New York is surrounded by water–which means one of the easiest and most interesting ways to get around is by ferry.
There are two types of ferries in New York: tourist and commuter.
Most New Yorkers don’t usually use the ferries to commute to work everyday (unless you live or work on Staten Island!), but there are a few commuter ferries that can also double as tourist ferries (without the tour guided narration).
There are also tourist ferries that shuttle sightseers past popular attractions with guided narration. You can check out how to get to these ferries and how much time to budget for each on the attractions page.
You can get an in-depth look at each ferry, why you might want to ride them, and a few downsides to each voyage in my book, NYC in a Day, coming out in August! Get more information by shooting me an email using the link in the footer.
Benefits to Using the NYC Ferry System
- Check out the city from a different vantage point
- Enjoy the city even in extreme heat and rain
- Take a rest from walking, biking, and using the subway
- Check a few attractions off your list, including the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Verrazano Bridges, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Governor’s Island, and Empire State Building
- Learn the history of the areas through guided narration (on some ferries)
Get Around NYC Like a Local
Cruise the New York waterways as locals do–on commuter ferries! These ferries don’t offer any narration or information on surrounding sights, but you can still enjoy the city from a different angle.
While locals use the Staten Island Ferry to get to Manhattan and back, many tourists and NYC newbies use the ferry to enjoy a 60-minute round-trip New York Harbor excursion.
These giant orange ferries slip silently through the harbor, passing by Governor’s Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the Verrazano Bridge.
On Staten Island, you can check out great views of Manhattan, the local lighthouse, and some kick-ass restaurants, before heading back to Manhattan.
Ferries leave every 30 minutes from 5 AM to midnight, and every hour after midnight.
From May through September, you can head to Governor’s Island, a public park with plenty of activities, including cycling, themed parties, lounging in hammocks, a beer garden, and food halls. There are also stellar views of Manhattan from here.
Check out more on Governor’s Island on the attractions page.
I use the East River Ferry more than any other ferry service in New York City. It’s the easiest way to get from DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights to Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Long Island City.
You can hop on at Wall Street and ride the entire East River route to DUMBO, South Williamsburg, North Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City, and E. 35th Street in Manhattan. The route takes approximately 40 minutes.
There are also separate routes that go to Red Hook, Sunset Park, and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, and a route that goes to the Rockaways (the beach).
Heading to Red Hook? You can take the New York Water Taxi to the IKEA ferry dock or over to Van Brundt Street for only $5. Buy anything at IKEA for $10 or more, present your ferry ticket to get $5 off your purchase.
I don’t head over to New Jersey much, so I never take the Hudson River Ferry. But if you’re staying in New Jersey, you might want to consider the ferry one option to get into Manhattan.
The ferry departs from four points in New Jersey, including:
- Paulus Hook
Like a Traveler
If you want some guided narration on your cruise, take advantage of one of these tourist boats. More information about all these activities is included on the attractions page.
Head to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island by way of the only ferry that docks at both islands. The first ferries depart Battery Park and Liberty State Park between 8 AM and 9 AM (depending on the season). The last ferries return from Liberty Island between 4 PM and 7 PM.
Circle Line also offers a high-speed boat ride that zips you (and splashes you) past Liberty Island. The ride lasts 30 minutes and is popular with kids and those young at heart.
This 45-minute narrated boat ride takes you from Midtown West, down the Hudson River, and ends in DUMBO in Brooklyn.
- Midtown West
- West Village
- Battery Park
- Wall Street
Guides are on board to provide narration, information, and humor. This boat gets you as close as possible to Liberty Island without actually docking there.
For more tips, tricks, hacks, and info on how to get around NYC in a Day, get on my email list by scrolling down the page and entering your info in the box in the footer.