By Jessica Allen

New York is surrounded by water, some 160 miles in fact, of bays, rivers, creeks and ocean, according to the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Here are our favorite ways to experience the city by boat.

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Central Park Lake
Enter at East 72nd St.
New York, NY 10021
(212) 517-2233

Probably the most romantic body of water in all of New York City, the Central Park Lake looks absolutely nothing like the swamp it was before Calvin Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted worked their magic. You and your sweetie can rent a rowboat from the Loeb Boathouse and drift along the gentle waves for 30 blissful minutes. Kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult and the rowboat seats four in all. Note too that the rentals are cash only. For a truly special treat, consider renting a gondola with its very own gondolier (advanced reservations recommended).

Kayak Staten Island
Conference House Park
850 Page Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10307

Depending on where you live, your boating adventure in Staten Island might begin with a big boat (the Staten Island Ferry), which would be super-meta and fun. However you get there, Kayak Staten Island helps you, well, kayak around the borough’s shoreline. Entirely run by volunteers, the free event takes place in Conference House Park on Sundays throughout the summer (check the calendar for details). Life jackets, paddles, and kayaks are provided, so all you need to bring is sunscreen, a bathing suit, and a willingness to work those biceps.

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North Brooklyn Boat Club
49 Ash St.
Brooklyn, NY 11222

Everyone’s welcome at the public paddles held by the North Brooklyn Boat Club. Depending on the group’s aptitude and appetite, your canoe might go beyond Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn and Queens, and head into the East River for a wave or two. This group’s mission is as lovely as it is meaningful: “We think that being on the waters of New York, in a boat powered only by the people in it, immerses us in the city’s history, in the ecology of our estuary, in the long struggle for dignity and peace around these waters, and in the power of our local community.”

NYC Ferry
Various stops along the East River and Jamaica Bay

Sorry, Uber. Not today, Citi Bike. We’re taking a water taxi! If there’s a more fun to get around the city during the summer, we haven’t found it. In addition to offering an array of cruises and event-focused boating, Hornblower operates an incredible ferry service with stops in Queens, Manhattan, Governors Island, and Brooklyn. Headed to the beach? Take the ferry. Gallery hopping in DUMBO? Take the ferry. Ogling the titans of Wall Street? You get the idea…riding the ferry is a really fun way to spend the day and see the city’s waterways at work, regardless of where you’re getting off.

Village Community Boathouse
Hudson River Park
Pier 40
New York, NY 10014
(212) 627-2020

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Strolled along Hudson River Park lately? You no doubt noticed that it’s full of functioning piers, many of which offer opportunities to head out onto the water. From April to November, you can row with the folks at the Village Community Boathouse in a 25-foot Whitehall gig—a vessel that’s not only modeled on a type of boat that filled the New York Harbor a few centuries ago, but was also built by students at the boathouse. Indeed, one of the organization’s goals is to “revive the art of small-boat seamanship and boat building.” Rowing and building? That’s pretty incredible.