When it comes to getting around the city, New York City has one of the best public transportation systems in the world. As a result, it may come as no surprise that the ferries running on the East and Hudson rivers also connects New Yorkers from different boroughs, providing ample opportunities for fun adventures on your trip to the city.
Popularity has already surged tremendously now that the East River routes—the ones connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx—cost the same price as a subway ride, and better still, the ferry to Staten Island remains completely free. In addition, there are also commuter ferries running between Manhattan and New Jersey via the Hudson River, which can make for an interesting day trip for visitors and locals alike looking to explore the state just next door.
Ferries certainly aren't new modes of transportation; in fact, such service to lower Manhattan has existed since Dutch colonial times. However, the new routes and frequency of ferries being offered are bringing about a new age for nautical commuters to, from, and around the city. These are just six fun places you can visit by ferry on your trip to New York City this year.
For a mini-escape from the hustle and bustle of the city that's ever-so-close to Manhattan and Brooklyn, the pedestrianized Governor's Island is the perfect warm-weather retreat. Touting 172 acres that are accessible only by ferry, visitors can explore the isle's many attractions, activities, special events, and festivals on foot or via bike (rentals are available) upon arrival.
Ferry services (operated by NY Waterway) run daily from early May through early October and depart from the Battery Maritime Building (at 10 South Street, in downtown Manhattan), with extra service on weekends. There is also weekend-only service from Brooklyn in Brooklyn Bridge Park (at Pier 6).
Fares are $2 round-trip for adults and free for kids ages 13 and under. Additionally, IDNYC cardholders (which is complimentary for NYC residents who apply) ride for free, as do commuters who hop on board before 11:30 a.m. on weekends.
Added to the ferry system in August of 2017, you can now make your way for this lively European-flavored Queens enclave by boat for just $2.75 on the Astoria ferry line.
Extending ferry access into Western Queens, the line also includes stops at neighboring arts and microbrewery haven Long Island City, as well as Roosevelt Island, which comes wedged between Queens and Manhattan in the East River. On the Manhattan side of the same ferry route, hop on or off at two locales: East 34th Street in Midtown or Wall Street in Downtown.
While in Astoria, ample diversions await. You can kick back at atmospheric Astoria Park, which offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and one of the city's best public pools. Alternatively, film buffs can spend part of the day at the excellent Museum of the Moving Image. Foodies, meanwhile, won't want to miss some of the best Greek food in the city, thanks to the large Greek community that resides here (for authentic Greek eats, try Stamatis, a quality taverna set on 23rd Avenue).
One thing The Ramones failed to mention in their ever-catchy tune about hitching a ride to “Rock-rock, Rockaway Beach" was that it takes a really long time to get there on the A train.
Happily, as of summer 2017, New Yorkers can make getting to this sandy stretch of Queens beaches more fun thanks to the launch of NYC Ferry service to the Rockaways. With pick-up and drop-off service in Lower Manhattan (at Wall Street) and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the zippy ride from Manhattan now takes just under an hour.
The Rockaways have miles of beaches and boardwalk, plenty of laid-back surf-and-sand activities, and brim with surf schools, outdoor bars and eateries, watersports activities, and even whale-watching boat outings.
Scheduled ferry service is now available daily, year-round, with fares of just $2.75 each way.
Hoboken, New Jersey
Once a blue-collar Jersey city, with industry, cargo shipping, and transportation defining its waterfront, Hoboken has since transformed into an upscale residential area, dotted with luxury condominiums, bars, boutiques, and cafes. The old charming neighborhoods, with their brownstone residences, are a pleasure to walk through and teeming with vibrant street life and admirable Beaux Arts, Victorian, and Gothic architecture.
Operated by NY Waterway, daily ferry service runs between Midtown Manhattan (at West 39th Street) and 14th Street in Hoboken; fares are $9 one-way, with reduced (or free) rates for kids and seniors. There are additional weekday ferry services to Hoboken, too, running between Wall Street, Pier 11, and the World Financial Center in Downtown Manhattan and the Hoboken-NJ Transit Terminal; adult fares run $6 to $7 each way on that route.
With all of the buzz about new and exciting ferry routes in the city, you can't forget about the good old Staten Island Ferry. Still the greatest free ride in New York City, this short but epic ferry trip across New York Harbor, connecting Lower Manhattan (from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal at 4 South Street) to the St. George neighborhood in Staten Island, is your quickest and cheapest way to see the Statue of Liberty from the water.
The historic St. George area will have more reasons to stick around, too. In 2018, for instance, the world's largest Ferris wheel opened here, and the Empire Outlets, NYC's first outlet mall, is also coming to St. George soon.
Sandy Hook Beach, New Jersey
If you're looking for a quick-and-easy summer beach escape, you can jump on a seasonal, weekend SeaStreak ferry from Lower Manhattan (at Wall Street) or Midtown Manhattan (at East 35th Street), with scheduled weekend service during the height of beach season between May and September.
Part of the National Park Service, scenic Sandy Hook offers plenty of fun-in-the-sun activities like biking, hiking, birding, camping, and fishing. Strolls around Fort Hancock Historic Post and tours of the lighthouse are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, too.
Of course, the most popular attraction at Sandy Hook is its beaches, which are among the finest in New Jersey. Be advised that one such stretch of beach here, Gunnison Beach, is “clothing-optional"—if you end up on that part of Sandy Hook, just make sure you have extra sunblock.
However, the ride to Sandy Hook doesn't come cheap. Ferry fares are $46 round-trip, with lower or free fares for kids. They do, however, include complimentary round-trip shuttle service from the port directly to your preferred strip of sand upon arrival.