Henry Hudson was an English sea explorer and navigator during the early 17th century and his name is represented in both the Hudson River Valley and in our name, Hudson River Cruises. Hudson and his marooned crewmates appear as mythic characters in the famous story “Rip Van Winkle II” by Washington Irving. Rip Van Winkle II happens to be the name of our riverboat, and it’s on our cruises where visitors are able to take in many of the must-see sights along the Hudson River. Not only is taking an afternoon or evening cruise a spectacular way to spend a summer day, a voyage with Hudson River Cruises is steeped in historical landmarks and gives our passengers great views of some of the stately mansions along the Hudson River that showcase the grandiose architecture of days gone by.
Here are just a few of the must-see sights you’ll take in while on a Hudson River Cruise:
The first lighthouse at the entrance to the Rondout Creek was a wooden one built in 1837. The current lighthouse that you see on our tour was built in 1915, replacing the second version, built in 1867. In 1954 the light was automated and the building closed. The Rondout Lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Nicknamed “Maid of the Meadows” and often referred to as the Esopus Light or Middle Hudson River Light, this lighthouse was built in 1871 to warn mariners of the mud flats known as the Esopus Meadows. After many years of neglect, a small, dedicated group of people formed the Save Esopus Lighthouse Commission to restore the light house to its former glory days. The current lighthouse, which is active, was completed in 1871 and is the last wooden lighthouse in existence on the Hudson and the only Hudson lighthouse with a clapboard exterior. It was lit in 1872.
Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones was a cousin to the Astors and aunt to Edith Wharton, and she occupied a space in the upper echelons of New York high society. She had this gothic mansion built for herself in 1853 in the sleepy hamlet of Rhinecliff on the Hudson River. Wyndcliffe was so magnificent and imposing it inspired a fashion among her similarly wealthy contemporaries to build their own palatial mansions along the Hudson Valley. But Elizabeth’s was the first and the grandest, and is thought to be the inspiration for the phrase “to keep up with the Joneses.”
The benchmark of Victorian opulence, Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt purchased Hyde Park in May of 1895 from Walter Langdon’s heirs. Attracted to the Hudson Valley and the land on the east bank of the Hudson River, Frederick and his wife settled into their 600-acre estate. The location offered quick and easy access to New York City on the Vanderbilt’s own New York Central Railroad. The New York Times described the Vanderbilt’s estate as “the finest place on the Hudson between New York and Albany.” It became a National Historic Landmark in 1940 and is now owned and operated by the National Park Service.
Named after Col. Oliver Hazard Payne, this historic 60-acre estate is located on the west bank of the Hudson River. The estate features a 42,000-square-foot Beaux Arts-style Mediterranean palazzo with an open courtyard. One of the most architecturally significant houses in the Hudson Valley, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Other highlights on our Hudson River sightseeing cruise include the “Dinsmore,” built in 1936, Wilderstein, a restored Victorian mansion that originally was an Italian villa design, the Rosemont (originally known as the “Tank & Tummy” tavern when it opened in 1740, Staatsburg, formerly the home of Ogden Mills, has 65 rooms and 14 bathrooms, the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, the Esopus Meadows and the Mt. St. Alphonsus seminary, a castle-like seminary.
An afternoon or evening sightseeing cruise with Hudson River Cruises has to be on the bucket list of anyone interested in classic early American estates. Our sightseeing cruise is an event you’ll cherish for the rest of your life!