Thursday, May 28, 2015

Who Ever Thought of Newburgh?

I've driven over the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge on the Hudson River in New York State probably 300+ times in my life.  In all those times, I never went to Newburgh or Beacon.  I first drove through the area in 1984 on my first road trip to Connecticut.  I was stopped at Sing Sing because there was an escape in progress.  I later met a man who did some work with hazardous waste in Newburgh, and told me all about the industrial side of the city.  After 9/11 my boss tells me that he had to guard the bridge due to terrorist threats.  I do know that ships come through the area all the time, and that at some point in history, it was a whaling community.  I know that there is a passenger railway for Metro North on one side of the river and a freight train line on the other.  I have stopped in at Orange County Choppers, but that's barely in the area.  I never investigated Newburgh, because it didn't sound that interesting from a tourism point of view.

From the bridge I could see that the valleys were pretty.  But, what was down there?  I never pondered it, until recently.  I'd heard that somewhere along the river were boat tours, and I thought that maybe it would be fun on my day off, because I had to work most of the holiday weekend.  So, I hopped online and started doing some research.  I found that there was more than one tour on the Hudson River, and some of the best looking ones were in Newburgh, NY.  I was surprised.

After looking around, I thought that the River Rose was the way to go.  What I didn't know until I got on the boat was that this is an authentic river boat built in 1934 and brought to Newburgh in 1999.  It's a great little river boat and the guys who run it do a great narrated tour of the valley from the dock in Newburgh to West Point.  On the way back there's a gentleman who plays tunes on his guitar and harmonica for the guests.  There is food available and a bar as well.  It's something that I would never have thought about Newburgh.  But, is that really special?  Is that an adventure for anyone?  No.

But this is.  Newburgh has one of the cutest waterfronts I've ever seen.  This recently rebuilt neighborhood, has restaurants, day spas, parks, and marinas, as well as the docks where you catch the various tour boats, water taxis, and river ferries.  I was expecting an industrial neighborhood with warehouses and shipping docks in it when I went.  I took my map, because I'm not a fan of satellite navigation.  I prefer the old fashioned explorer way of doing things.  However, when I crossed the bridge and got off the highway for the first time ever, I immediately encounter signs that led me straight to the wonderful waterfront.  They have done it up right with plenty of parking and murals on the train's support walls.  There are kids riding their bikes and people pushing baby strollers all over the place.  You can eat inside or outside at each and every restaurant.  It's absolutely fabulous and it's all only a hop skip from the historic part of town and all the historic homes and buildings and not far from the park where the George Washington Headquarters Historic Site and Monument is.  The boat tours are the main event, but the waterfront makes it a nice day all around.  It was not something that I expected.

Then there were the other surprises.  There's a castle and an island, and there used to be a moat around it.  Not kidding.  Bannerman Castle sits on Pollopel Island in the middle of the river just south of Newburgh.  I had to ask, because it's not really well known outside of the waterfront world, but there are tours and there are a lot of them.  They have weekend day tours to the island to see the castle and the island and hear the story of the place.  They also have tours that go out for shows, like the Iliad.  They have tours that go out to look at the stars.  It's a great place to go and wander around just to look and take some really great pictures.  So, pick your tour and book in advance and be aware that it is not for baby strollers or handicap.  I'll probably talk about it more when I get to go, but I didn't know about it until I went on the other tour.  But, even a drive by is cool.

You never know what you'll see on a river cruise, but you can bet that if someone has gone to all the trouble to have multiple cruises on a section of a river, it's probably good stuff.  We saw the castle and island as well as some great cliffs with people climbing right up the sides of them.  There was a beach, a small village, some roadside stops, some beautiful old houses, and West Point Academy.  The guys on the boat told us that part of the Wizard of Oz was filmed there.  Did not know that.

The tour was two hours and cost $22.  The restaurants along the waterfront have various cuisines, but they are all reasonably priced.  I had some of the best service ever at the Riverfront Grill.  In the end, we had a great afternoon in Newburgh, which was something that I had never considered before.  We saw some big ships and some sailboats, and I'm pretty sure that you can rent a jet ski at the marina.  There's music on weekend nights at Billy Joe's Ribworks as well.  It's just a great area, and I thought it deserved to be mentioned, because I'm sure that if, in all the times that I crossed that bridge, I never thought of stopping in Newburgh...well I'm probably not alone.  So, get off the highway, check out the surprises in Newburgh, NY and have a great time on and along the Hudson River.  Enjoy!

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