to eat in or take out. If you’re in the treasure-hunting mood, stop by the Village Antique Center, where you’re sure to find something special.
“EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO INTENTION OF LEAVING DRY LAND, THE RIVER’S AURA EXTENDS UP ONTO ITS BANKS AND RIVER TOWNS.”
SUMMER ALONG THE HUDSON IS BIG EVENT TIME
On June 11 from 10-4, Kingston Point Beach will host the KAYAK FESTIVAL. Come down and learn everything from the ABCs to the fine points, hang out with kayak lovers, and check out the latest gear.
On June 25, the Maritime Museum in Kingston will be jamming with family-friendly free fun on HUDSON RIVER DAY. Learn about historical industries, visit heritage vessels, and enjoy entertainment, vendors, and children’s activities.
On Saturday, August 6, there’s a wonderful opportunity for experienced swimmers to swim about one mile (72 lengths of a standard 25 yard pool) across the Hudson River and raise funds to benefit the non-profit volunteer organization River Pool at Beacon. The GREAT NEWBURGH TO BEACON HUDSON RIVER SWIM will be hosted at the Riverfront Marina Newburgh-Beacon Institute Dock.
9. Osprey Marine
10. Hudson River Maritime Museum
11. The sloop Clearwater
Ports: Kingston, Newburgh, Beacon, Rhinecliff
12. Hudson River Cruises
13. Black Swan Sailing
14. Mariner’s Harbor
15. Savona’s Trattoria
24. Buttermilk Falls Inn
25. Frida’s Bakery and Cafe
26. The Falcon
27. Stoutridge Vineyard
28. Newburgh-Beacon Water Taxi
29. River Pool at Riverfront Park
30. Long Dock Park
31. Denning’s Point State Park
33. Poppy’s Burgers and Fries
34. Get Frosted Cupcakery
35. Back Room Gallery
36. The Hop
37. Walkway Over The Hudson
38. The Artist’s Palate
39. Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt
40. Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill
41. Village Antique Center at Hyde Park
42. Cranberry’s at Tilley Hall
43. Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
44. The Rhinecliff Hotel
45. China Rose
46. Dutchess County Fairgrounds
47. George Cole Auctions and Realty
48. Poets Walk Park
49. Hotel Tivoli and The Corner Restaurant