Throughout New York’s Central Park there are 7 main bodies of water. The most famous of those bodies of water is the Central Park Lake, also called just The Lake.
At 22 acres in size, the Lake wraps its way around the middle of the park, and makes the perfect add on to any Central Park itinerary. Whether you are looking to enjoy various viewpoints, head out on a row boat, or just make the walk around it, the Lake offers all of that for its visitors.
This guide will be focused on everything there is to know about the Central Park Lake. Location, points of interest, boating info, and more will be found throughout the remainder of this article.
Hope you enjoy your time visiting one of the top attractions of the park!
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1) Background & History
Here are some historical facts about the Lake in Central Park for you to get a better understanding on how it came to be.
Central Park Plan: In the 1857, the Board of Commissioners of Central Park held a competition for layout proposals of Central Park. It was Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux’s Greensward plan that took home first place, with one of the main features of the park being the Lake.
Opening: Soon after, in 1858, the park opened to the public. The Lake was one of the first areas opened, and it is where thousands flocked to ice skate on its frozen waters. Prior to it becoming a lake though, it was all previously swampland that had to be reconstructed.
Sanctuary: It was in 1950, when the ice skating on the Lake was closed down, and over the years it has become a wildlife sanctuary for many of the park’s fish, birds, and turtles.
Renovation: In the early 2000’s the Lake went through a major upgrade and renovation process. In 2010 the restoration was complete, and now visitors get to enjoy walking its shores year-round.
Row Boats: While ice skating is no longer an option on the Lake (you can skate at the Wollman Rink), during the non-winter months, row boats are available for rental from the Loeb Boathouse.
Visit the Central Park Lake as part of a longer New York Itinerary that takes you around the city.
2) Central Park Lake Location
The Lake is 22 acres in size, and stretches from around 71st Street to 77th Street in the mid to west side of the park.
Out of all the bodies of water in the park, the Lake is definitely the most uniquely shaped, as it widens and narrows throughout the area.
To the north of the Lake is the Ramble – one of the three woodland areas of Central Park. Here you can find winding walking paths and one of the top places for bird watching in the park.
In addition, the Ramble is home to several great Central Park viewpoint areas of the Lake, which I will be speaking about later on.
South of the Lake is the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain area alongside Cherry Hill (named for the Yoshino cherry blossom trees that bloom in the spring -> one of the best NYC cherry blossoms locations).
Connecting the north and south sides of the Lake is the Bow Bridge, which is the most famous of bridges in the park.
On the west side of the Lake you will find multiple walking paths – one the main West Drive, and another path closer to the lakeside. And finally on the east side of the Lake is the Loeb Boathouse.
While there is no one address for the Lake, if you make your way anywhere near the 71st-77th street area in central/west portion of the park, it will be impossible to miss.
While there are plenty of Central Park entrances, if you are on the west or east side, you can enter from the 72nd Street entrances.
3) Map & Highlights
The map below should give you a better idea of exactly where in the park the Lake is located.
Not only have I highlighted the Lake here, but I have also pinpointed down all the other points of interest that can be visited during your time in the area.
I will be touching on everything I pinpointed down throughout the remainder of the guide.
Need a place to stay? Check out this helpful guide that talks all about the best places to stay in New York during a visit.
4) Lake Sites & Attractions
These are a few of the main “attractions” that surround the Lake area in various directions (some of which make for some great Central Park photo spots).
On the eastern side of the Lake you will find the Loeb Boathouse. Here you will find both a restaurant as well as the row boat launching point.
Central Park Lake Restaurant
The restaurant is a beautiful venue to have some drinks or lunch with a view of the Lake with the Bow Bridge out in the distance. It offers indoor and outdoor seating and its menu has everything including salads, fish, chicken, burgers and more.
Central Park Lake Boats
If you are interested in renting a row boat to take out on the Lake, that can be done here as well. If you make your way to the side of the Loeb Boathouse, you will find a small kiosk where you can make payment and a deposit.
It costs $20 per hour in addition to a $20 deposit that will be given back when you return.
After the first hour, each additional 15 minutes costs $5. You can also take a guided gondola ride out on the Lake, which costs $50 per half hour but must be reserved in advance.
The row boat rentals are usually available starting in April and ending in November from 10:00AM until dusk.
Bethesda Fountain & Terrace
On the south side of the Lake you will find the Bethesda Fountain & Terrace area, in addition to the Bethesda Arcade underpass. This is one of the hot spots of the park as you have entertainment, views, and scenic landscapes in all directions.
Just south from the Bethesda area, you can also find the famous Mall & Literary Walk that extends nearly 6 blocks in a straight line down the park.
Just on the other side of the Bethesda area (to the west), you will find Cherry Hill. This area is famous for its Yoshino cherry trees of Central Park that bloom for a short period of time in early/mid April.
The trees are not only beautiful but you will also get some fantastic views of the Lake from the southern shore and is a great place to sit back to relax. Below is a photo looking back at Cherry Hill from across the Lake during peak bloom.
Surrounding the Lake to the north/east is the Ramble. This 35 acre woodlands area is full of winding pathways that will take you through trees, plants, streams, lakes, and viewpoint areas.
This is certainly one of the most confusing parts of the park, so don’t be surprised if you end up walking around in circles here.
Some of the highlights to look out for include the Ramble Arch, the Azalea Pond, the Gill Stream, and several viewpoints that I will talk about soon.
5) Lake Bridges
There are two bridges that cross over the Lake – the Bow Bridge and the Oak Bridge.
The most famous of bridges in the park is the Bow Bridge, which connects the Bethesda / Cherry Hill area with the Ramble.
Whether you are enjoying the view from the bridge or of the bridge, it is a place that you certainly will be visiting during your time in the park.
