Ingenious New Yorkers always turn the improbable into reality. And that’s what the Water Taxi group did to convert three outdoor spaces on their route with drop-dead gorgeous water views into no-swimming “beaches.” They imported sand, added plastic palm trees, created tasty and inexpensive menus and watched New Yorkers and visitors flock to their faux shores.
South Street Seaport Beach, Long Island City Beach and the upcoming (July 4) Governors Island Beach are reachable by Water Taxi and/or by public transportation. But don’t expect a dip in the East River since that’s not possible. Each beach is unique and appeals to distinctly different groups so choose carefully. And do read Water Taxi’s beach site or call 877-974-6998 should there be a last-minute dock change or an expensive cover charge added for a popular DJ.
South Street Seaport Beach
Located on Pier 17 at the Seaport, this beach is heavily family-friendly during the day with its soft beach sand, picnic benches and a large open area for children and their sand castles. The beach is directly beside the Seaport complex where there’s ample seating on its wooden steps — perfect to watch the activities without getting sand in one’s shoes. Popular games such as ping-pong ($5 per person for one hour) and skee ball are under a large white tent. A nine-hole miniature golf course ($5 per person) is on site. Plus, the food court serves beach food ($3 roasted corn). And there’s the ever-present breezes off the nearby East River that’s teeming with private boats, tugs, ocean liners and the occasional kayak. Nighttime, expect the 21+ crowd to ascend onto the beach that features rotating DJs all week long. Access to the beach is free. Public transportation to the Seaport can be used as well as the Water Taxi.
Long Island City Beach
There’s more of a fenced-in feel to this beach, located across from the Seaport in Long Island City and beside the Water Taxi dock. About 980 tons of coarse sand was imported from New Jersey and Long Island to cover its 44,000 square feet of land. Entrance security is tight; belongings are searched; food or alcohol removed and a valid state-issued ID or passport must show the bearer is 21 or older. “We’re a club scene,” said manager Andy Towler who runs a tight operation. A large tent is for DJs, dancing or for shade. To keep patrons cool, a misting system runs along the beach’s perimeter. Spreading a blanket for sun-worshiping is a challenge in a limited space. Long benches soon fill with a crowd eager to meet up. And once the music begins, the place can rock. Food shacks sell the Motz burger ($6), once voted the Best Burger of the Boroughs, plus alcohol selections ($6 beer). A free sandy area is available; however, any skyline view is limited. Regular admission is usually $5 but call ahead to see if a special event has raised the price. Water Taxi is the best way to get here. Free shuttles operate from the East 35th Street dock from 8pm-2am (Fridays) and 8pm-3am (Saturdays).
Governors Island Beach
Opening July 4th weekend, Governors Island Beach is a laid-back, waterfront experience with truly wonderful views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the East River bridges. Beach activities are volleyball and basketball. Devotees of organic food should try the Backstage Cafe and its salads, wraps and grilled chicken. The Governors Grill offers hot dogs and Motz burgers. Live concerts are at the Highline Ballroom every weekend with DJs in the evening, plus free concerts on weekend afternoons. City officials claim the public can access more areas than ever before on Governors Island, including a 2.2 mile promenade, perfect for walking or bike riding (rentals available and free on Fridays). Additionally, an eight-acre picnic area has a Statue of Liberty backdrop. Governors Island is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday until October 11. Access is by a seven-minute (free) city ferry and by Water Taxi.
Water Taxi offers a $20, all-day, Hop-On, Hop Off fare that’s one of Manhattan’s best buys to see the city’s water-view skyline, to stop at major neighborhoods and to visit the summer beaches. The boats are well-manned and have upholstered seats on the main level with access to the upper deck.