There are many ways to see New York: flying over its skies in a helicopter, walking among its towering skyscrapers, or taking in its skyline aboard a ferry. This time, to help you get around the city like a fish in water (never better!) I'll tell you how to use the NYC Ferry. Are you up for it?
1. What is the NYC Ferry?
The NYC Ferry was created to improve connections between the boroughs of New York and to relieve congestion on the often overcrowded underground. You'll recognise them as blue and white boats that act as water buses to transport the city's residents.
However, they are also a fun adventure for tourists. After all, it's a cheaper alternative to sightseeing cruises, and it's also a great way to see the wonderful Manhattan skyline.
What does the NYC Ferry look like inside?
The NYC Ferry is smaller than the Staten Island Ferry but they are quite comfortable and have a ground floor plus a deck where, weather permitting, you can enjoy the scenery from the water. The NYC Ferry also has a cafeteria where you can buy snacks and toilets.
2. How much does the NYC Ferry cost?
Although the ride is not free, a ride on the NYC Ferry is only $2.75, the same as the underground. This ticket is valid for 90 minutes, during which time you can transfer between different ferry lines at no extra cost.
If you are staying in New York for a longer period of time, you may want to purchase a 30-day pass which allows unlimited travel on all ferry lines. It costs $121. Unlimited daily and weekly passes are not available at this time. I recommend you visit the official NYC Ferry website for specific prices and schedules.
- Adult single ticket ($2.75)
- Bicycle surcharge ($1.00)
- Adult Single + Bicycle Supplement ($3.75)
- Adult Pass ($121.00)
- Adult 30-day pass + bicycle supplement ($141.00)
- Children less than 1.10 metres tall free
Do children pay?
Children under 1.10 metres can travel for free on the NYC Ferry when accompanied by an adult. If you are travelling with babies, there is space on the ferry to store pushchairs.
Can I travel with my bike?
Yes, if you're cycling around New York, you'll be interested to know that for a $1 supplement you can take your bike on the ferry and ride around the city freely. A single adult ticket with this surcharge costs a total of $3.75.
Can I use the same ticket for the outward and return journey?
No, this is not possible. If you want to get off at a stop and then get on the ferry again or take the same line back, you will have to buy another ticket. Also, when the ferry arrives at the last stop, all passengers have to get off and get on again.
3. Where can I buy a ticket?
You have several options to buy tickets for the NYC Ferry:
- At the vending machines on the quayside: If you are taking the ferry on time, I recommend this option. It's very easy: just select the number of tickets, pay by card or cash and the machine prints them out on paper. To board you will have to show them to the conductor, so I advise you to keep them in your wallet so you don't lose them.
- With the NYC Ferry app: The process is a bit longer but it will allow you to carry your tickets on your mobile, which is very convenient. All you have to do is download the NYC Ferry app on your phone, register an account and buy your tickets. Before boarding, you'll need to show them to the conductor on the screen so they can scan the QR codes.
- At the ticket office: You can also get a ticket for the NYC Ferry at the ticket office located at Pier 11 on Wall Street.
Can I use my Metrocard to pay for the NYC Ferry?
Although the tickets are similar in cost and it may be tempting to try, the fact is that the NYC Ferry has nothing to do with the New York underground or its payment system, so you cannot use the Metrocard to pay for the ferry ride.
4. How is boarding the NYC Ferry?
The boarding process on the New York ferry is very simple. As the routes are not circular, I advise you to look at the NYC Ferry map to see the name of the last stop on your line as there are boats in both directions of the line and you will have to wait for the right ferry to arrive.
This is why it is common for there to be two queues at the same pier at the same time, one in each direction of the ferry. To find out which queue to join, you will need to take into account the name of the last stop on your line, just like on the metro. Don't worry if you're not sure because the staff on the pier will be able to answer any questions you may have.
Once the ferry arrives at the pier , the boarding process is quick and efficient: show your ticket to the conductor, get on and in a few minutes you're sailing the waters of New York.
What is the ferry ride like?
It's a highly recommended experience to enjoy in New York. The ride is very pleasant and there are usually plenty of places available to sit and enjoy the beautiful Manhattan skyline.
As the wind can be quite strong, sitting on the top deck of the ferry is more appropriate in good weather, during the spring and summer. In seasons such as autumn and winter you will probably want to travel in the lower area under cover.
In addition, inside the ferry there is a small cafeteria where you can buy snacks and drinks to make the trip even more enjoyable. Toilets are also located on the same floor.
5. What are the NYC Ferry routes?
Throughout the year, the New York ferry operates six different routes: East River, Astoria, South Brooklyn, Rockaway, Governor's Island and Soundview that make it possible to cross, for example, from Wall Street to DUMBO or from Williamsburg to Midtown in just a few minutes.
Below you will see the routes of each route and the most important attractions that can be reached at each stop:
East River (44 minutes)
The East River route connects Brooklyn neighbourhoods like DUMBO, Greenpoint and Williamsburg with Midtown and Manhattan's Financial District. Along the way you'll cruise under the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges.
