Originally settled by the Lenape people, before being colonized by the Dutch and then the British, Governors Island played a strategic role during the Revolutionary War and became one of the longest continually operated military bases in the United States.
Technically part of the borough of Manhattan, the island—a popular summer day-trip destination for Big Apple denizens—is home to a National Monument of New York (administered by the National Park Service) and features on numerous New York Harbor cruise itineraries. You can also catch a bird’s-eye glimpse of the island during helicopter tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
Governors Island is car-free, but bikes offer an accessible way to explore the island’s miles of trails.
Leading contemporary artist Rachel Whiteread has a permanent installation on the island—Cabin—located on Discovery Hill.
Free, ranger-led tours are available for both Fort Jay and Castle Williams.
The island has two food courts—Liggett Terrace Food Court and King Avenue Food Court—although visitors are also welcome to bring alcohol-free picnic supplies.
Governors Island, including Fort Jay and Castle Williams, are accessible for wheelchair users.
How to Get There
In season, daily ferries to Governors Island depart from Manhattan’s South Street Seaport; weekend ferries also depart regularly from Brooklyn’s Pier 6. Tickets can be purchased for a small fee from booths near the piers. All ferries are wheelchair-accessible and are free to ride on weekends before 12pm.
When to Get There
Governors Island is open to the public from May 1 to October 31 each year. It hosts a number of popular arts and recreational events, including the Jazz Age Lawn Party (a summertime event that invites participants to dress up in 1920s outfits and dance along to live jazz) and the New York City Poetry Festival (held on the last weekend of July).
Other New York Islands
You might not think of island-hopping in New York, but the state has lots of offshore appeal. Check out Rock Island, home to a historic lighthouse; go camping on popular Wellesley Island; visit Singer Castle on the ominously named Dark Island; or learn about US immigration history on well-known Ellis Island.
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