There are many ways to get to know New York: flying over its skies in a helicopter, walking among its imposing skyscrapers, or spotting its skyline from afar. But what about (never better said!) moving like a fish in the water around the city? I'll tell you how to use the NYC Ferry. Are you up for it?
1. What is the NYC Ferry?
The NYC Ferry was created to improve connectivity between New York's boroughs and to relieve congestion on the often crowded subway. You'll recognize them because they are blue and white boats that act as a sort of water bus to transport the city's inhabitants.
However, it is also a fun adventure for tourists. After all, it is a cheaper alternative to the tourist cruises and allows you to see the wonderful Manhattan skyline as well.
What is the NYC Ferry like inside?
The NYC Ferry is smaller than the Staten Island Ferry but the truth is that they are quite comfortable and have a first floor plus a deck where weather permitting, you can enjoy the scenery from the water. In addition, the NYC Ferry has a cafeteria where you can buy some snacks and services.
2. How much does it cost to ride the NYC Ferry?
Although the ride is not free, a ride for the NYC Ferry only costs $ 2.75, the same as the subway. This ticket is valid for 90 minutes, during which time you can transfer between different ferry lines at no extra cost.
If you are staying in New York for a longer period of time, you may want to purchase the 30-day pass with which you can travel on all ferry lines without limit. The price is $ 121. At the moment there are no unlimited daily or weekly passes. I recommend you visit the official NYC Ferry website for specifics on prices and schedules.
- Adult Single Ticket ($ 2.75)
- Bicycle supplement ($ 1.00)
- Adult single-ticket + bicycle supplement ($ 3.75)
- Adult Pass ($ 121.00)
- Adult 30-day pass + bicycle supplement ($ 141.00)
- Children under 4 feet tall free
Do children pay?
On the NYC Ferry, children under 4 feet tall can ride free when accompanied by an adult. If you are traveling with infants there is space on the ferry to store strollers.
Can I travel with my bicycle?
Yes, if you're taking a bike tour of New York, you'll be interested to know that for a $ 1 surcharge you can take your bike on the ferry and ride around the city at your leisure. The adult single ticket with this extra costs a total of $ 3.75.
Can I use the same ticket for the round trip?
No, it is not possible. If you want to get off at one stop and then get on the ferry again or take the same line back you will have to buy another ticket. Also, when the ferry arrives at the last stop, all passengers must get off and get on again.
3. Where can I buy a ticket?
You have several options for buying tickets for the NYC Ferry:
- At the vending machines on the pier: If you get to the ferry on time, I recommend this option. It's very easy: just select the number of tickets, pay by card or cash, and the machine prints them on paper. To board you will have to show them to the driver so I advise you to keep them at hand so you don't lose them.
- With the NYC Ferry app: The process is a bit longer but it will allow you to carry the tickets on your mobile, which is very convenient. All you need to do is download the NYC Ferry app on your phone, register an account and purchase your tickets. Before boarding, you will have to show them to the conductor on the screen so he/she can scan the QR codes.
- At the ticket office: You can also get a ticket for the NYC Ferry at the ticket office located at Pier 11 on Wall Street.
Can the Metrocard be used to pay for the NYC Ferry?
Although the tickets have a similar cost and it may be tempting to try, the truth is that the NYC Ferry has nothing to do with the New York subway or its payment system, so you cannot use the Metrocard to pay for the ferry ride.
4. What is boarding the NYC Ferry like?
The boarding process on the NYC Ferry is very simple. Since the routes are not circular, I advise you to take a look at the NYC Ferry map to see the name of the last stop on your line as there are boats in both directions of the line and you will have to wait for the right ferry to arrive.
That is why it is usual that at the same dock there are two lines at the same time, one in each direction of the ferry. To know which queue to stand in, you will have to keep in mind the name of the last stop of your line, just like in the subway. Don't worry if you are not sure because the dock staff will be able to answer any questions you may have.
Once the ferry arrives at the pier the boarding process is fast and efficient: show your ticket to the conductor, get on and in a few minutes you will be sailing the waters of New York.
What is the ferry ride like?
It is a totally recommended experience to enjoy in New York. The ride is very pleasant and there are usually plenty of places available to sit and enjoy the beautiful Manhattan skyline.
Since the wind can be quite strong, sitting on the upper deck of the ferry is more appropriate in good weather, during the spring and summer. In seasons such as fall or winter, you will probably want to ride in the lower area.
In addition, inside the ferry, there is a small cafeteria where you can buy snacks and drinks to make the trip even more entertaining. Toilets are also located on the same floor.
5. What are the NYC Ferry routes?
Throughout the year, New York Ferry operates six different routes: East River, Astoria, South Brooklyn, Rockaway, Rockaway, Governor's Island, and Soundview that make it possible to cross, for example, from Wall Street to DUMBO or from Williamsburg to Midtown in a few minutes.
Below you will see the routes for each route and the most notable attractions that can be reached at each stop:
East River (44 minutes)
The East River route connects Brooklyn neighborhoods like DUMBO, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg with Midtown and Manhattan's Financial District. Along the way, you will cruise under the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Williamsburg bridges.
