The first time I went to New York, I was young and was only in the city for a quick three days, most of which were spent in a museum. One of the biggest things I missed out on was seeing the Statue of Liberty so I made it a priority on my most recent visit. However, I didn’t want to do the grand tour of the statue and Ellis Island.
Instead, I hopped on the Staten Island Ferry which takes you right by the statue, close enough for some fairly decent photos. It’s free and it’s a great way to take in the Manhattan skyline. Each weekday, the Staten Island Ferry transports 60,000 passengers. That’s a lot of people!
You get the Staten Island Ferry at its terminal which is located at South Ferry subway station at the end of the 1 line. It’s right next to Battery Park. The ride across is about 25 minutes and ferries run every half hour on the hour and half on weekends. Weekdays there are more frequent trips.
I’ve taken a number of ferries in my life, especially during my university days as it was on an island. I fully expected the ferry to back out and turn around, which isn’t the case here. When we boarded the boat, we went to the wrong side. We went left, but should have gone to the right for the best viewing of the statue.
We quickly figured out that we were on the wrong side and moved to the other side. A couple minutes later and we would have missed the statue entirely. It happens very quickly and all at the beginning of the trip. Clearly, many people know of this little trick to take the ferry to view the statue – the boat was filled with tourist and locals alike. The tourists, of course, were vying for the best spots along the railing to get photos of the statue.
Once we docked on the other side, everyone rushed off and hurried to loop around to get on the ferry to go back to Manhattan. Because we weren’t able to get photos on the way over, we decided to not rush and wait for the next ferry so we could get a prime location on the boat. We walked down the pier and looked at the Manhattan skyline.
On the way back we were able to snag spots along the railing at the very top of the boat. It was a hot day, but once we got going, there was a nice breeze.
For half of the trip, there was a Coast Guard boat following us. When we met the ferry going the opposite direction, the Coast Guard turned around and escorted the other boat to the dock on Staten Island. I wonder why we only had an escort for half the trip.
On the trip back, we were quite a bit further away from the statue compared to on the way there.
The boat passed Ellis Island and I was struck with the thought that the view that I was getting was probably one that was similar to how many immigrants to the USA in the late 1800s and early 1900s saw when they arrived. While my branch of the family immigrated to Canada, I do have (distant) relatives in the USA – some even living right in NYC.
We were able to take in the beauty of the Manhattan skyline as we got closer and closer. It is a mix of older brick buildings with their charm and more modern glass buildings with the One World Trade Centre dominating the skyline.
If you’re looking for something free to do in NYC I would highly recommend hopping on the Staten Island Ferry and going for a quick trip.
Quick Tips To Make the Best of Your Staten Island Ferry Ride
Go to the top level of the boat for the best views. There are two flights of stairs on either side of the boat. However, sometimes you might get a different boat (which we did on the way to Staten Island), and everything is on the same level. Good luck trying to
If you’re getting on from the Manhattan side, go to the right (starboard) side of the boat for the best view of the Statue of Liberty. From the Staten Island side, go to the left (port).
- The ride is 25 minutes each way with boats departing every 30 minutes on either side on weekends. They’re more frequent during weekdays.
- When you’re at the terminal, it is hard to tell which door they are going to open. We got lucky both times and were able to get decent places along the railing (even though it was the wrong way the first time). The boats are big enough that you’ll be able to find a spot, even if you’re not the first to get on the boat so no need to push and run.
If you are taking the subway to South Ferry terminal you will need to make sure you’re in the first 5 cars of the subway. There will be an announcement in the subway cars, but usually it’s so loud you can barely hear it. South Ferry station is smaller and curved in shape so you can’t get off if you are in the back cars. Usually the conductors will make sure everyone is off, but just in case, pay attention to where you are in the train.
The ride is free, so why not?