Staten Islanders know these hulking, dirty-orange ferryboats as commuter vehicles, while Manhattanites like to think of them as their secret, romantic vessels for a spring-day escape. Yet many a tourist (at last count, two million a year) is clued into the charms of the Staten Island Ferry, whose 5.2-mile journey between Lower Manhattan and the Staten Island neighborhood of St George is one of NYC’s finest free adventures.
In service since 1905, the ferry service carries around 20 million passengers each year. Whether you choose to simply ride it to Staten Island and back in one run – enjoying cinematic views of the city skyline, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn) and the Statue of Liberty – or stay and explore New York’s least-known borough before catching a later return ferry, you’re guaranteed a memorable experience. The Yankees minor-league affiliate baseball team plays in the waterfront stadium at St George and there are grand plans for development, including a massive, uber-modern Ferris Wheel.
Alas, not all ferryboats in the fleet have extensive outdoor side decks (your best bet for a clear view of the skyline); some only offer an open section at the very front and back of the vessel, with most people taking in the views through dirty ferry windows.
Services from Manhattan depart from the Whitehall Terminal, located right above South Ferry subway station on the 1 line.