It's a great route to see the skyline east of Manhattan. On board the ferry you will see the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. You can even catch a glimpse of Hudson Yards' The Edge observatory. Stops at:
- Hunters Point South - 7 min
- East 34th Street - 6 min
- Greenpoint - 8 min
- North Williamsburg - 7 min
- South Williamsburg - 12 min
- DUMBO - 4 min
- Pier 11
Rockaway (57 minutes)
This route runs between Wall Street (Pier 11) and Rockaway Beach. In the summer this route is very busy as it is one of the fastest ways for New Yorkers to get to the urban beaches of Queens. If you are passionate about photography during this route you will be able to take some of the most stunning images of the Manhattan sunset.
The Rockaway route has a stop in Sunset Park, a residential Brooklyn neighborhood that is one of the most diverse in the city, which has a beautiful little park frequented by tourists and where you can find good restaurants serving Mexican, Central American, South American and Asian cuisine. Stops at:
- Rockaway - 41 min
- Sunset Park - 16 min
- Pier 11
South Brooklyn (54 min)
This ferry connects Manhattan's Financial District to the residential neighborhoods of southern Brooklyn and in summer to Governors Island.
The DUMBO stop, just off the Brooklyn Bridge, is the best-known stop on this route. If you get off at Atlantic Avenue, the next stop, enjoy a nice walk along the banks of the East River. Stops at:
- Bay Ridge - 9 min
- Brooklyn Army Terminal/ Sunset Park - 14 min
- Red Hook - 9 min
- Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6/ Atlantic Avenue - 9 minutes
- Pier 11 - 8 min
- DUMBO - 5 min
- Corlears Hook
Astoria (49 minutes)
This NYC Ferry route connects Midtown Manhattan and Wall Street with the Astoria neighborhood and Long Island City in Queens. It has a perfect route to see the east side of Manhattan and although it takes the same route as the East River route it does not stop in Brooklyn.
If you take the Astoria ferry, I recommend getting off in Long Island City to visit Gantry Plaza State Park, a park that has spectacular views of Manhattan. On the other hand, this ferry also stops at Roosevelt Island, where you can't miss Four Freedoms Park a place created in honor of President Roosevelt that has amazing views of all of Downtown and Midtown Manhattan.
When you're done you just have to turn around and take either the subway or the Roosevelt Island cable car back to Manhattan. Stop at:
- East 90th Street - 4 min
- Astoria - 8 min
- Roosevelt Island - 6 min
- Long Island City - 7 min
- East 34th Street - 14 min
- Brooklyn Navy Yard - 10 min
- Pier 11
Soundview (50 minutes)
The NYC Ferry's Soundview line is one of the most recently created routes. It connects the Upper East Side and the Bronx with Lower Manhattan. It is a good alternative to the subway for visiting the Guggenheim Museum (as one of the stops on this route is on 90th Street) or the New York Botanical Garden and Yankee Stadium (the other stop is in the Bronx). Stop at:
- Soundview (Clason Point) - 18 min
- East 90th Street - 15 min
- East 34th Street - 18 min
- Stuyvesant Cove - 9 min
- Pier 11
Governors Island (8 minutes)
This is a line that covers the route from Wall Street to Governor's Island on summer weekends, when the island is open to the public.
It is worth taking this ferry as the whole island is a great viewpoint of Manhattan. In addition, there is a park with historic fortifications such as Castle Williams and Fort Jay that are picnic areas at lunchtime.
During the summer season, Governor's Island hosts outdoor events and concerts such as the Jazz Age Lawn Party held in August. At this party, jazz plays throughout the island and attendees dress up in 1920s-style costumes:
- Pier 11 - 8 min
- Governor's Island (Weekends Only)
Coney Island and St. George
Two new NYC Ferry routes are scheduled to open in the city by 2021:
- Coney Island: This line will connect Coney Island and Bay Ridge to Wall Street/ Pier 11. It will run for approximately 37 minutes.
- St. George: This line will connect Staten Island to the west side of Manhattan at Battery Park City and Midtown West. The route will last about 35 minutes.
Don't mix up the free Staten Island Ferry with the NYC Ferry as this is another ferry linking Staten Island to the south side of Manhattan (passing in front of the Liberty Statue).
6. What are the NYC Ferry schedules?
It is advisable to plan your day trip well to arrive on time as the ferry frequency is less than the subway. Depending on the route and the day of the week there is one frequency or another so it is important to be well organized to take it on time and not have to wait too long at the pier for it to arrive.
You can consult the schedules in the official website, although you also have the schedule of each one of the routes in the different docks.
7. Would I recommend taking the NYC Ferry?
Of course I would! Taking the New York ferry is a good option if you are traveling on a budge, as it allows you to enjoy beautiful views of the landscape of Manhattan for little money while serving as transportation to move to other districts of New York for an excursion to DUMBO or Governor's Island, for example.
The difference with sightseeing cruises
However, I don't think that the NYC Ferry is a substitute for one of the cruises available to do in New York as they don't have a professional guide along the way to tell you interesting facts about the city, nor do you have the option to have a complimentary drink during the cruise while watching the sunset, or to board vintage sailboats to enjoy the scenery, or to see some of the emblems of the Big Apple more closely... all these are small details that elevate this experience on the water to another level.
If you want to know more about cruises in New York, I advise you to take a look at the guide on the best cruises in New York City. You will be surprised by all the possibilities!