Made up of an archipelago of islands, water is a dominant feature of New York’s urban landscape. With an extensive 578 miles of waterfront, the Hudson River running through the city’s heart, the ocean lapping at its eastern edges, and plenty of bays providing scenic spots to watch the sun rise or set, there’s water everywhere you look. And come summer, New Yorkers know how to make the most of their waterside location.

The waterways come alive with activity as people seek ways to escape the city’s steaming concrete. And with unique sightseeing opportunities to annual festivals and beautiful beaches, New York is bound to surprise you. Here are eight water attractions that make the city an unforgettable summer holiday destination.

1. Explore the Sunken Forest

Tucked off the south shore of Long Island, the idyllic Fire Island provides a place to truly escape from the sweltering city streets in summer. Here you can take part in countless recreational activities, including camping, hiking, sunbathing, swimming and bike riding. Stretched along the entire length of the island’s southern shore is a beautiful sandy beach patrolled by lifesavers in summer, and in the centre sits the Sunken Forest, one of the last remaining maritime forests on the Eastern Seaboard. This natural wonder is bursting with flora and fauna, yet the green canopy never grows above sea level due to a natural phenomenon called ‘salt spray pruning’. Protected by sand dunes, the Sunken Forest avoids the harsh sea spray, which is usually devastating to plant life.

Waterways - Sunken Forest section

2. Jet Ski on the Hudson

If you prefer to take things at a faster pace, a Jet Ski adventure around the waterways of NYC is bound to add a thrill to your holiday. Numerous Jet Ski companies allow you to either hire the personal watercrafts by the hour, or take a guided tour of the city from a perspective not everyone gets the chance to see. There are Jet Ski tours that take you to various city sights. The Statue of Liberty, Coney Island, Governor’s Island and the Brooklyn and Verrazano Bridges feature on itineraries.

3. Ride a wave at Rockaway Beach

Despite being located in one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, New York’s beaches remain relatively unknown. Visitors tend to hit the main tourist spots – the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge – instead of venturing to the seaside, despite the long stretches of sand and emerald water offering an ideal way to cool down when temperatures in the city get too high. In the summer months, New Yorkers flock to the city’s sandy coastlines to spend the day swanning about in the shallows. Rockaway Beach in Queens is particularly popular with surfers thanks to the consistent waves and convenient subway access. Beginners can sign up for a surf lesson, and families can enjoy a day by the seashore with an array of food stalls, a pier to explore, and playgrounds close by for young kids who’d prefer to keep their feet on dry land.

4. Try Liquid Yoga

A blend of stand up paddle boarding and yoga, this aquatic, balance-centric activity is a novel way to keep fit, cool and bronzed in summer. The ebb and flow of the water adds an extra element of difficulty to the exercise, giving your abdominals a real workout. It’s advised to take a few stand up paddle boarding lessons (shortened to SUPPING by enthusiasts) before trying the yoga version, but you won’t have a problem finding a company to try it with given the vast number that operate in the city. Just one piece of advice, leave your phone on dry land because you’re bound to get wet on your first few, wobbly attempts.

Waterways - Liquid Yoga section

5. Attend the River to River Festival

Now in its thirteenth year, this eclectic festival has become a summer staple in New York, and is the city’s largest free arts event. This 11-day festival is a celebration of the dynamic culture the city has to offer and takes place in 20 venues across the Lower East Side, stretching from East River’s South Street Seaport to the World Financial Centre on the Hudson River. Running from June 19-29, the River to River Festival boasts a schedule of over 150 performances, which include live music performances, dance productions, visual art installations, open-air films and after-hour parties. What nicer way to spend a warm, summer evening than watching a live performance surrounded by hundreds of other festival-goers against the backdrop of the moonlit river?

6. Visit a bar on a boat

Pier 25 is located in the heart of Tribeca on the Hudson River. It’s an iconic pier that’s reserved solely for historic vessels, and this year the Sherman Zwicker, the oldest wooden boat in New York, will be docked there for the summer. Unlike other boats moored along the city’s many piers, this one will house a number of cultural attractions. Two exhibitions, one on New York’s maritime history and the other about the vessel itself, will be open to the public, plus there’ll also be a series of lectures running over the season. However, it’s the pop-up oyster bar that will be the biggest draw. Raw food enthusiasts will be well catered for with a no-frills menu that offers Long Island oysters – a local delicacy. On a balmy evening, patrons can enjoy a chilled glass of wine atop the deck of this 142-foot schooner with stunning views of the city guaranteed.

7. Cast a line at Sheepshead Bay

Able anglers looking to take part in a spot of sports fishing will want to head to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. This popular waterside location is bursting with activity over the summer thanks to the many piers along its shore, seafood restaurants with beautiful bay views and the fact that Brighton Beach and Coney Island are so close by. This colourful and lively area feels very much like a quaint fishing village. Chartered vessels leave from here daily taking passengers on trips around New York where the likes of flounder, striped bass, porgies and ling are frequently caught. But if you’d prefer to stay on dry land, there’s also plenty of opportunity to cast a line from the piers’ edge.

8. Cruise around on July 4th

Independence Day is one of the most exciting times to be in New York. Grand, patriotic parties are held around the city in celebration, with locations boasting riverside views demanding the most attention as everyone wants to catch a glimpse of the extravagant firework display in the evening. As for prime spots, you can’t get much better than aboard a boat cruising the Hudson River. Numerous companies operate July 4th cruises, but they do sell out, so get in early. These lively boat trips usually include food, drinks and music and run from the late afternoon to near midnight, providing an unforgettable 4th of July. The best part is you’ll be guaranteed front row seats on the Hudson River for the main firework display at 9pm.

Waterways - July 4 Cruise section


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