This post is a guide to taking the Staten Island Ferry, a free ferry that offers spectacular views of the New York City skyline and the New York Harbor. We share insider tips such as the best time to take the ferry and where to stand on the ferry for the best views. This is by far THE best bargain in New York City and one of the most memorable things you could do during your trip.
The ferry is a commuter ferry that shuttles back and forth from The Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island. Tourists and locals take advantage of this free boat ride to catch a breeze or see incredible skylines of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. You can even ride the ferry at night since it runs 24 hours a day! Seeing the harbor sparkling at night is magical.
The Staten Island Ferry leaves from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. The terminal is modern, attractive and quite large. There are rooftop decks with benches and inside there are a few concession stands for snacks, ATM cash machines and phone-charging stations to juice up your phone’s battery. There are also restrooms. For exact directions from your starting point to the terminal (via subway, bus, car or foot) use this Google map.
Directions by subway (see map below)
How much does it cost?
NOTHING! The ferry is FREE! Beware anyone trying to sell you a ticket.
How long is the ride?
The ride each way is approximately 25 minutes. Since you must get off the ferry in Staten Island and then re-board to go back to Manhattan, plan for at least 75-90 minutes for your journey (not including time to get to the Manhattan Terminal).
What is the ferry schedule?
When is the best time to take the Staten Island Ferry?
What else should I know?
(Pictured above: Ferry Terminal entrance in Manhattan, inside the terminal,
the escalators to ferry boarding area and people boarding the ferry.)
The ferry’s route offers stunning views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and Governors Island. You can also see the hilly terrain of Brooklyn and in particular, Brooklyn Heights. You will have a slightly distant view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Fortunately it is quite large so your view and photos will be splendid.
Where to stand to get the best views
Since the ferry rides back and forth the same route every day, you will have a view of the Statue of liberty and Ellis Island on both rides of the round-trip. Most people want to see Lady Liberty right away, so when you board in Manhattan, head to the right of the ferry and make your way upstairs to the outdoor deck. Stake a spot along the railing. This ensures that you will see the Statue of Liberty on your ride out to Staten Island.
On your return trip, you might like to see the other view, so again, when you board to return to Manhattan, go to the right side upstairs deck of the ferry. It is generally less crowded as people seem more interested in seeing Lady Liberty twice. Without the crowds, you can sit, relax and take in the full scope of beautiful New York Harbor.
For the best Lower Manhattan views and photo-ops, you must be the back of the ferry when departing Manhattan and the front of the ferry when departing Staten Island.
Be sure to schedule you ride on the Staten Island Ferry so that you return to take our guided Lower Manhattan Tour. If it’s not scheduled when you are there, use our self-guided tour of Things to Do in Lower Manhattan and our Lower Manhattan Audio Tour. Click here to get information on downloading our audio tours on iOS or Android.
TIP: Consider buying the Downtown Culture Pass which will save you money if you plan to visit several museums with admission fees such as the 9/11 Tribute Center, Fraunces Tavern Museum, Museum of American Finance, Museum of Jewish Heritage, South Street Seaport Museum, The Anne Frank Center USA and the Skyscraper Museum, where you can see small scale replicas of some of the city’s 10 Most Iconic Skyscrapers.
This borough is often overlooked by tourists, but Staten Island has quite a bit to offer.
As shown in the video above, there are several attractions near the ferry terminal.
TIP: One secret that tourists don’t know about New York City is that Staten Island is home to some of the best pizza in the city! To find out where you can grab an incredible slice or whole pie, see our post The Best Pizza in New York City.
Self-Guided Tour of St. George in Staten Island
A – Staten Island Ferry Terminal 1 Bay Street
B – Staten Island Borough Hall 10 Richmond Terrace
Admission is FREE. Staten Island’s Borough Hall is 100 years old and serves as the seat of the Borough government. The building is in the French Renaissance style and has a beautiful clock tower. The lobby is decorated with 13 murals, measuring 6.5’ by 13’. These murals depict Staten Island history and were part of a Depression-Era WPA project. They are the largest collection of WPA artwork anywhere in New York City.
C – Esplanade and Postcards September 11th Memorial
The Esplanade, located on the Northern Shore of Staten Island, has unparalleled views of Manhattan’s skyline. If you walk along it from the Ferry Terminal you will come to the Postcards Memorial, completed in 2004. This memorial was the first 9/11 memorial completed in New York City, and is dedicated to the 275 Staten Islanders who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack. Each victim has a plaque with their name, date of birth, and where they worked at the time of the attack. The two fiberglass structures frame the location of the former towers across the river.
D – St. George Theatre 35 Hyatt Street
This magnificent 1800 seat theatre opened in 1929 as a vaudeville and movie house. During the day the lobby is open to the public so that visitors can admire the ornate interior, with its large chandeliers and grand staircases. The theatre presents a full schedule of performances at night, so check out St. George Theatre website to see the full lineup!
E – The Staten Island Museum 75 Stuyvesant Place
This museum, opened in 1881, is home to over two million artifacts. They have an extensive art collection, ranging from Ancient Egyptian to Modern art. There is a Natural Sciences collection which includes a “Cabinet of Curiosities” and exhibits of native animals. The collection of Native American artifacts is considered to be the most comprehensive exhibit about the Native Americans of the New York area. There are artifacts in the collection that date back 12,000 years. You can also learn about the history of the Staten Island Ferry before you get back on for your return trip!
F – Staten Island Yankees 75 Richmond Terrace
Summer months only! The “Baby Bombers” are a single A, minor league baseball team affiliated with the major league New York Yankees. They play in a 7,000 seat stadium that overlooks New York Harbor, so every seat is close to the action! If you want to enjoy a baseball game at a fraction of major league prices, this is for you!! The minor league season is pretty short, so check out their calendar to see if there is a game while you are in town!
Beyond the St. George neighborhood
If you are willing to take a 10-minute bus ride, visit the historic and bucolic Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden.
Opened in 1883 as a home for retired sailors, Snug Harbor covers 83 acres and has 20 different gardens. There is also a collection of five Greek Revival buildings, the largest group of this kind in the United States. Today these buildings are museums and art galleries, and one is the second oldest concert hall in New York City. The enchanting gardens include the Victorian style White Garden and the Secret Garden, which has a hedge maze. There is also the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden, which is the only one of its kind in the country. It is designed to reflect a Ming Dynasty Garden of the 18th and 19th century.
Don’t miss out on visiting the great borough of Staten Island!