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Setting Sail from the Tip of Manhattan: A Guide to New York Ferries

  • Statue of Liberty
  • Staten Island Ferry
  • Staten Island Ferry
Navigate NYC's waterways

A trip to New York City isn’t complete without a ride on one of the countless ferries that travel all around the island. See the city in a whole new way — from afloat!

Long before any bridges connected the disparate parts of city, New York’s ferry system transported people between Manhattan and the yet-to-be-developed boroughs. Today, few of those original vessels remain, but riding the ferry remains a unique way to experience a part of the city’s history. Whether you’re looking for a way to get from Point A to Point B or prefer to take a more scenic route, there’s a ferry for you.

Staten Island Ferry

Leaving from Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan and docking at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island, the Staten Island Ferry is the only non-vehicular mode of transportation between the two islands. The service shuttles more than 22 million passengers a year across the New York Harbor — and the five mile, 25-minute voyage offers some of the most stunning views of the harbor and city, at zero charge.

The terminals and the boats themselves also offer free wi-fi, and depart every half hour throughout the day. Be sure to take advantage of this service for unforgettable views of lower Manhattan, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

Ellis Island & the Statue of Liberty Ferry

Statue of Liberty

Speaking of which, if you want to visit the Statue of Liberty and plant your feet on Ellis Island, the port through which many of our ancestors entered the United States, the ferry offered by Statue Cruises is your best (and only) option. The basic ticket costs $18 for adults and includes ground access to Liberty and Ellis Islands. The Crown Reserve Ticket gets you into Lady Liberty’s crown for only three more dollars.

A supplemental “Hard Hat Tour” includes of a 90-minute guided experience of Ellis Island’s South Side and the “Unframed - Ellis Island” art exhibit put on by the JR Photo Gallery. All ticket purchases include an audio guide available in several different languages. Ferries depart approximately every half hour from 9am to 3:30pm, from both Battery Park in New York and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

East River Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

The East River Ferry connects riders from Manhattan with Brooklyn, Queens, and Governor’s Island. NY Waterway, the private company that runs the service, has partnered with dozens of local community members and organizations to connect all eight of the ferry’s terminals. From national monuments to trendy late night spots, the East River Ferry can get you wherever you want to go.

The Manhattan terminal is located on E. 34th Street in Midtown, and the ferry makes stops in Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Wall Street’s Pier 11. Single trip tickets are available starting at $4, or you can opt for an all-day or monthly pass. Be warned: prices do spike on the weekends.

NY Waterway also operates ferries on the Hudson River, and the Belford Ferry offers a convenient alternative for commuters travelling to Midtown, Downtown, and Jersey City.

New York Water Taxi

Another independent company, New York Water Taxi offers a variety of direct routes and casual cruises; if you’re looking for a novel boating experience, this is probably the best choice for you. Specialty and “VIP experiences” range from Statue of Liberty tours and happy hours on the water, to a dance cruise and even an eco-tour.

The commuter routes connect various piers in Manhattan to four piers in Brooklyn, as well as to docks in Queens and even Yonkers. Better yet, these ferries are free to ride on the weekends ($5.00 apiece for adults during the week)! Boats depart every 45 minutes from Pier 11.

(Image credits: skeeze/Pixabay; Jacob Garcia/flickr; Sean Davis/flickr)