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  • Writer's pictureMark Vogel

My Ride on the Staten Island Ferry: Exploring New York City on a Budget

New York City


The Staten Island Ferry in New York City
The Staten Island Ferry in New York City

If you visit New York City and are eager to see the Statue of Liberty, the usual choice is a ferry tour to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. However, if you are if you're short on time or money, you will find an excellent alternative in the Staten Island Ferry. This free service sails from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan to the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island. The ride provides a nice view of the Statue of Liberty for photos during the trip. After you reach Staten Island, you can explore the borough or take a return ferry right back to Manhattan.




“This experience proves that sometimes, the best things in life, or at least in New York City, are indeed free.”

The Staten Island Ferry, with over a century of history, has been a lifeline connecting Staten Island and Manhattan. It began operation in the 1800s, evolving from steam-powered boats to the large, motorized ferries used today. Over the years, it has witnessed the city's transformation and stood as a constant in the ever-changing landscape.


The ferry departs from the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, a modern facility replaced in 2005. This terminal is easily accessible by various subway lines, making it a convenient starting point for both locals and tourists. Inside, you'll find seating areas, concessions, and large windows offering a view of the harbor.


My journey began when I boarded the ferry at the Whitehall Terminal. It was a straightforward process, and the best part – it was free. As the ferry glided away from Manhattan, during the 25-minute trip, I was treated to panoramic views of the city skyline, a sight that never fails to impress. I also got to enjoy the view of the enormous Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which was the longest suspension bridge in the world up until 1981.


The highlight, of course, was the view of the Statue of Liberty. The ferry doesn't get as close as the dedicated tours to Liberty Island, but it offers a clear, unobstructed view perfect for photography. On the deck, you'll see both tourists and locals snapping photos, with the statue providing a majestic backdrop.


Upon reaching Staten Island, we docked at the St. George Terminal. This terminal is less busy than its Manhattan counterpart but serves its purpose well. While many riders immediately board a return ferry, spending some time exploring the vicinity of St. George can be rewarding. The area offers a few attractions, including the Staten Island Museum and the St. George Theatre.


The return trip offered a different perspective, with the Manhattan skyline gradually growing larger on the horizon. As the ferry returned to Manhattan, I took a moment to reflect on the experience while enjoying the view of the Brooklyn Bridge.


The Staten Island Ferry is more than just a free ride; it's a journey through New York's history and a window to its iconic landmarks. For those short on time or budget, it's an excellent alternative to more extensive tours. This experience proves that sometimes, the best things in life, or at least in New York City, are indeed free.


The Staten Island Ferry in New York City

Ferry Features


1. Operational Details: The Staten Island Ferry operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with more frequent service during rush hours. The frequency of the ferries varies, typically ranging from every 15 to 30 minutes during peak times, and hourly late at night.


2. Fleet and Capacity: The ferry fleet consists of several boats, each capable of carrying thousands of passengers. These ferries are not only large in size but also equipped with various amenities to ensure a comfortable ride.


3. Scenic Views: Aside from the Statue of Liberty, the ferry ride offers views of Ellis Island, Governors Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge. On clear days, the Manhattan skyline viewed from the ferry is especially breathtaking.


4. Cultural Significance: The Staten Island Ferry is ingrained in New York City's culture. It has been featured in numerous movies, TV shows, and songs, symbolizing New York's spirit and resilience.


5. Environmental Impact: Newer ferries in the fleet have been designed with environmental considerations, such as reduced emissions and improved fuel efficiency, reflecting New York City's commitment to sustainability.


6. Safety Measures: Safety is a paramount concern for the Staten Island Ferry service. The ferries are equipped with life vests and other safety equipment, and the crew members are trained for emergency situations.


7. Accessibility: The ferry is accessible to passengers with disabilities. The terminals and the ferries are equipped with features to assist passengers who may require additional support.


8. Community Role: For many Staten Islanders, the ferry is a daily part of life, connecting them to job opportunities, educational institutions, and cultural experiences in Manhattan.


9. Tourism and Local Economy: While the ferry is a boon for tourists, it also significantly contributes to the local economy of Staten Island by bringing visitors to the borough, benefiting local businesses and attractions.


10. Events and Celebrations: Occasionally, the ferry and its terminals have been used for special events and celebrations.


The Staten Island Ferry is much more than a commuter service. It's an integral part of New York City's infrastructure and the city's history. For the ferry to still be free in a city that gets more expensive each and every year, is great for residents and tourists alike.


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