A Beginner's Guide to Riding the NYC Ferry

Updated August 29, 2018. Since rolling out its first routes in May 2017, the NYC Ferry has expanded to become a popular way for many commuters to get to work and for visitors to explore the city by water. The cost for a one-way trip is $2.75, the same as the subway or regular bus.

Riding the NYC Ferry on the East River.
The East 34th Street ferry landing is just below the American Copper Buildings.
The Empire State Building is in the distance.

The NYC Ferry is the most efficient, affordable, and pleasant way to see the city from the water. The Staten Island Ferry, a necessity for many Staten Islanders, still remains the best way to see New York Harbor for free.

Operated by Hornblower Cruises, the NYC Ferry provides a total of six routes. The extended ferry service now includes four new stops - the Soundview (SV) route with Soundview in the Bronx and East 90th Street in the Upper East Side/Yorkville; and Stuyvesant Cove and Corlears Hook on the Lower East Side.

In a press conference on August 29, 2018 to celebrate the opening of the new Lower East Side stops, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Phase One of the NYC Ferry system is now complete. He said that future locations will be decided by the end of the year.

The Routes

Astoria, Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, East 34th Street, Wall St./Pier 11

East River
East 34th Street, Hunters Point South, Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, DUMBO, Wall St./Pier 11, Governors Island (weekend only)

Lower East Side (launchedAugust 29, 2018)
Long Island City, East 34th Street, Stuyvesant Cove, Corlears Hook and Wall Street/Pier 11

Rockaway, Sunset Park, Wall St./Pier 11
See related post, Windblown: A Day Trip on the NYC Ferry

Soundview, East 90th Street, East 34th Street, Wall Street/Pier 11
See related post, Windblown: A Day Trip on the NYC Ferry

South Brooklyn
Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Red Hook, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6/Atlantic Avenue, DUMBO, Wall Street/Pier 11, Governors Island (weekend only) 

Looks fun. So, how does this work?

Two ferries at dock in DUMBO next to Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The ferry in the foreground is one of the older boats, and the ferry to the right is a new one.

The Steps to Riding the NYC Ferry

Visit the NYC Ferry official website to get acquainted with the whole system and details about individual stops.

Download the NYC Ferry app (highly recommended) and set up an account linking payment information for ticket purchases. The app includes maps, schedules, and importantly, tickets. At the store on the app, buy one or more tickets. Each $2.75 ticket is good for a one-way trip anywhere in the system. Paper tickets are also available at the machines next to the ferry landings. From my experience, the app is efficient and you can purchase tickets on the fly.

Decide on your destination. Wall Street? Roosevelt Island? DUMBO? Greenpoint? Rockaway? Red Hook? After selecting the desired destination, find the NYC Ferry route that goes there. Sometimes, the destination will involve ferry hopping (how fun!). If traveling from East 34th and the desired destination is Red Hook, then take the first ferry to Wall Street/Pier 11, get off the boat, and then board the South Brooklyn ferry. Free transfers are allowed within 90 minutes of activating the one-way ticket. Otherwise, no transfers. 

Arriving at Wall Street Pier 11, one of the busiest stops.
Several other companies run boats out of here.

To begin, find your way to one of the ferry landings such as E. 34th Street or Wall Street Pier 11. (Tip for E. 34th Street  - take the crosstown M34 bus to the landing.) Pay attention to the schedule, and while waiting, watch the ferries come and go. Get in the line for the selected ferry and check to be sure it’s going in the right direction. The NYC Ferry staff members will help. Check the schedule at the ferry or on the app.

During peak demand, like on a sunny weekend afternoon with special events, be prepared for hiccups in the system. Lines can grow long and confusing at certain ferry stops, and delays may cause a general crowd swell of frustration. Riders become confused, especially at the end of the lines. The app comes in handy here, because the schedule shows the state of delays.

Lining up to catch the NYC Ferry at Governors Island.
Weekends are likely to be the most crowded.

In boarding, activate the ticket on the app and show it to the person checking tickets.

Take your seat in the main cabin. If feeling carefree, climb the stairs to the top deck for unobstructed views.

The current fleet of ferries mixes older types with the new ones. The latest ferries, identified by their sleeker and curvier lines with “fins” at back, come well equipped with a concession stand stocked with snacks, drinks, and a variety of other items. Charging stations are available on these ferries. The older ferries are more square and bulky but still provide a good ride.

View of Lower Manhattan from the NYC Ferry heading to Governors Island (weekend service only)

Due to a popular rollout last summer, one that caught the system off guard with many delays, the city has put in an order for large boats with twice the capacity. (UPDATE: The first 350-person ferry went into service July 21, 2018 on the Rockaway route, via @NYCferry) For realtime delays, check in with Twitter @NYCferry.

The average ferry trip can be highly pleasurable providing excellent views of the shore and skyline. Remember to get off the ferry at your appointed stop.

Images by Sailing Off the Big Apple from Saturday June 16, 2018.

NYC Ferry website https://www.ferry.nyc/