More than just places to gather and imbibe, many of New York City’s floating bars have a great history as well. So if the sea calls to you like it does to a titanic number of New Yorkers, don’t worry, you’re not too late. You can still get your nautical fill at any of these ten floating bars around New York City.
1. The Brooklyn Barge (Greenpoint)
This week, the Greenpoint waterfont will welcome a long-awaited addition to the bar scene. The Brooklyn Barge, which had a short season last summer, will be docked at 3 Milton Street near WNYC Transmitter Park, giving patrons a choice of seating on land or on the water. It is expected that the bar will open this week on May 25th in time for Memorial Day. The bar-on-a-boat is a popular idea in the city, but only the Brooklyn Barge offers customers this encompassing view of the midtown Manhattan skyline.
2. The Honorable William Wall Clubhouse
The William Wall, a floating clubhouse operated by the Manhattan Yacht Club, is anchored in the middle of New York harbor. It was originally for members only, but has been open to the public since 2012. This venue is prime for watching sailboat races or simply enjoying a glass of your favorite wine, beer or mixed drink. Having one of the best views for one of the best prices in New York City, this spot still remains under-the-radar. Ferries to and from “Willy Wall” are offered in Manhattan and Jersey City.
3. Grand Banks (Hudson River Park)
After too many lobster rolls, you may be looking for something different. For a similar, more refined, atmosphere, visit Grand Banks, a fishing vessel-turned-oyster bar at Pier 25 in Tribeca. The ship, a 1942 hand-built schooner, used to be part of the Grand Banks North Atlantic fleet, trading cod and salt from Nova Scotia to South America.
Today, the bar features a number of refreshing cocktails and, of course, all the oysters your heart desires. Beyond an inviting atmosphere and a rich history, Grand Banks generates funds to restore rivers, preserve maritime history and implement oyster habitats here in the New York Harbor.
4. The Arabella
The Arabella may be New York City’s best maritime secret. Wherever the Arabella goes, it’s guaranteed to be the most spectacular yacht in the harbor, but very few New Yorkers realize it’s accessible to the public. Owned by the Manhattan Yacht Club since 2013, the three-masted 157-foot mega yacht (technically a staysail schooner) can be found anchored in New York harbor during the summer months. The boat is often anchored for great views of the New York City skyline in front of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
5. Swale, A Healthier Barge Bar
Where art meets public service, there is Swale. The installation, if funded, will be a floating forest on a barge with open access to the public. That’s right, any one will be able to come pick his or her own free healthy vegetables with no cost. According to the Swale website, asian persimmon trees, wild arugula, bok choy and more than 80 other species will be featured. There will also be event programming on the barge. Funding is an issue, but Swale is crowdfunding via Indiegogo – support this project if you want to see it happen!
6. The Waterfront Barge Museum
The Waterfront Museum barge in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Another historical attraction is the Waterfront Barge Museum in Red Hook, Brooklyn. While not a bar, this attraction is family-friendly and a must-go for history buffs, and has events where alcohol and food are served. The barge, a 1914 Lehigh Valley railroad transport, was rotting and half submerged near the George Washington Bridge when purchased by David Sharps, a former circus performer for $1 in 1985.
Now, the Museum holds a precious collection of maritime history on board the nearly century-old vessel, the only one of its kind still on the water. From interactive body painting to Dutch folk singers, the Museum aims to perpetuate “that era of family entertainment and highlights the importance of the waterfront throughout history as a center for community life.”
7. The Frying Pan (Hudson River Park)
In the Hudson River Park at Pier 66, The Lightship Frying Pan is permanently moored with Pier 66 Maritime Bar & Grill floating adjacent. Quite different from its days as a floating lighthouse and Coast Guard vessel, the Lightship offers peaceful views of the Hudson River before or after dinner and drinks. There is no entry fee and it’s open from noon to midnight, seven days a week.
8. North River Lobster Company
If raw bars and mason jar cocktails are more your thing, check out the largest floating lobster restaurant in New York City. The North River Lobster Company brings a taste of New England to the Big Apple aboard the Destiny, a formerly privately-chartered event boat. Along with a unique dine-and-sail experience, diners can get quick lobster lunches or happy hour specials on the Hudson River. The ship is located at Pier 81 on the Hudson River and is open from 11:30 am to 11:00 pm. (On Fridays and Saturdays it closes at 12:00 am).
9. The Lilac
The floating library aboard the Lilac
Did we mention history yet? Sitting in Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 is the Lilac, the last surviving steam-powered lighthouse tender. The Lilac was a ship formerly responsible for carrying supplies to lighthouses and buoys. The Lilac hosts a floating library and its own arts series. The ship will reopen for the season on World Oceans Day, June 8th. Admission is free, so climb aboard the Lilac and dive into a living 20th century archive.
10. Bargemusic (Brooklyn Bridge Park)
Last but not least, Bargemusic is possibly one of the oldest of the floating entertainment venues, and certainly the longest running on this list. Located on a former coffee barge under the Brooklyn Bridge, Bargemusic has been providing classical music chamber concerts with a stunning view of lower Manhattan since 1977, way before DUMBO became hot. The steel barge once delivered coffee sacks on the Erie Lackawanna railroad, and its refurbished all wood interior is great for acoustics. You can still find the “EL 375” marker, a sign of its prior life, embossed on the deck of the barge.
Next, check out 10 under the radar waterfront parks and beaches in NYC.