My husband and I love biking and have always been biking everywhere. In the summer we even get groceries by bike. We own four bikes (mostly old and kind of retro) and one of them is a tandem. Now we can’t wait to bike with our daughter in the bike seat this summer.
Below are some glimpses of our favorite Brooklyn bike ride that we have done many times over the past few years. It’s from Brooklyn Heights to Red Hook. I call this ride Iris Cafe to Steve’s Key Lime Pies so you can enjoy nice coffee and breakfast or lunch at the cafe (or to go) and a wonderful dessert at famous Steve’s Key Lime Pie. I included stops at our favorite view points and other places. The bike ride is kid friendly as it’s 80% on separate bike paths and the remaining 20% is on very small cobble stone streets with very minimal traffic. It can be done in 30-40 minutes without stopping (one way) but it’s really nice to stop at different interesting places along the way so it can easily be stretched to the family fun for the whole afternoon. I included a map of the bike ride as well.
Start: Iris Cafe at 20 Columbia Place
My favorite cafe for all seasons in Brooklyn Heights. They also have a “to go” Willowtown Store on the same street that serves espresso, sandwiches and some groceries. I come to Iris (Willowtown) Store at least once a week. And we always stop there when we bike to get cappuccino, juice, muffins or sandwiches for lunch. Our favorite is avocado toast with two eggs. Another favorite from Iris Store is lox sandwich. Yum!
As you leave Iris Cafe, turn left and go to the corner with cobble stone Joralemon street. Then turn left on Joralemon and go down towards the waterfront. There is no bike path on Joralemon street so you may prefer to walk the bikes. Cross busy Columbia street and continue until you get to Pier 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. This is where the bike path starts.
Stop 1: Pier 5 and Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park
It’s nice to go to the tip of Pier 5 around the soccer fields from where you will enjoy great views over Manhattan and Statue of Liberty. You can see orange Staten Island ferry and the helicopters landing right across East River. In the summer, try tasty ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery right at the beginning of Pier 5. There are also two small playgrounds at Pier 5 and several amazing playgrounds at Pier 6 including water lab, slide mountain and swing valley.
From Pier 5 turn left and follow the bike path and signs to Fornino and Pier 6.
The bike path passes Fornino restaurant on the right (convenient bathroom break and nice views from roof deck) and amazing playgrounds on Pier 6 on the left (nice stop for the kids) and then it turns onto Columbia street. Once on Columbia street path, to the right you will see the industrial waterfront belonging to Port Authority of New York and New Jersey while on the left residential Columbia Waterfront community with its nice little stores and a few cafes.
Stop 2: Scooter Bodega
The bike path turns right onto Degraw street and then left along the industrial waterfront on Van Brunt street. Van Brunt street is the main street of Red Hook, however this section of the street, still belonging to Columbia Waterfront community is more industrial than the section ahead.
It’s worth stopping to check out a very colorful Scooter Bodega that sells vespas (corner of Van Brunt and Union street). Right ahead on the left you will also find a cool little bike shop Dog Day Cyclery and one more block to the left is Gowanus Nursery.
Stop 3: New York Dock Company
Follow the bike path to the right onto Summit street and then left onto Imlay street.
On Imlay street, to the right you will see massive factory-looking buildings. They belonged to New York Dock Company and served as warehouses and railroad sheds in the past. One of the buildings is now being converted to expensive condos.
Follow the bike path through industrial Red Hook turning to the right on Pioneer street, then to the left on Conover street, right on King street and left on Ferris street. Soon you will arrive to the corner of Ferris and cobble stone Coffey street. Turn right to Valentino Park and Pier.
This park, pier and Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies bakery are the hidden treasures of Red Hook. The pier has amazing views on the Statue of Liberty surrounded by all kinds of boats and on the weekends you will notice huge cruise ships leaving from Brooklyn Ferry Terminal and passing by. Valentino Park is very small but has a lot of character and in the summer it’s a good place for a small picnic. In the summer, you can rent kayaks at Valentino Pier and enjoy the views from the water.
Stop 5: Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies
This shop is famous for its top quality key lime pies. You can buy big ones for home or small ones to consume at the tables out front or in the park. So delicious! They also have an ice cream version of key lime pie. And the vibe in front of Steve’s Key Lime Pie is a mixture of country and city with a lot of kids, many bikes, dogs and a few cars parked in the little alley.
You can end your trip here and go back the same way or continue on little Red Hook streets towards Pier 44 Waterfront Garden and Fairway. There is no bike path from this point on, only partial bike lanes but Pier 44 is so close that it would be a pity not to see it. And you can practically walk the bike to Pier 44 (see option 1 below).
