Walking Tour of Bannerman Island

(Thank you Dutchess Tourism and Bannerman Castle Trust for hosting NY Foodie Family.  As always, all opinions are our own.)

As life-long residents of the Hudson Valley, my husband and I both heard of Bannerman Island, but only recently got to visit the castle ruins and hear the history of the infamous site.  While many, like myself, refer to it as Bannerman Island, Bannerman Castle actually resides on Pollepel Island.  This 6.5 acre piece of land sits amidst the Hudson River.  Over 100 years old, the island and castle are only accessible via tours by the Bannerman Castle Trust and the New York State Parks.

Tours depart from either Beacon or Newburgh.  We took a tour from Beacon, which departs right near the Beacon train station.  Visitors board the Estuary Steward for an approximately thirty-minute boat ride to Bannerman Castle.  Once you arrive on the island, your tour guide greets you for a seven stop, 1.5 hour walking tour of the island.

The story of Bannerman Castle is an interesting one.  On your tour you will hear the story of how and why Francis, “Frank” Bannerman VI had the Castle built.  I’m not posting many photos of the island or writing about the history of the Castle in this post.  It is more fun to hear and see the story in person.  Although Bannerman Castle is part of the Hudson Highlands State Park, the repairs and upkeep of the Island and structures all come from the Bannerman Trust. They really appreciate visitors coming to take the tour and see the Island.

You get to walking inside the family’s summer residence, which acts as a Visitor Center and also houses a small gift shop.  This is a renovation that was recently completed, though the second floor, pictured above, still remains off-limits to visitors.

As you tour the island you will see breathtaking views of the Hudson River and surrounding Hudson Valley.

You will also see beautiful gardens and flowers throughout the island.  These gardens are maintained by a team of volunteers who weed, plant and water them.

Unfortunately, you do not get to walk inside the Castle.  As you can see, support beams are attached to help protect the remaining structure of the Castle.  While this experience is family-friendly and recommended for children ages 11 and up, there were no children on our tour.  My husband and I purposely chose to do this tour on a summer day when our children were with their grandparents.  However, there are plenty of family-friendly events hosted on Bannerman Island throughout the season including Broadway and Theatre shows, movie nights, musical performances and more.  Be sure to check out the calendar of events!

The Details:

Bannerman Island Walking Tours

From Beacon: Saturdays at 11 AM and 12:30 PM, Sundays at 12:30 PM
From Newburgh:  Sundays at 11 AM

Admission:  $35/adults, $30/children under 11

Parking:  Free parking is available on weekends at the Beacon Train Station

Tips:
*Make sure to wear sneakers or comfortable walking shoes.  You will climb 70 steps from the dock up to the beginning of the tour.

*You can bring your own beverages.  Water and drinks are also sold on the boat and at the Visitor’s Center.

*The tour is not wheelchair or stroller-friendly.

 

Rockefeller State Park Preserve {Westchester County}

 

Recently, our family visited Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County.  The park’s main entrance is located off of Route 117 in Pleasantville. Since that first visit several weeks ago, we’ve already been back.  The park includes over 1600 acres that were deeded to New York State as a generous gift from the Rockefeller Family.  Much of the park was designed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. beginning in 1910 and reflects his passions of conserving nature and carriage driving.  Today, over 350,000 people visit this park every year.

The Visitor Center is open from 9 to 4:30 PM with a person inside available to answer questions.  Outside the visitor center are maps of the trails.

Rockefeller Park also has an art gallery on premise, which is open from 9 AM – 4: 30 PM.

The current exhibit, “Winged Jewels of the Forest” is on display until August 13.  All of the artwork is available for purchase and proceeds that the Preserve receives directly support the gallery.

The park has four main areas, Swan Lake, Eagle Hill, Rockwood Hall and Buttermilk Hill. Each area consists of several different trails that you can walk, jog, or in winter, cross-country ski on.  You can even get a permit to horseback ride or carriage drive on the trails.

Our family enjoys visiting parks to hike and geocache.  However, during trout and bass season, fishing is permitted with a state license and in winter cross-country skiing is allowed.  On this trip we started out on Deer Run and then walked Brothers’ Path which circles around Swan Lake.  The path is 1.1. miles and a perfect, short hike.   It was a beautiful day and we saw many other hikers and joggers along the trails. Using the geocache app, we found four caches on our first trip.

On our second trip we walked a little bit of Overlook Trail.  Then we went back to the parking lot and walked Glacier Erratic, where you can find this amazing rock formation.

With  almost 40 trails, this is a local park that you can visit and hike many times without getting bored.

Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve work with New York State to, “promote the conservation and operation of the Preserve.”  Donations to the Friends go directly into preserving and maintaining the park, as well as supporting educational programs.  Upcoming events include Rocky’s 5K.

The Details:

Rockefeller State Park Preserve
125 Phelps Way
Pleasantville, NY 10570
(914) 631-1470

Parking:  $6 or free with an Empire Pass

Tips to know:

There are bathrooms in the art gallery and in the main parking area.

There are a couple of picnic tables near the park entrance.

Be sure to pack bug spray and sun screen.

We like to carry water with us as we hike.