Cruising the Majestic Hudson River
The Hudson River is a magnificent place to plan a cruise. It offers plenty of scenery as well as several interesting towns along the way to stop in and visit or spend the night. These towns offer boaters a place to stretch their legs and learn about history, architecture as well as enjoy some good food and regionally produced drinks. An advantage of cruising here is that you are always protected from rough seas.
The Hudson River is actually an estuary from Manhattan up 154 miles to Troy where the tidal influence ends with the dam and lock. Exploring the Hudson should be a leisurely event. While a fast boat at 30 knots can shoot from town to town quickly our Viking Sport Cruiser took a more relaxed approached keeping the throttle at an average of 17 knots. Doing this allowed us to enjoy the scenery, spot and view seven bald eagles, many herons, egrets and other birds along the way as well as burn less fuel. Keeping it slower helped us spot and avoid several nasty logs in the river. The scenery started at the Palisades cliffs after we exited the Spuyten Duyvil Swing Bridge coming from Long Island. The pretty views continued through the narrows by the Bear Mountain Bridge and West Point. In the mid-section of the river we were able to see the Taconic and Catskill Mountains as well as the large and older mansions on it’s banks. We enjoyed parts of the upper section that were narrow, peaceful and lined with trees During our journey on the river we passed four photo worthy lighthouses.
Planning a cruise on the Hudson is easy and should start with the purchasing of the Waterway Guide Northern 2016 Long Island Sound and New England Waters as well as the Richardson’s Chartbook and Cruising Guide, Hudson River and Adjacent Waterways. The reason for this is because all the marinas and information are easy to follow on their pages. Also, electronic navigation does occasionally fail and these are great backups. Waterway Guides offer a good “ashore tips” when in a town.
Anxious to get up river we pushed six hours and stopped at the Shadows Marina in Poughkeepsie. (www.shadowsmarina.com) We found the dock hands fast to attend us and tie us up. We also liked the fact we were protected from the river wakes. The Dutchess County area of the Hudson offers a lot to see and for about $50 Enterprise Rent-A-Car will pick you up at the dock so you can get around.
Our first stop in the river valley was at the 54 room Vanderbilt Mansion that sits impressively on 211 acres. (www.nps.gov/vama) It was completed in 1899 as the seasonal residence of Fredrick Vanderbilt. What makes seeing this mansion unique is that it was donated to the Federal Parks Department in 1938 with nearly all of its original furniture. This means visitors get a chance to see what was actually in the house and how they lived. Take a picnic lunch down to the river.
Next door to the Vanderbilt’s is the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site called Springwood. (www.nps.gov/hofr) This was the president’s birthplace, lifelong home and burial site. Tours are given throughout the day and can be arranged a day in advance. If you get there early or just miss a tour you can walk the grounds and visit the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.
Another gem to see is called Val-Kill. (www.nps.gov/elro) This simple stone cottage is the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and is the only home she owned. This important place teaches visitors about Mrs. Roosevelt’s life. It showed how down to earth she was living in a small home with simple furnishings. The park ranger stressed how she was not just the wife of a President but a true First Lady with an important agenda of helping people and promoting civil rights. We also learned about her important United Nations work after leaving the White House. Tours are given on the hour.
We ended our day with a French dinner at the Culinary Institute of America (www.ciachef.edu/cia-new-york ) enjoying a three course weeknight special for $45. Don’t miss any of their five restaurants here set on this campus. The next morning before returning the car we drove five minutes to Walkway Over the Hudson (www.walkway.org). Here we did a scenic two and half mile round trip walk high over the river on this converted railroad bridge.
From Poughkeepsie and with the tide in our favor we made way for the town of Hudson taking about two hours and arriving in a moderate rain. Hudson, a city of about 7000 people was first settled in the late 1600’s and then chartered in 1785 by whalers and merchants from Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Rhode Island. In the last 15 years the city has undergone an upscale change and gentrification. Much of the talk about this old river city is how “Brooklyn has discovered it.”
