New York: Free ferries to historic Governors Island

Posted in: New York Sights


All aboard the Governors Island ferry. Photo by Salim Virji.
All aboard the Governors Island ferry. Photo by Salim Virji.

It’s balmy here in New York City and we’re dreaming of breezy bike rides and picnics in idyllic settings. Time for a trip to historic Governors Island, the small island located 800 yards from Manhattan in New York Harbor. Read on to find out how to get there (for free!) and what fun awaits.

A little bit of history…

First inhabited by a tribe of Native Americans in the early 17th Century, Governors Island is afloat with history, lore, and intriguing sights. It’s been home to Dutch and British settlers, the latter who used it for quarantining immigrants.

In 1909, Wilbur Wright flew a plane from the island, over the Statue of Liberty, and back again, thus marking the first flight over U.S. waters. From the 1960s to the 1990s, Governors Island was controlled by the U.S. Coast Guard, which erected apartment buildings for officers on the island (as well as a Burger King and a Super 8 Motel!). From 1995 to 2001, the island was ostensibly abandoned by the Coast Guard until 2003, when the federal government sold the island to the people of New York City for $1.

These days, Governors Island is open for weekend visits from May through October. Locals and tourists alike enjoy exploring, checking out some of the original Victorian homes, and taking part in city-planned events. As of this year, plans for an 85-acre park on the island are in the works.

How to get there

You may visit Governors Island on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June 5 to October 10.

Free ferries leave from the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan (South Street at Whitehall), and on designated weekends from the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn. The island is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. (11 a.m. from Brooklyn) – 7 p.m.  Saturdays and Sundays. Check out the island’s website for a detailed ferry schedule.

What to do

A full list of events and concerts on the island is available on the island’s website. Free bike rental is available on Fridays (you’ll see signs posted once you dock). On Saturdays and Sundays, bike rental is $15 for two hours and $20 for the day.

For more fun ideas, check out this comprehensive list of activities from New York Magazine.

About the author

Meredith Franco Meyers

About the author: Meredith earned an MFA in fiction writing at The New School in New York City. Her feature stories and articles have appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, American Baby, Self, Bridal Guide, Time Out New York, Fitness and more. She joined EuroCheapo in summer 2007.

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4 thoughts on “New York: Free ferries to historic Governors Island”

  1. richard mcdonough

    any old ferry crew sill around ? for a get together i was a wheelsman, deckhand,&oiler looking back at old times.

  2. Governors Island also has sports areas, like volleyball nets and basketball courts, but no balls. So bringing your own volleyball and basketball is a great idea if you might want to play some sports. Also, starting this weekend they are having a big art fair with artists exhibits in the old military buildings. It goes from September 5 (this Saturday) until September 27, and is open only on Saturdays and Sundays.

  3. William Manning

    Wilbur Wright flew a plane off the island in 1901? That predates his first flight by 2 years. According to the NY Times the flight actually happened in 1909.


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