How to Get to Governors Island

By Johanna Read

Summertime on Governors Island

How to Get to Governors Island

A summertime day trip to New York City's Governors Island is easy, and the short ferry ride to get there is part of the fun. There are three different options aboard two ferry lines to reach this island, which sits south of Manhattan near Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.

New York Waterways Ferry

The cheapest way to get to Governors Island is via the New York Waterways Ferry. There are two: one leaves daily from Manhattan, and the other is weekend-only from Brooklyn. The round-trip cost for adults is $2, though early birds can ride for free on Saturdays and Sundays until 11:30 a.m. Passengers can take bicycles and strollers aboard without charge, but space is limited.

Buy tickets at booths at either ferry landing or through the New York Waterways mobile app. It’s rare for tickets to sell out, but officials suggest arriving 15 minutes before departure, especially on weekends, because of the lineup to board. Tickets aren’t for a specific departure time but are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Which ferry to take depends on both the day of the week and the preferred departure point. There are two options:

1. Daily from Manhattan:

  • The Manhattan ferry departs from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South St. The dock is accessible via the 1, 4, 5 and R trains as well as the M9 and M15 buses. The first ferry of the day departs at 10 a.m., and the last ferry to the island is at 4:15 p.m. on weekdays and at 5:30 on weekends. The ferries generally run every hour on weekdays and every half hour on weekends.
  • The Manhattan ferry arrives on the north side of Governors Island at Soissons Landing, which is near Fort Day and close to Castle Williams. To get back to Manhattan, departures are on the half hour on weekdays, with the last ferry at 6 p.m. On weekends, the ferry departs every half hour, with the last ferry at 7 p.m.

2. Weekends only from Brooklyn:

  • The ferry from Brooklyn departs only on Saturdays and Sundays. Service is on the half hour starting at 11 a.m., with the last outbound ferry at 5:30 p.m. Departures are from Pier 6, which is at Atlantic Avenue near Brooklyn Bridge Park, and accessible via the 2, 3, 4, 5 and R trains and the B63 bus. 
  • The Brooklyn ferry arrives on the south side of the island at Yankee Pier. Return trips begin at 11:15 a.m., and the last ferry of the day departs at 7 p.m.

Weekend service via the NYC Ferry from Manhattan and Brooklyn

Weekends offer another option for getting to Governors Island. The routes aren't quite as direct, depending on the departure point, and are slightly more expensive. However, they do provide a bonus of a before-or-after cruise. Tourists generally prefer the East River Route for a minitour under the Brooklyn Bridge and along the East River. Tickets cost $2.75 each way and are available at machines at each landing along the route, on board and via the NYC Ferry app.

In Manhattan, board at Wall Street/Pier 11, which is at Gouverneur Lane at South Street. The South Brooklyn Route makes a couple stops before Governors Island. The East River Route's first stop after Wall Street is the island.

From Brooklyn, board the South Brooklyn Route ferry at Bay Ridge, Sunset Park or Red Hook, and then the next stop is Governors Island. On the return, this ferry makes two stops in Brooklyn Bridge Park before ending at Wall Street. Boarding the East River Brooklyn Route in Brooklyn isn't a direct trip, as there are several stops before arriving at Governors Island. Those wanting to see more of the East River can begin or end their trip at East 34th Street in Manhattan.

Consult the schedule at Ferry.nyc for specific times from each departure point. The first ferry of the day arrives on the island shortly before the official opening time of 10 a.m. at Pier 102, which is between the other two piers on the island. The last ferries back are at 6:37 p.m. (South Brooklyn Route) and 6:39 p.m. (East River Route).

When the island is crowded, it’s best not to trust that there’ll be room on the last NYC Ferry of the day. When the last ferry is full, any additional passengers must take the New York Waterways Ferry from one of the two other piers.

Making the most of the experience

Governors Island is open to the public daily from May 1 to Oct. 31. The island welcomes visitors starting at 10 a.m. It closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays and an hour later on Saturday and Sunday.

There are two food courts on the island where visitors can buy meals, snacks and drinks. Those who prefer to grill their own lunch can reserve a grilling station online at GovIsland.com. There are picnic tables throughout the island. Some vendors sell alcohol, though it must be consumed in designated areas.

The island has indoor restrooms at Building 110 near Soissons Landing, trailer restrooms near Liggett Terrace in the middle of the island and portable toilets at multiple locations.

The entire island is nonsmoking, and officials can search visitors and packages (it's illegal to bring alcohol to the island). Catch-and-release fishing is allowed, but anyone over the age of 16 requires a valid fishing licence issued by the state of New York.

About the Author

Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism. Writing for a variety of Canadian and international publications, she likes to encourage travel that is culturally, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEater and on Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna.