Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and get one of the best tours of New York for FREE.
The Staten Island Ferry began as a private operation in 1817, but became a municipal service in 1905 with it becoming free for passengers in 1997 — and becoming one of New York’s favourite tourist attractions. Ferry service is provided 24 hours a day, transports around 75,000 passengers in 104 boat trips every day. It currently carries over 21 million passengers annually on the 5.2 mile (8.4 km) ride that takes about 25 minutes each way. Though I will warn you that riders must disembark at each terminal and re-enter through the terminal building for a round trip to comply with Coast Guard regulations regarding vessel capacity. So don’t be like me and sit on the ferry thinking that you’ll make an easy round trip — you will get kicked off at some point.
The city’s original white colour scheme was eventually changed to the lovely municipal orange it is now, so that the ferries could be seen in heavy fog and snow. But even the orange couldn’t prevent some of the disasters the Staten Island Ferry has seen. They’ve been hit by tankers, they’ve crashed into the concrete seawall near the Statue of Liberty ferry port during a dense fog, bombs have been set off, a mentally disturbed person with a machete attacked passengers on a ferry, and three of the ferries were bought by the U.S. Navy to fight in the civil war. None of these ferries returned to New York.
Now ever since I saw Melanie Griffith coming across to Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry in the movie “Working Girl”, I wanted to feel the wind in my hair while “Let the river flow” by Carly Simon played on. But it’s a scramble to get on the deck as you’ll have to push your way through the tourists if you’re unlucky to get the ferry that doesn’t have an open deck all the way around the boat. If I were you, wait for the next ferry to get the full experience. The ferry is also apparently a popular place to go on Saturday night as beer and snacks are served. I’d once read in a travel guide that the Staten Island Ferry was the cheapest place in New York to buy a beer — sorry to tell you, it’s not. So ride it for the Manhattan view, to see the Statue of Liberty and to feel the New York wind in your hair — cue Carly.