If the subways seem too hot and cabs seem too pricey, there’s a far breezier and cheaper way to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan: the water taxi.
The New York Water Taxi has several routes but one of them – between Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, IKEA and Lower Manhattan – is completely free at the weekends, so I thought that would be a good place to start.
The taxi is actually for IKEA, but you don’t have to be weighed down by big blue bags to take it; I live a walk away from the store (which was very handy after we moved in) so I took a stroll and jumped on with no questions asked.
That said, the IKEA is pretty tough to get to via public transport from Manhattan, so the fact they do this for shoppers is really fantastic. You’re allowed to carry your new goods back on the boat as long as everything fits in those blue bags. (And you can get everything else delivered.)
(So bright. What’s happened to the weather since?!)
The bright yellow boats leave every 45 minutes on weekdays (when you have to pay $5) and every 50 minutes at the weekend, so make sure you check the schedule. I jumped on just after midday and there was plenty of space to sit down and take in the city’s sights as we raced along the waves. I wonder how many of those boats they have. I know a friend who works with land taxis says their firm uses Lytx to track their fleet, perhaps it’s the same on the water?
Anyway, compared to other boats, like the Staten Island Ferry, this one is super speedy. (I’m not sure my summer skirt was the best idea…)
I also loved that the boat took off from a lesser-known spot in Brooklyn because it let me see a different sort of coastline as we whizzed past warehouses, boat depots and church steeples I recognized as poking out from my neighborhood.
Within 15 minutes, we had bounced over to the south tip of Manhattan, where the buildings were far sleeker and the queue for the boat was far longer. I could’ve hopped off and headed into the city, but I stayed on the boat and waited for it to turn around and head back to Brooklyn. This time I nabbed a better spot at the back of the boat and watched the skyline shrink behind me.
<< passing Governor's Island. The next stop was Van Brunt Street, where I decided to get off (that part of Red Hook is so twee - check it out if you haven't). The ferry then headed back to IKEA.
As long as you keep an eye on the schedule, the taxi is so easy and quick, and gives you a great view of the city, Governor’s Island, Red Hook and the downtown Brooklyn skyline, as well as a good glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty – i.e. slightly different sights than on other ferry services in the city.
It was a great little trip for no cost – and best of all, that view will no doubt make you forget about the five hours you just spent in IKEA.
The New York Water Taxi company runs multiple tours from Brooklyn to the West Side of Manhattan and Lower Manhattan, although the IKEA boat is the only free one. It costs nothing at weekends but costs $5 in the week. Check out their site for schedules and costs for the other routes.