Great news for the Red Hook waterfront! New York Water Taxi has begun a regularly scheduled service to and from Red Hook to the west side of Manhattan. New York Water Taxi’s docks, for this line, are found at Pier 79 (located at Hudson at West 39th street, pictured above), Pier 45 at Christopher Street, Slip 6 at Battery Park, and Pier 11 on the East River. The Ferry then heads over to Brooklyn, stopping at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Red Hook pier.
This route is popular with sightseers, who can hop on and off at various stations along the route to check out the West Village, Battery Park, DUMBO, and Red Hook. New York Water Taxi is also an official transportation partner of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, so visitors can purchase timed passes to the museum at Pier 79 along with their all-day water taxi passes.
We admit to being partial to New York Water Taxi, as the company is part of the Red Hook Waterfront family.
The boats themselves have a climate-controlled interior cabin, along with open air upper decks perfect for watching the New York skyline and such landmarks as the Intrepid, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Above is a view from the West 20s, with the Empire State Building in the background. In the foreground is the barge-based Frying Pan bar and restaurant, with the John J. Harvey fireboat docked alongside it.
Once described as looking like a “forest of ship’s masts,” the industrial piers along the Hudson have either disappeared or have been converted to parks as part of the Hudson River Greenway. The fireboat above is found near 14th street, and it’s NYC’s newest and most advanced marine unit. That’s the 343, named for the number of casualties the FDNY suffered during the events of September 11, 2001. The neighborhood behind 343 is the Meat Market, where you’ll find the southernmost entrance to the High Line park.
Passengers will also pass by Battery Park City and the new One World Trade Center, colloquially known as the Freedom Tower. During rainy or foggy weather, you can observe clouds and mist flowing around the tallest office building in the Western Hemisphere (it’s currently the fourth tallest such structure on earth).
City Pier A spent a good chunk of the 20th century serving as a fireboat station, but fell into disrepair after the FDNY moved out in 1992. A renovation of the landmark Pier A Harbor House was completed just a few months ago, at the end of 2014, and the building is being developed as a restaurant complex slated for completion in 2015.
The last stop on the Hudson is at Battery Park, where you’ll notice the multitudes of tourists who are headed for the Statue of Liberty.
As the water taxi makes its turn northward at the tip of Manhattan, heading for the East River’s Pier 11, you can catch spectacular views of three East River bridges — Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg. Along the way, you’ll see Governor’s Island and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and can watch tourist helicopters as they take off and land.
Next up is DUMBO, where Brooklyn Bridge Park awaits. Look out for bridal parties taking wedding shots on the waterfront promenade. This is one of the most incredible views in the entire city.
After that, you’ll go on a short trip down a section of the East River called Buttermilk Channel, so named because of a legend from Dutch times. As the story goes, this stretch of the river was so shallow (before dredging) that at low tide you could walk out to Governors Island across the mud. Farmers in Red Hook would drive their milk cows to the island to graze, returning to retrieve their cows at the next low tide after a hard day’s work.
As you pull up to the Red Hook pier, you can see the Red Hook Stores building coming up at 480-500 Van Brunt Street, home to Fairway Market.
The New York Water Taxi isn’t the only way to reach Red Hook by boat — the Ikea Ferry is still running between Pier 11 and their dock over in Erie Basin — but this recently added service brings you from Midtown Manhattan’s West Side directly to Red Hook’s Waterfront.
Once you’re off the boat (don’t forget to tip the crew!), you can explore some of the historic industrial architecture which the O’Connell Organization has preserved along the Red Hook Waterfront, check out a historic PCC trolley car, or stroll over to the Red Hook Winery.
David Sharps’s Waterfront Museum is nearby as well, and farther back from the waterfront you’ll find a wealth of bars and restaurants like Fort Defiance, at the corner of Van Brunt and Dikeman streets. Baked is on the corner opposite from Fort Defiance, if your sweet tooth is calling.
NY Water Taxi isn’t the only way to get to Red Hook, of course, but it is the most scenic route.