It's a great way to see Manhattan's eastern skyline. On board the ferry you'll see the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. You'll even catch a glimpse of the Hudson Yards skyscraper where The Edge observatory is located. Stops at:
- Hunters Point South 7 min
- East 34th Street 6 min
- Greenpoint 8 min
- North Williamsburg 7 min
- South Williamsburg 12 min
- DUMBO 4 min
- Pier 11
Rockaway (57 min)
This route runs between Wall Street (Pier 11) and Rockaway Beach. In summer, this route is very popular as it is one of the fastest ways for New Yorkers to get to the urban beaches of Queens. If you're a photography enthusiast, you can take some of the most stunning images of the Manhattan sunset along this route.
The Rockaway route stops in Sunset Park, a residential Brooklyn neighbourhood characterised as one of the most diverse in the city, which boasts a beautiful park rarely frequented by tourists and some of the best restaurants serving Mexican, Central American, South American and Asian cuisine. Stop in:
- Rockaway 41 min
- Sunset Park 16 min
- Pier 11
South Brooklyn (54 min)
This ferry connects Manhattan's Financial District with the residential neighbourhoods of southern Brooklyn and in summer with Governors Island.
DUMBO, just off the Brooklyn Bridge, is the most popular stop on this route. If you get off at Atlantic Avenue, the next stop, you'll enjoy a nice walk along the banks of the East River. Stop at:
- Bay Ridge 9 min
- Brooklyn Army Terminal/ Sunset Park 14 min
- Red Hook 9 min
- Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6/ Atlantic Avenue 9 mins
- Pier 11 8 min
- DUMBO 5 min
- Corlears Hook
Astoria (49 min)
This NYC Ferry route connects Midtown Manhattan and Wall Street with the Astoria neighbourhood and Long Island City in Queens. It is the perfect route to see the east side of Manhattan and although it follows the same route as the East River route it does not stop in Brooklyn.
If you take the Astoria ferry, I recommend getting off in Long Island City to visit Gantry Plaza State Park, a park with spectacular views of Manhattan. On the other hand, this ferry also stops at Roosevelt Island, where you can't miss Four Freedoms Park, a place created as a tribute to President Roosevelt that has amazing views of all of Downtown and Midtown Manhattan.
When you're done, just turn around and take either the underground or the Roosevelt Island cable car back to Manhattan. Stop in:
- East 90th Street 4 min
- Astoria 8 min
- Roosevelt Island 6 min
- Long Island City 7 min
- East 34th Street 14 min
- Brooklyn Navy Yard 10 min
- Pier 11
Soundview (50 min)
The NYC Ferry Soundview Line is one of the most recently created routes. It connects the Upper East Side and the Bronx to Lower Manhattan. It is a good alternative to the underground for visiting the Guggenheim Museum (as one of the stops on this route is on 90th Street) or the New York Botanical Garden and Yankee Stadium (the other stop is in the Bronx). Stop at:
- Soundview (Clason Point) 18 min
- East 90th Street 15 min
- East 34th Street 18 min
- Stuyvesant Cove 9 min
- Pier 11
Governors Island (8 minutes)
It is a line that covers the route from Wall Street to Governor's Island on summer weekends, when the island is open to the public.
It's worth taking the ferry as the whole island is a great viewpoint overlooking Manhattan. In addition, there is a park with historic fortifications such as Castle Williams and Fort Jay as picnic areas for lunchtime picnics.
During the summer season, Governor's Island hosts outdoor events and concerts such as the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August. At this party, jazz plays throughout the island and attendees dress up in 1920s-style costumes:
- Pier 11 8 min
- Governor's Island (Weekends only)
Coney Island and St. George
Two new NYC Ferry routes are scheduled to open in the city by 2021:
- Coney Island: This line will connect Coney Island and Bay Ridge to Wall Street/ Pier 11. It will take approximately 37 minutes.
- St. George: This line will connect Staten Island to the west side of Manhattan at Battery Park City and Midtown West. The route will take about 35 minutes.
The free Staten Island Ferry is not to be confused with the NYC Ferry as it is another ferry that links Staten Island with southern Manhattan (passing in front of the Statue of Liberty).
6. What are the NYC Ferry schedules?
It is advisable to plan your day trip well in order to arrive on time as the frequency of the ferry is less frequent than that of the metro. Depending on the route and the day of the week there is one frequency or another, so it is important to organise yourself well to catch the ferry on time and not have to wait too long at the pier for it to arrive.
You can check the timetables on the official website, although you can also find the timetable for each of the routes at the different docks.
7. Would I recommend taking the NYC Ferry?
Yes, you can! Taking the New York ferry is a great option if you're taking a low-cost trip around the city, as it allows you to enjoy beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline for little money while also providing transportation to other New York boroughs for a trip to DUMBO or Governor's Island, for example.
The difference with sightseeing cruises
However, I don't think the NYC Ferry is a substitute for one of the other cruises available in New York as there is no professional guide along the way to tell you interesting facts about the city, nor do you have the option to have a complimentary drink during the cruise while watching the sunset, or to board vintage sailboats to enjoy the scenery, or to see some of the Big Apple's landmarks up close... all of these are small details that elevate the experience on the water to another level.
If you want to know more about cruising in New York, I suggest you take a look at our guide to the best cruises in the city- you'll be amazed at the possibilities!