A Day Trip to Cold Spring, Complete With Kayaking and a Castle
The Game Plan
What to do
Take a ride alongside the Hudson on the Metro-North Hudson line and you won’t believe your scenic good fortune. All river all the way, the water catches the sun, sparkling the surface as you zoom past palisades, marinas and mountains.
If you’ve taken this train before, perhaps on the way to Beacon for art or even to Poughkeepsie, you’ve most likely noticed Pollepel Island, where the crumbling yet still imposing Bannerman Castle sits.
This time, get off at Cold Spring and investigate. The village, which is home to excellent hikes, a bucolic Main Street and scads of suburban charm, is also the start site for some awesome kayak tours of the Hudson, including to Pollepel Island and other notable sites.
I kayaked to what most people call Bannerman Island with Hudson River Expeditions, a three-hour, seven-mile loop that felt like a spiritual reset button. Freed by the water and harbored by mountains, city worries melted away.
Between dips in the water (I asked to learn how to climb back into my kayak without tipping), our guide, “Awesome Ken,” shared stories of the historical markers we paddled by. Most impressive were West Point, with its strategic location on the riverbank, and the Catskill Aqueduct, a century-old passage point for New York City’s water supply.
But the Pollepel story is the kicker. Starting in the 1800s, a New Yorker named Francis Bannerman collected and sold surplus military equipment. A lot of it. When Bannerman’s collection, which included explosive black gunpowder, became too unsafe to store in the city, he bought Pollepel Island and constructed the castle to store his supply. And with a facade reading “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal,” then clearly visible from the train, the castle functioned as an advertisement for his wares. A fire in 1969 began the process of decay that leaves the castle in ruins today.
While the castle no longer peddles its wares, it continues to do its job of enticing city passengers to experience the joys of the Hudson. Rinse, repeat.
Metro-North train schedules can be found here, and P.S.A.: Power outlets are scarce on this train.
Hudson River Expeditions, located between the tracks and the Hudson, offers kayak and paddleboard rentals in addition to a variety of guided tours (ours cost $90 per person). More about the hikes and other lovely Cold Spring things below.
Use our Google Map to get directions to Cold Spring.
Where to eat
Hudson Hil’s Cafe on Main Street serves simple country meals, ideal for before you head out on an expedition, that include stacks of lemon-ricotta pancakes, local eggs and sausages, and French toast made from the kitchen’s own chocolate-cinnamon babka.
If the wait is too long and you’re rushing out to the water, pop into Cold Spring Pizza across the street for a quick, solid slice of eggplant-ricotta warmed up in the oven. And for something sweet, there’s Go-Go Pops with sour cherry and other fruit-flavored ice pops, as well as bubble teas and smoothies.
Rincon Argentino should be your last stop in town before you catch the train back. At the small, family-run cafe, conveniently located on the New York-bound side of the tracks, you can polish off a scoop of banana-stracciatella ice cream as you wait for the train, or pack up some drinks and a few juicy empanadas to eat on the way home.
See the restaurants on our Google Map.
Where to drink
Doug’s Pretty Good Pub has friendly, laid-back village vibes. And if you’ve been in the sun all afternoon, it’ll feel like a particularly welcoming, cool, dark retreat, with basic beers on draft and bar snacks like wings and burgers (including a few veggie options).
See Doug’s Pretty Good Pub on our Google Map.
What to check out nearby
Definitely enjoy Cold Spring with the family or a friend crew. There are plenty of to-dos for non-kayakers:
• The hiking in Cold Spring is wonderful, though trails are often crowded on summer weekends. Take the moderate five-mile Cornish Trail and pass by the ruins of the Northgate mansion and dairy farm. Or for greater intensity, try Breakneck Ridge. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the train will make a special stop near the trailhead if you ask.
• Not into nature? Main Street is chock-full of shopping. Stroll through the many antique stores, or head to Old Souls for Instagram-worthy outdoor gear and Poor George for casual apparel. The Shoppes, with many vendors under one roof, offer handmade soaps, records, posters, crystals, wood furniture, jellies and jams … it’s upstate in a box.
• Ten minutes away is the West Point Foundry Preserve, an outdoor museum on the site where Union munitions were made during the Civil War.
See the nearby spots on our Google Map.