New York City's Staten Island Ferry provides transportation for free for commuters and visitors to and from Staten Island and lower Manhattan near Battery Park passing the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Governor's Island along the way.
Each leg of the ferry takes 25 minutes to a half hour. Plan on a little more than an hour to relax and view the sights if you plan to just ride over and back.
The Staten Island Ferry runs every day around the clock. A ferry leaves every 20 to 30 minutes except for the hours from Midnight to 6:00 am when service is less frequent. There is no charge for passengers. Vehicle transport on the ferry has been suspended for security reasons.
The New York City Department of Transportation web site (NYCDOT) Staten Island Ferry page has a current schedule and other information.
The Staten Island Ferry is definitely the best bargain in New York City for visitors wishing to spend time on the water.
If you enjoy ferry travel and river cruises you might also want to look into taking more than 20 New York Boat Tours & Harbor Cruises currently available. Either a full island cruise which circumnavigates the island of Manhattan the New York Harbor Liberty Cruise to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty or the Harbor Light Cruise a loop cruise that sails at night past the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan as far as the Brooklyn Bridge.
On a recent Staten Island Ferry ride all passengers had to exit the ferry on the Staten Island end but we were able to re-board within minutes. It looked like the majority of mid-day passengers were there for the same reason I wasthe great views and a relaxing sightseeing experience as most of them seemed to re-board immediatly.
Leaving Manhattan from the Whitehall Terminal at Whitehall St. and South St. near Battery Park the ferry soon glides past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty on the starboard, or right, side of the boat. As you near Staten Island you may glimpse the open ocean through the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, though you will not be very close to the bridge.
The best views are on the return trip. Leaving from the St. George Ferry Terminal at Richmond Terrace, Staten Island you pass closer to Governor's Island and have great views of Lower Manhattan and up the East River to the Brooklyn Bridge and beyond.
The #1 and #9 subways bring you closest to the terminal in Manhattan. You can also take the N or R to Whitehall Street. The Staten Island Terminal is served by the Staten Island Railway and numerous bus routes. There are also public and privately operated parking lots near the terminal on Staten Island.
Ferry service between Manhattan and Staten Island was available as early as 1713. At just sixteen years old and with one-hundred borrowed dollars Cornelius Vanderbilt started a ferry service from Staten Island to Manhattan in 1810 which was the begriming of his vast transportation based fortune. A steam-powered ferry the Nautilus began competing on the route in 1817.
Approximately 65,000 passengers travel between the two terminals each weekday. A stunning new ferry terminal opened at Whitehall Street in Manhattan in early February, 2005 and the St. George Terminal was scheduled to open soon after.
In addition to new terminals, the NYCDOT has put three new ferries in service. The first of the new Staten Island Ferry boats all of which were constructed at the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin was named after former Staten Island Borough President, member of the house of Representatives and State Assemblyman Guy V. Molinari.
The "Guy V. Molinari" made its inaugural run on January, 26,2005. The second ferry, the "Senator John J. Marchi" named after New York State Senator John J. Marchi who was born on Staten Island and finally the "Spirit of America" replace Kennedy-class boats which began operating in 1965.
The "John F. Kennedy," "American Legion" and "Governor Herbert H. Lehman" discontinued operation with the arrival of the replacement ferries.
Another ferry, the "Andrew J. Barberi," returned to service on July 1. 2004 after extensive repairs to damage it suffered when the out of control ferry rammed a concrete pier at St. George terminal on October 15, 2003 killing 11 passengers and injuring more than 30 others.
Federal prosecutors charged 5 people with crimes as a result of the crash of the Barberi.
There have been ferry accidents in the past including the American Legion being rammed in the fog by a Norwegian freighter in 1981 and the Dongan Hills was hit by a Norwegian tanker in 1960.
The American Legion crashed into a seawall in 1978 injuring 173 and back in 1901 the ferryboat Northfield sank after it was struck by the Mauch Chaunk a Jersey Central Ferry. Only 5 out of 995 passengers on board at the time ended up missing.
All Staten Island Ferries are now painted municipal orange so that they will be easier to see in heavy fog and snow.
Staten Island Ferries were steam powered until the 1980's. The newest ferries carry more than 4400 passengers at a time.
Slideshow—all photos on this page
Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson