Timetables & Directions – Ferry from Downtown Manhattan
With a rich history dating back to 1817, the Staten Island Ferry offers convenient service along the New York Harbor. Painted in orange with blue accents, the massive commuter ferries have become icons of New York City.
While you can’t see every sight in one visit to New York City, a free voyage aboard the Staten Island Ferry means you’ll catch plenty of them.
We’re told the best things in life are free, although you’ve probably discovered that’s not entirely true. A trip on the Staten Island Ferry, however, is free and one of the best experiences NYC has to offer the first-time visitor. You might put more obvious attractions ahead of it on your itinerary, but you’re guaranteed to see it all when you set sail across New York harbor.
The ferry is the only direct link between the two NYC boroughs of Staten Island and Manhattan, serving commuters at rush hour and tourists throughout the day and night.
Route Description and Sightseeing
A ride on the Staten Island Ferry is an exciting sightseeing adventure with a unique perspective of New York City. While traveling between Manhattan and Staten Island, you’ll have the chance to see iconic landmarks and hidden treasures that dominate the scene in the New York Harbor.
The ferry passes the historic Ellis Island that welcomed millions of immigrants to NYC during the late 19th century and early 20th century. You’ll also get within a quarter of a mile of the famous Statue of Liberty, which has been a symbol of American values and culture for generations. Governor’s Island is another notable piece of land that you’ll see while enjoying a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. With a heritage dating back to the Dutch colonial period, this 172-acre island has been recently transformed into a recreational space for the public.
The western and southwestern parts of Brooklyn are also clearly visible from the ferry. You’ll probably notice an excellent view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that links Staten Island with Brooklyn. The Port of Newark, Newark Liberty International Airport, and the Bayonne waterfront will also catch your attention during the crossing over the New York Harbor. These are without a doubt the busiest commercial and industrial sites in New Jersey. Additionally, the skylines of Newark and Jersey City should be visible from the ferry.
The new Station Island Ferry terminal is located on the southern tip of Manhattan. There are two subway stations nearby:
- South Ferry, on the 1 line (red)
- Whitehall Street – South Ferry, on the R and W lines (yellow)
If you’re already in downtown Manhattan, find Broadway and follow it south, continue as it becomes Slate Street and you’ll find yourself across the road from the terminal.
The building has STATEN ISLAND FERRY emblazoned across the roof in brilliant blue lettering, so while you can hardly miss it once you arrive, it’s quite easy to get lost in the maze of downtown streets. This is the area of Manhattan that was settled first by the Dutch, so unlike midtown and other areas north of Houston Street where the grid system was established in the 19th century, these streets follow the horse and cart tracks of the early European inhabitants of the 1600s.
There are occasional disruptions to service due to inclement weather and technical faults, otherwise, the ferries are punctual and reliable. While there’s nothing more frustrating than missing your ride in a matter of seconds, at least you can take comfort in knowing there will be another along shortly.
On weekdays, the ferries depart Manhattan every half hour (on the hour and half hour) throughout the day and night, except between 0630 to 0930 and 1600 to 2000, when there are departures every 15 to 20 minutes. On weekends the ferries depart every half hour (on the hour and half hour), 24 hours a day. The trip lasts between 25 and 30 minutes.
Sightseeing at Sea
As soon as the ferry leaves the dock, you are dazzled by the spectacle of New York. The modesty of Brooklyn on the port side, the majesty of downtown Manhattan to the starboard and rear. As the island stretches away down the Hudson River, perspective is skewed by the fingers of skyscrapers nuzzled together at its tip.
New Jersey looms into view, and then Ellis Island and the venerable Statue of Liberty. The best things in life may not always be free – banoffee pie and mojitos remain disappointing exceptions – but against the backdrop of Manhattan, this really is one of the most spectacular vistas of the city you’ll find, and it won’t cost you a cent.
In the early 1800s, the industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt launched a ferry service between the rapidly growing Manhattan and relatively rural Staten Island. The War of 1812 severely halted any commercial boating in the New York Harbor. In 1817, the Staten Island Ferry was officially established to provide a reliable commuting service across this busy waterway. At the time, a wide range of marine vessels created heavy traffic near the bustling ports of New York City.
During much of the 19th century, the Staten Island Ferry underwent rapid changes as a result of fierce competition and other municipal regulations. The opening of the Staten Island Railway in the 1860s contributed to a major expansion of the ferry service. In its early years, the Staten Island Ferry fleet was named after the five boroughs of NYC. The modern fleet is classified into several categories that are based on technical specifications and other unique parameters.
For example, the relatively small Barberi class was originally launched in the 1980s. The much larger Austen Class can accommodate just less than 1,300 passengers. More than 4,000 people can come aboard the Molinari class.
Ferry Terminals and Transportation Connections
The State Island Ferry runs directly between Whitehall Terminal and St. George Terminal. Situated at the southern tip of Manhattan, Whitehall Terminal is a world-class transit hub that’s conveniently connected to other rapid transit.
Served by the 1 and 2 lines of the New York City subway, the South Ferry underground station is only a few steps away from Whitehall Terminal. There are several other subway stations that are within walking distance from the ferry terminal, such as Bowling Green and Wall Street. Occupying the northeastern part of Staten Island, St. George Terminal is perhaps the busiest transportation hub in the borough.
The Staten Island Railway, which is primarily a commuter train line, serves the St. George station. You can also catch an MTA Regional Bus at this busy stop that has multiple bus platforms. Both ferry terminals have large waiting rooms that offer panoramic views of the New York Harbor.
Click here to visit Staten Island Ferry official website.