“On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose..." These words streamed from the mind of Walt Whitman as he described swarms of fellow NYC ferry passengers in his famous poem, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." The ferry crowds that he once mused about are about to get even bigger as the ferry system serving Whitman’s beloved Brooklyn, along with the other NYC boroughs, expands to serve an ever-increasing population of New Yorkers.
Popularity has already surged tremendously now that the East River routes — the ones connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens, and, coming in 2018, the Bronx — cost the same price as a subway ride. Or, better still: the ferry to Staten Island remains completely free. And then there are the ferries that service commuters to and from New Jersey, 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 within this fair city. Here are our picks for just 6 of the fun places you can take a ferry to from New York City.
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For a mini-escape that's ever-so-close to Manhattan and Brooklyn, but seemingly a world away, 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, 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. Bonus: IDNYC cardholders (which is complimentary for NYC residents who apply) ride for free, as do commuters who hop on board before 11:30am on weekends.
Alternatively, look to newly added transport routes on the 2017-launched NYC Ferry service, which offers... seasonal summer weekend stopovers at Governor's Island on both its East River and South Brooklyn routes, with access from numerous pick-up points in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens; fares are $2.75 each way.
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Make way for this lively European-flavored Queens enclave by ferry come August 2017. Another new outpost for the NYC Ferry system, $2.75 gets you access to and from Astoria via the new 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. Kick back at atmospheric Astoria Park, offering sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and one of the city's best public pools. Or, film buffs can while away part of the day at the excellent Museum of the Moving Image. Foodies, meanwhile, won't want to miss a chance to tuck into 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).
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One thing The Ramones failed to mention in their ever-catchy tune about hitching a ride to “Rock-rock, Rockaway Beach"? That if, in fact, you don't turn up that set of wheels, that lengthy subway schlep to the far reaches of the Rockaways' A train terminus can be a real pain.
Happily, as of summer 2017, New Yorkers can make getting to this sandy stretch of Queens beaches half the 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.
With miles of beaches and boardwalk, plenty of laid-back surf-and-sand activities await, and the Rockaways 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.
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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 — 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.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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With all of the buzz about new and exciting ferry routes in the city, we can't forget about the good ol' 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 the near future: Plans are currently underway for the 2018 opening of the world's largest Ferris wheel here, along with the debut of the Empire Outlets, NYC's first outlet mall.
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Sandy Hook Beach, NJ
Looking for a quick-and-easy summer beach escape? Jump on a seasonal, weekend SeaStreak ferry from Lower (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.
The catch? The ride 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.