Stop 6: Pier 44 Waterfront Garden, Watefront Museum and Fairway
There are two options to get to Pier 44 Waterfront Garden. The first one is walking through the Garden, the second one is biking on small cobble stone streets.
Option 1 – walking through Pier 44 Garden (dark blue arrows on the map – summer only)
From Steve’s Key Lime Pie, continue along Van Dyke street and then make the first right on small Barnell street, cross the parking lot in front of factory-converted condos and you will see a small gate to Pier 44 Waterfront Garden.
Go through the gate and walk the bikes along the quiet waterfront.
Option 2 – biking on streets (no bike path) to Pier 44 Garden (red arrows on the map)
From Steve’s Key Lime Pie, continue along Van Dyke street and then right on Conover street (both are against the traffic so officially you are not supposed to do it). At the end of Conover street you will notice the old warehouse that is now Fairway supermarket and condos (on the left) and a very nice Waterfront Garden on the right (past the parking lot). It’s definitely worth stopping at the quiet garden to admire the vistas of the water. Another interesting place to stop is Waterfront Museum on the barge parked on a little pier next to the garden. It organizes events such as jazz concerts and art exhibits.
Continue on the walkway along the water to the left and you will end up at the back entrance to Fairway supermarket, another nice place to hang out as there are picnic tables outside in the summer (plus the store has a bathroom).
Old trolley cars, part of Bob Diamond’s collection and the project to start trolley service from Red Hook to Brooklyn Heights, have been in display in front of Fairway supermarket and have been adding charm to this section of Red Hook waterfront. Unfortunately, as they were rusting in salt air, they were removed in 2014.
Stop 7: Art and Brooklyn Waterfront Artists
From Fairway continue left along the water. Pier Glass – glass blowing business and store are located on the pier ahead (extension of Van Brunt street) and in the summer you will be able to watch the glass blowing process. Brooklyn Waterfront Artists are in the same building and organize art exhibits in the summer. The building across the street from Fairway is home to another art venue The Still House Group.
Stop 8: More food (Brooklyn Crab and Hometown Bar-B-Que) and some more plants
By this time, if you were stopping as often as we always do, you may be really hungry. If you want to stop at a restaurant, Brooklyn Crab and Hometown Bar-B-Que (both on Reed street across from Fairway main parking) are two great options and they are kid and bike friendly (a few bike racks in front).
If you like plants, huge Chelsea Garden Center is right next to Hometown Bar-B-Que. We once brought home potted sunflowers on our bikes.
Stop 9: IKEA
From Fairway and art galleries you may want to continue 5 minutes ahead on Bear street to IKEA. IKEA is a Swedish inexpensive furniture store. It’s very kid friendly and serves meatballs for lunch (also very inexpensive;) You can park the bikes on bike racks out front. IKEA pier and small park are also quite nice and worth checking.
If you are up for more adventure, there is a ferry from IKEA dock (IKEA Express Shuttle) to Wall street Pier 11 and you can take the bikes with you. It’s free on weekends and free for kids under 12. From Wall street you can take subway or, if you time it well, East River Ferry to Dumbo (at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1).
To return by bikes, go back the same way. There are still a few places worth checking on way home.
Last Stop: Botanica and Cacao Prieto chocolate factory and distillery
From IKEA turn left on Beard street, then right on Richards, then left on Van Dyke and second right at Conover street. One block ahead, at the corner of Conover and Coffey streets are two places worth exploring.
Botanica is a nice cocktail bar at the heart of Redhook and a good option for an interesting evening drink. Park your bikes out front and don’t over do it! Botanica serves cocktails made with Cacao Prieto and liquors made in Cacao Prieto next door (both belong to the same owners).
Cacao Prieto is a mix of a chocolate factory (yum!!!) and distillery that uses 100% organic cocoa from family farm in Dominican Republic. One of their most popular liquors is Widow Jane whisky. What’s great about this factory is that you can see all the machines and you can even schedule a chocolate factory and distillery tour (we have never done it though).
Going back home
From Botanica and Cacao Prieto go back on Van Dyke (or Coffey) street towards Steve’s Key Lime Pies and then turn right on Ferris street and follow the bike path all the way to Brooklyn Heights.
If you prefer discovering something different, you can go back on Van Brunt street. There is a bike lane but it’s a busy street so it’s not a good option with kids.
To get to Van Brunt, go one block to the left on Coffey (from the corner of Conover and Coffey). Van Brunt street has plenty of little stores and cafes that require a separate blog entry:)
I hope you enjoyed your afternoon! Please share your photos from this bike ride.
Great articles on Red Hook history are available on forgotten-ny.com.