Boating in New York Harbor: Everything You Need to Know

It is one thing to fly into New York City. It’s another thing to come by car. But, arriving by boat takes the cake as one of the most memorable experiences you can ever have on the water!

As we made the turn into New York Harbor, my first question was, “Are we seriously allowed to do this?” The answer is yes. No permit, permission or experience needed. But that’s where I have to stop and point out, boating in New York Harbor is not for the faint of heart.

a boat in new york harbor

Boating in NYC: What to Expect

People boat in New York City the same way that they drive!

It is crowded, aggressive and stressful, to say the least. Knowing the rules of the road helps big time. For example, the Staten Island Ferry stays on course at all costs. I’d like to think they would swerve or slow down, but I didn’t want to be the boat to find out. According to the rules, ferries always have the right of way. When in doubt, get out of their way.

There are also lots of tour company boats in this waterway. They have a plan and a route, and they don’t really care if they’re blocking your fantastic picture. Being a tourist boat in the water is just as intimidating as being a tourist car on the streets. (And you know everyone can spot you from a mile away!)

the staten island ferry in new york harbor

Use KnowWake to Plan Ahead

Previewing the waterway on KnowWake is a great idea. We needed to be on our A-game, boating-wise. Our goal for the day was to stay safe, get some great pictures, and soak in the view.

Speaking of getting great pictures, unless you are an expert level drone user, doing New York with a buddy boat is the way to go. We spent over an hour rotating positions with two other boats to make sure we all got great angles and cool photos.

a boat in front of the statue of liberty

Seeing the Statue of Liberty by Boat

The Statue of Liberty has no private dockage. To visit the island, you need to take one of the commercial ferries. You can, however, anchor right behind Ellis Island. The anchorage is well marked and has great holding. And, arguably the most spectacular view of the city!

the skyline of new york city at sunset

Extra Tips for Boating in New York City

Finding the best food when we travel is a high priority for our family of total foodies (except our 9-year old who somehow survives on Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, exclusively.) During past trips to New York, we’ve loved everything the city has to offer. It was a little disappointing to realize a nice meal off the boat was out of the question.

I should stop and point out, in theory you might be able to drop a dingy, find a dock and Uber to a restaurant. But there is no chance in the world that I would boat across New York Harbor in a dinghy. (See above description of the chaos!) Don’t get me wrong, some people do. Have you ever played the game Crossy Road? If yes, then you understand what it’s like!

Thankfully, we knew our eating options were limited to whatever we wanted to cook on our boat from the anchorage. Along with our buddy boats, we planned a meal worthy of New York City. We toasted with fancy cocktails and agreed it was the best night in New York, ever.

The ferries run all night in New York Harbor, but fortunately much of the other boat traffic dies down at sunset. Still, we’re glad no one on our boat is prone to seasickness. It was, by far, the rockiest night we’ve spent on our boat. But I have to say, totally worth it and again, best night ever!

About Mom with a Map mom with a map logo

Sarah and her family live on their boat, Light & Salty, full time. They work remote, Boatschool, and spend as much time as possible out on the water. They’re members of the AGLCA and proudly fly the Gold Burgee. You can check out more of their adventures @momwithamap on Instagram or on their website MomWithAMap.com.

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