Just note that if you are looking to take photographs without the crowds on the bridge, then you must visit early on in the day. The bridge is quite small and popular. So, as you may imagine it can get quite crowded during the day here.
The second bridge in the park is the Oak Bridge, which connects a pathway just off of West Drive to the Ramble.
This is a lesser known bridge, but it does offer some fantastic views of the Lake with the city skyline out back (and is one of my favorite NYC photo spots).
In addition, right as you get to the other side of the bridge you will be welcomed to the Ramble Arch and the Bank Rock Boat Landing, for more scenic views.
6) Lake Viewpoints
While many of the above places and attractions will offer views, below are some additional spots dotting the shores of the Lake that have some of the top views in the area.
Hernshead Rocks Skyline Viewpoint
The Hernshead Rocks are located on the northwest side of the Lake, just nearby the Oak Bridge. There is a pathway that wraps round the rocks to get you into a position to get some of the best views of the Lake.
From here you will have the Lake out in front of you with Cherry Hill out on the other side, and the NYC skyline hovering up above.
It is one of the best views in NYC! During the warmer months, turtles line the rocks in the water just in front of Hernshead and you are sure to see and hear plenty of birds all around.
Just behind the rocks, is the Ladies Pavilion, a 19th century cast iron gazebo that is a popular place for small wedding ceremonies.
Bow Bridge South Viewpoints
Instead of crossing over the bridge into the Ramble, you can also walk the southern edge of the Lake to take in some views looking northbound.
It is during this portion of lakeside, where you can get some great viewpoints of the Bow Bridge in addition to the rest of the Lake.
Bow Bridge West Viewpoints
If you loop around the Lake to the western side, you will get some new vantage points of the body of water with the Bow Bridge out in the distance.
Be sure to walk along the trail closest to the water, where you will have some great viewpoints throughout.
Bethesda Terrace Viewpoint
Within the Ramble you will see that there is a peninsula jutting out into the water just across from the Bethesda Terrace. If you follow the pathway towards the end of the peninsula, you will get some great views across the Lake of the terrace and fountain area.
In addition to the viewpoint at the end here, there are also some additional viewpoints along the peninsula too (second photo below).
Loeb Boathouse Viewpoint
A bit of a hidden spot in the Ramble is a rocky area just next to the Loeb Boathouse.
If you follow the pathway off of that peninsula, and stay close to the water, you should get some up close and personal views to the boathouse and the row boats across the way.
San Remo Towers Viewpoint
On the other hand, a more popular viewpoint in the Ramble is just pass the Bow Bridge on the left hand side. Here you will see a short pathway to the water’s edge, with the San Remo towers hovering up above.
It is a popular spot for engagement and photo shoots so be on the lookout!
7) Boat Landings
The Lake also has 5 renovated boat landings that are now used as places to sit down and enjoy the view from. These can be found in various corners of the Lake, and are all pinned on the map above.
Wagner Cove Boat Landing
Going in the clockwise direction starting in the south, you will find the Wagner Cove Boat Landing. Not only is there a boat landing here, but it is also one of the more peaceful and quiet areas of the Lake. It is a bit removed from the main Lake area, making it the perfect spot to sit down at.
Below is one of my favorite photos I have taken in the park. At the Wagner Cove Boat Landing, I was able to take a photo of the perfectly still water reflecting the fall foliage and the NYC skyline.
Western Shore Boat Landing
The Western Shore Boat Landing is next up and is just off of the pathway that hugs the Lake. From the boat landing you will get great views of the Bow Bridge and Ramble across the way.
It is all along the area north and south of the boat landing, where you will get some great additional views of the Lake.
Hernshead Boat Landing
Continuing northbound and you will find another boat landing just prior to the Hernshead Rocks. From the landing you will get some views of the rocks with the Ramble across the way.
Below is a photo of the boat landing from across the way in Ramble (at the San Remo lookout spot).
Bank Rock Boat Landing
Right after crossing the Oak Bridge and getting yourself into the Ramble, you will come across the Bank Rock Boat Landing.
Simply make a quick right turn, head down the few stairs and you will be at the northern most boat landing of the Lake.
Bow Bridge Boat Landing
Lastly, we have the Bow Bridge Boat Landing. If you head across the Bow Bridge into the Ramble, make a quick right turn, the landing will be right there with a couple of benches facing each other (just past the landing is the another viewpoint area marked down too).
8) Central Park Lake FAQs
Now that you have a better idea of what the Lake is all about, below are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes this body of water in Central Park.
What is the Lake in Central Park Called?
Very simply, the lake in Central Park is called The Lake. There is no special name for it unlike some of the other bodies of water in the park.
Is the Lake in Central Park Manmade?
Yes, the Lake in Central Park is manmade. Prior to its development, the area of the Lake was essentially just made up of a swamp.
Now, this body of water has turned into one of the most beautiful parts of Central Park with plenty of wildlife throughout.
How Big is the Lake in Central Park NY?
The Lake is Central Park is 22 acres in size, winding its way across the center / west side of the park between 71st Street to 77th Street.
Can You Swim in the Central Park Lake?
No, you cannot swim in the Central Park Lake. The only permitted activity on the Lake itself would be renting a row boat or heading on a gondola ride.
What Lives in the Central Park Lake?
There are many different species of fish that live in the Central Park Lake.
Some of these fish species include Largemouth bass, Black crappie, Yellow perch, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Carp, Brown bullhead, Golden shiner, and Common shiner.
Note that catch and release fishing is allowed at the Central Park Lake, however that does not hold true for every body of water in the park.
A visit to the Lake of Central Park is all but guaranteed during a visit. You are sure to enjoy various aspects of the area and I hope this guide has helped you map out some of the best there is to offer.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below. Also, don’t forget to check out the remaining New York itineraries and guides up on the site.
Have fun out there and safe travels!