Hudson has over 300 properties in Hudson Historic District dating from 1785 to 1930 and was listed as a National Historic Site in 1985. Its main drag, Warren Street, is lined with antique shops, café’s, restaurants and stores. Boaters arriving in Hudson can call ahead for space at the Hudson Power Boat Association (www.hudsonpowerboat.com) or dock at the Henry Hudson Riverfront Park next to the tour boat docks. The park dock is small, offers no services and is free. We stayed two nights there. From the dock it is a five minute walk to Warren and Front Street where you can stop at the Chamber of Commerce to get information and a map. We recommend you walk on Warren Street for the shops and back down Union Street to see some of the old homes. Don’t miss a brief stroll down pretty Willard Place. For entertainment at night check out the music venue at Helsinki’s. (www.helsinsinkhudson.com). For information on Hudson go to www.gotohudson.net
If you have an interest in historical mansions while here consider a taxi to the Olana Castle high up overlooking the river (www.olana.org) You probably saw it while heading north on your starboard side. This Victorian/Persian style mansion is made of stone, brick, and polychrome-stenciling and was completed in 1872. It is decorated with many paintings and personal items from the Church family that built it. We enjoyed the house tour and the views of the river and mountains.
From Hudson we headed north to Albany with a fuel stop at Coeymans Landing Marina. This mom and pop outfit has friendly service and good fuel prices. We use them anytime we are in the area. The ride north from Coeymans to Albany is the least scenic. As you get closer to Albany you will be in a no wake industrial zone. Once past the USS Slater we docked at Jennys Landing for the day. (This is a small dock with no services) From the dock we walked five minutes along the river to tour the USS Slater. (www.ussslater.org) The USS Slater is the last of the 563 World War II “Destroyer Escort” boats afloat. This class of ship was designed to protect the merchant ships bringing supplies to Europe from German submarines. A unique fact about these ships was that it only took a month to build them during the war. From the Slater we walked 25 minutes up State Street to New York State’s Capital. Here we took a detailed tour of this large Romanesque style building built between 1867 and 1899. (http://www.ogs.ny.gov/esp/ct/tours/Capitol.asp) The tour started with a walkthrough of an area of historical artifacts. We were then shown the large impressive stair cases and many statues before being taken to the ornate legislative and assembly chambers. The assembly chamber is the largest open arched span room in the world. For entertainment nearby the Capital Repertory Theater (www.capitalrep.org) offers Broadway quality shows at nearly half the price of tickets from the New York City theaters.
Our next stop was eight miles upriver to Troy. Our schedule had us in for the Thursday evening summer series concerts that take place on the water near the town dock. The Troy town dock offers fuel and water and is first come first serve.
The City of Troy sits 154 miles north of Battery Park in Manhattan and is the end of the tidal zone. Our research showed that Troy has gone through a makeover in the last 15 to 20 years and it was worth a visit. To do this we arranged a tour with Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway (http://www.hudsonmohawkgateway.org). Our guide, Mr. Tom Carroll is passionate about Troy. He told us we would say “I didn’t know that” about Troy several times during our detailed tour of the city. Mr. Carroll said Troy was the “Silicone Valley” of the 1820’s and was a pretty wealthy city. It had mills powered by water on one side of the city and access to shipping on the other side. We learned that Troy is the city to see Tiffany glass, was active in important abolition history, has wonderfully restored architecture and was an early place for the education of woman. It also the home of Uncle Sam. He said that Troy was the shirt collar capital of the world and at one point made one million horse shoes per week. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour with this good will ambassador of the city who walked us all around. Highlights included the Tiffany glass windows at the library and other buildings, a walk around and inside some of the restored buildings, a visit to the restored Music Hall and hearing about Troy’s history. We found downtown attractive, active and a very livable city. For dinner there are plenty of places nearby the boat between River and Front Street. Next to the dock you have Brown’s Brewing Company and Dinosaurs BBQ. For information go to www.downtowntroy.org.
We left Troy in the morning and went two miles upriver to Waterford to provision up. This had us go through the Federal Lock. Locking requires boaters to have plenty of fenders a couple of lines and a boat hook ready when entering. Once inside you need to slip line around a pole and hold it while the lock raises the boat up 14 feet. Waterford offers free dockage for two nights with electric costing $10. There is a welcome center with area information, showers and bathrooms. The dock is more like a friendly small marina where we chatted with boaters going to Canada, Florida as well as in the middle of their Great Loop adventure. Provisioning is easy here because the Hannaford Supermarket, a ten minute walk across the bridge, let’s shoppers take and leave the cart at the dock. Dining in Waterford should include McGrievey’s for dinner. For breakfast eat with the locals at Don and Paul’s Coffee Shop for their $2.00 egg special. From Waterford you can head north on the Champlain Canal to Lake Champlain or go west on the Erie Canal.
