The Guide to Governors Island in New York: The Green Military Island

5:09 pm  |  23.08.2021

The weather is nice in New York City and you want to escape the background noise and typical New York for a moment? Then a trip to Governors Island is just the thing for you.


The Governors Island Ferry will take you across the East River with the Governors Island Ferry until the end of September. Governors Island doesn’t feel like New York City at all, which is probably one of the reasons why so many locals come here and why it is mostly hidden from tourists. However, a few things have changed for this year’s season. What exactly can you read in this article.

How Do You Get to Governors Island

Right next to the South Ferry Terminal, where you can take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, you will find the Governors Island Ferry Terminal. The trip takes around 3 minutes and you will see that this is mainly used for New Yorkers and their children, older residents of New York, and really only for a small part of tourists.

From Brooklyn, take the Red Hook’s Atlantic Basin ferry. The ferries are currently driving with fewer passengers in order to be able to guarantee a safe distance for the passengers. In addition, a ticket must now be purchased in advance. This is done through the Governors Island website’s booking engine.

The drive to Governors Island must then take place at the booked time. A mask must be worn on the ferry. On the island itself only if the safety distance cannot be kept.

When is the Best Time to Visit Governors Island

The early bird catches the worm. Come as early as possible to escape the big rush (especially on the weekends). The first ferry leaves at 10:00 a.m. from Pier 6 (you can find the pier if you keep left at the South Ferry Terminal / Subway Line 1 to South Ferry).

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The Sights on Governors Island in New York

When you arrive on Governors Island, you step into historical terrain: the 70-hectare island served as a US Army base for centuries until the 1960s and comprised their largest barracks in one place. The island is deliberately not to be found on old maps of New York, because it was kept top secret. After the Cold War, the military withdrew and since the 1970s the island has, unfortunately, become more and more neglected.

In 2003 the federal government sold the island to the City of New York for a (rather symbolic) $ 1 in order to transform it into a local recreation area. 

The core of the large green piece of land was retained. All the old houses, the Fort Jay barracks, various schools, the Castle Williams prison, a hospital, a church, and old supermarkets, as well as an old theater are still standing.

It all looks like a scary movie because everything is deserted, but that’s what makes it exciting. Green areas were built for the visitors, a small mini-golf course, and many resting places that invite you to linger.

Bike Tour and Rental on Governors Island


The best way to explore the island is by bike. These can be borrowed on Governors Island for $ 15/2 hours (follow the blue signs after you get off the ferry). Or you can bring it yourself. This does not cost anything extra on the ferry.

You can explore the island on the routes specially designed for bicycles. Are you looking for more ideas for bike tours in New York? We have our highlights for you here. Individual routes, such as to the former residences of the US military, are bicycle-free zones. Likewise within Castle Williams, as well as in Fort Jay.

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We left our bikes in front of it – that was completely okay. Sometimes you are even allowed to explore the old, historic and really impressive houses. You will find the most beautiful houses on the island, especially around “Colonels Row”. The top officers lived here and as you will see: They could have been hit a lot worse. Large terraces, splendid rooms with chimneys, and a lot of space inside and outside were natural living conditions for the officers.

A Great View of the Statue of Liberty in New York

It is very worthwhile to take a picnic break on the coast and enjoy the breathtaking view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, so why visit Miss Liberty when you can watch her so wonderfully from here?

This was really so unique that we can say that it is worth the visit for that alone. Where else can you have a picnic with a direct view of the Statue of Liberty? Not convinced and you want to get closer? Here are our tips for a visit to Miss Liberty.

Picnic on Governors Island

In the middle of the island, you will find many playgrounds and picnic areas that can be used. A café, several ice cream trucks (great organic ice cream made in Brooklyn), the food trucks are known from New York City are also on-site and something you shouldn’t ignore.

Governors Island even has a small beach including a beach club. Concerts, festivals, and parties with hip DJs take place here on a regular basis. The food here is just as fantastic as the cocktails. There are also many food trucks, ice cream parlors, coffee shops, and cocktail bars that will make your stay on Governors Island even more perfect.

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Relax on Governors Island

A summer in New York without a visit to Governors Island? Inconceivably! Governors Island is the perfect retreat from busy New York City. You feel as if you have been transported to another time and you can get an authentic picture of the way of life on Governors Island at that time. There is something mysterious and so wonderful about exploring this island. An excursion, even with small children, is definitely recommended. The car-free island offers so much for young and old that you simply have to see it for yourself.

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