Governors Island

Governors Island offers an idyllic escape from the noise and hustle of the city. It is a place the entire family will enjoy exploring.

Governors Island
Governors Island cc licensed photo by Alexis Lê-Quôc

Governors Island is a little island situated in upper New York Harbour at the junction of the Hudson and East Rivers. It is about half a mile or roughly a 7 minute ferry ride from either Brooklyn leaving from pier 6 going across Buttermilk Channel or from the southern tip of Manhattan.

Things to See and Do

This historic island and National Monument offers so many fun things to do for the entire family. Play some free miniature golf, relax in one of 50 hammocks in hammock grove or gently rock in one of the comfy rocking chairs on the porches of the old buildings. There are children's hands on art programs, art exhibits, a flea market, a book store, and several historic brick buildings that were once homes belonging to commanding officers. These are open for you to walk in and look around. Old fortifications such as Castle Williams and Fort Jay give visitors a look at the area's military history. There are places to eat and drink and trails to enjoy walking along (with a free tour guide for those that wish). Rent or bring your own bike — you can enjoy 5 miles of safe cycling on this car free island. Go for some free kayaking or play beach games at the man-made sandy beach on the northern tip of the island. Or, you can just enjoy the beautiful views offered by the island such as the Statue of Liberty and other New York landmarks and of course the Manhattan skyline.

History

The 172 acre island was once called Paggank by the Native Americans of the Manhattan region which means : nut island, referring most likely to the abundance of nut trees found there.

In 1784 the island's current name was made official. This came from the British Colonial era, when the island was used exclusively for the British Royal Governors in the early days of the New York Colony. They used the island for several purposes including a summer residence but never a permanent one.

On Governors Island you will find historic buildings such as the Governors House and Admirals House. Fort Jay, a fortification built in 1794, has the original gate house topped with a sculpture of an eagle that is the oldest structure on the island. Viewed from above Fort Jay forms the shape of a star. Castle William built between 1807 and 1811 and made of red sandstone is the first American circular defence structure ever built. It stands proud on the west point of Governors island. Later during the War of 1812 the structure along with other installations proved to be powerful deterrents to the British Navy. During the Civil War, Castle William was first used to house newly recruited union solders and later it and Fort Jay were used as military prisons. Fort Jay was used for the captured officers, while Castle William held the Confederate prisoners and deserters from the union army.

From 1783 the island was a military army Post and in 1939-1966 Governors island became the headquarters of the U.S. First Army. Once it became a headquarters the officers were allowed to bring their family to the island to reside. In 1966 the Army left the island and it became a U.S Coast Guard base with their families joining them until 1996.

On January 19th 2001 Castle Williams and Fort Jay along with 22 acres on the island were proclaimed as the Governors Island National Monument. Castle Williams is reopened as a community center with a book store and theatre where you can go up to the roof and get a view of the Statue of Liberty. In 2003 the other 150 acre section was sold by the federal government to the city of New York to be used as an education and preservation. Governors Island Preservation & Education Corporation became the trust administered by the joint city-state.

Helpful Tip

On Saturdays and Sundays you can ride for free on the 10am, 11am and 11:30am ferries from Manhattan and on the 11am and 11:30am ferry from Brooklyn.

Facts For Your Visit

Fee: No

Hours: Governors Island is open to the public everyday from last week of may May until the last weekend in September. Hours are Mon-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat-Sun 10am-7pm.

Website: Governors Island

Directions

Subway Line Nearest Station Walking Time
1South Ferry4 minutes
N or RWhitehall Street5 minutes
4 or 5Bowling Green5 minutes

How to get to Governors Island by Subway

Take the 1 train to South Ferry, turn left into Battery Park or take the N or R train to Whitehall Street, head north toward Pearl Street, turn left on Bridge Street, follow path into park or take the 4 or 5 train to Bowling Green, head south on Broadway, turn right on Battery Place, turn left on Greenwich Street and continue into park.

Look for the Brooklyn Ferries wharf at the Battery Maritime Building which is just east of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

There are also ferries from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Governors Island Ferry Schedule


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A visit to Governors Island in NYC

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