Manhattan's Great Saunter

The Jeffrey Hook Lighthouse -- AKA The Jeffrey Hook Lighthouse -- AKA "Little Red Lighthouse" -- beneath the George Washington Bridge is among the sights on the Great Saunter. Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Striding the great skyscraper canyons of midtown, or rambling the crooked streets of Greenwich Village, it's easy to forget that Manhattan is an island, surrounded by water.

But join the Great Saunter this weekend -- a walk around the 32-mile perimeter of the borough -- and you'll get a vivid sense of the city's waterfront. The Saunter is an annual event hosted by Shorewalkers, a 30-year-old organization that advocates for preservation of the New York shoreline.

The group's motto, "see New York at 3 miles per hour," promises a comfortably brisk pace, but make no mistake: 11 hours of walking is a real workout. The encouraging company of a couple hundred other walkers should help you keep going when energy flags.

The Great Saunter starts at South Street Seaport and proceeds clockwise around the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park, up the West Side, over the top of the island to Inwood Hill Park (where the group breaks for lunch; there's a convenient farmer's market), through Spanish Harlem and down the East Side and back to the Seaport, celebrating the finish at Heartland Brewery. Along the way you'll pass under 19 bridges and through more than 20 parks and promenades, plus a diverse patchwork of neighborhoods.

You'll hit some great New York City icons, including the Intrepid, The "Little Red Lighthouse" beneath the George Washington Bridge, The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park, Gracie Mansion and the United Nations.

You'll also make some unexpected discoveries: the site of the former Pier 54, where survivors of the Titanic arrived in 1912; Malcolm Cochran's giant wine bottle sculpture, "Private Passage" in Hudson River Park; Skorakopock Rock in Inwood Hill Park, where Peter Minuit is said to have purchased Manhattan from the local Indians.

You'll find many more of your own.

WHEN/WHERE Registration at 7 a.m. Saturday, walk from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Meet at Heartland Brewery, South Street Seaport, 93 South St. Late registration at 9:30 a.m. at West 42nd Street and Hudson Greenway (by Circle Line)

INFO $20 for individuals, $25 for families (two or more); 212-330-7686, shorewalkers.org

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Tips for the Great Saunter

- Wear well-cushioned walking or running shoes, not hiking shoes or boots.

- Apply plenty of sunscreen.

- Put Vaseline on your toes and soles of your feet to prevent blisters.

- Bring large bandages in case you start to develop blisters.

- Have an extra pair of socks to change into.

- Dress in layers and watch the forecast.

- There is no official guide; follow other registered walkers with numbers on their backs.

- Bring a Manhattan street map, plus a subway map if you decide to drop out early -- as many do.

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