On our way up we stopped at towns on the east side of the river. With our journey now homeward it was time to visit places on the west side. We departed Waterford and cruised south a third way down the river to overnight at Athens village dock. Athens is a small village of about 4000 people. It is across the river from the more popular Hudson, NY and within view of the Athens lighthouse that marks the channel. It is a quiet community with many registered homes from the18th and 19th century built in the Greek Revival, Stick, Italianate, Federal, Second Empire, Fold Victorian or Queen Ann styles. You don’t need a lot of time to visit Athens and we recommend getting here late in the afternoon and taking a stroll around before visiting the Crossroads Brewing Company (crossroadsbrewingco.com) for a sampling of in house brews and an appetizer. For dinner we strongly recommend the Rive Gauche Bistro (www.rivegauchebistro.com). The food here is very good with their French onion soup a real stand out. For breakfast the Riverside Diner is quite nice.
After shoving off we headed a couple of hours south enjoying the ride and views down river. We passed the Athens, Saugerties and the Roundout Creek Lighthouses with our port of call being Kingston. When approaching Kingston you will see the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. Go to idle speed and get your bearings. You must follow the buoys here carefully. The channel is narrow to enter but is not a problem if you take care. Two places to overnight can include the Hudson River Maritime Museum (hrmm.org) or the Kingston City Marina (www.kingstoncitymarina.com). Both offer power and water and are in good locations.
Kingston was an early Dutch settlement and in 1777, New York’s first capital. It was also burned by the British that same year. In the 1800’s it became an important transportation hub as it connected the canals, river and railroad. A leisurely two night visit to Kingston should start at the Kingston Heritage Visitor Center near the docks at 20 Broadway. Here you can get guides, maps and helpful information. Visiting Kingston can be a two part experience. The first part would be to stroll around and see the shops, restaurants, homes and streets on the lower part of the city where the docks are. The second part should be to the historical stockade district in upper Kingston.
After docking we visited the Hudson River Maritime Museum. Here you will find a few rooms filled with artifacts and information about the area and its history. It includes exhibits on steamboats as well as the ice boats that raced in the area. The museum is a working boat yard and during our visit we saw craftsman restoring an old sloop. From the museum you can use your guide from the visitor’s center to walk around the lower section of town. The map points out different properties and tells their history. When you get hungry we recommend Ole Savannah on the creek. We found the food and service excellent and went back for an amazing happy hour the next day where we met many of the locals. Boaters can usually tie up to Ole Savannah’s docks for lunch and explore the town for a couple of hours if they choose not to overnight. During the weekends there is Trolley Museum you can visit across the street. (tmny.org)
For our second day in Kingston we started with delicious crepes at Café Dolce. From there we went to the upper section of Kingston. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s there is a free trolley that connects the lower and upper areas. For other times a taxi can be called for the 2.7 mile ride. Using our guide we did a self-tour of the historical Kingston Stockade District. This area consists of the original eight blocks that were surrounded by a 14 foot stockade fence and has homes from the 17th, 18th and 19th century. Our visit included the Fred J Johnston Museum in the district. This is a Federal style home (c1812) having eight rooms filled with some of America’s best antique furniture. Lunch was at the Hoffman House which was built in 1679. It survived the British burning of the town and still has the original charred walls in the attic that you can request to see. We concluded our visit with stop at “The Four Corners” (Crown and John Streets) to view the only place in America with four pre-revolutionary homes on each corner before looking through the shops on North Front Street. For information on this area go to http://www.fohk.org/ For information on Kingston go to www.kingstonhappenings.org/
Our last night on the river was in Newburgh. We stopped here because we heard the waterfront area with its restaurants and night life was a fun place to be. Arriving in the late afternoon we docked at the Riverfront Marina and walked 15 minutes to Washington Headquarters. (http://www.parks.ny.gov/historic-sites/17/details.aspx) This large home built in 1725 was the longest serving headquarters for George Washington from April 1782 until August 1783. It is also the first publicly owned historical site. Tours of the home are given here every 30 minutes. We recommend visiting the museum before or after your tour.
Docking in Newburgh can have some issues. If you are on the outer dock, you are going to bounce during the day due to the wakes so you have plenty of fenders ready. Once it got dark the river was calm. The other thing to be concerned about is venturing away from the waterfront area. Local boaters warned us here not to venture off Broadway if we needed anything and told us not to walk there at night. The waterfront offers several restaurants all adjacent to the docks with live music or a club scene after 10:00 p.m. on weekends.
Anyone living within a day of the Hudson River should consider cruising it. It is easy to do and would be an ideal first time cruising destination. The seas are almost never an issue and as long as your remember right-red-return, the navigation is simple. If you don’t have a cabin you can still cruise the river by staying at the hotels or inns in all the towns featured in this story that are near the docks. This majestic and scenic river is meant for exploring so enjoy your trip up the river.