A Round Trip Ride from Manhattan to the Jersey Shore

The private ferry company Seastreak runs regular commuter ferries from Manhattan to the New Jersey boroughs of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, as well as seasonal runs to nearby Sandy Hook, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Seastreak also runs seasonal weekend trips up to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, a fetching idea for people trapped in the summer heat of the city.

A Seastreak ferry docked at E. 35th Street Ferry landing in Manhattan

On the trips to New Jersey, the Seastreak ferries speedily travel down the East River and into Upper New York Bay, then under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the lower bay, through the open waters that lead into the Atlantic Ocean, and then into Raritan Bayshore to complete the trip to Highlands, Atlantic Highlands, or Sandy Hook.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

From Manhattan, the ferries travel to New Jersey via the East 35th Street ferry landing and Wall Street Pier 11, both used by NY Ferry and other providers. Commuters typically take the ferries from New Jersey to Manhattan at the beginning of the workday and return home in the evening. If traveling to Sandy Beach for a seasonal day trip, a shuttle service is available between the Sandy Hook Ferry Landing and several beaches.

Open waters of the Lower Bay in New York Harbor

Seastreak also advertises on their website the option of a round-trip sightseeing ticket at certain times of the day, provided riders stay on the boat. Sightseers can choose from four ports for their place of departure - Highlands, NJ, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, Wall Street, or E. 35th St. The round-trip takes a little over two hours.

Highlands, NJ.

I tested out this sightseeing option on a recent Friday afternoon, and I wasn’t disappointed. At the ferry landing on E. 35th, the vast majority of riders were commuters returning home to New Jersey, so when I asked about the round-trip option for $27, there was initially some confusion at the ticket window and boarding. Nevertheless, some old hands were on deck to make it okay.

Atlantic Highlands, NJ

The ferry trip through New York Harbor was speedy and entertaining, with great views all around. Much of the pleasure of such a trip depends on the ability to make your own fun, as there’s no guided narration. While most commuter ferries stay within Upper New York Bay, these vessels move through the Narrows and into the open waters of the Atlantic, providing peaceful views of the water. Additional sites along the way include Fort Wadsworth and South Beach on Staten Island.

At Fort Hancock, houses on Officers Row line Sandy Hook Bay, NJ.

From the ferry, the main attractions in Highlands and Atlantic Highlands are the views of the scenic hills, the beautiful boats anchored in the marinas, and the double-crested cormorants sunning themselves on the jetties.

Ferry landing, Sandy Hook, NJ.

Sandy Hook, NJ is known as a barrier spit, part of a barrier peninsula on the New Jersey coast. If you think of the Jersey Shore, with places like Asbury Park and Seaside Park down the way, this peninsula is the northernmost point (see map). The area rests within the Gateway National Recreation Area of the National Park Service, a multifaceted park that also includes places in Jamaica Bay and Staten Island. Fort Hancock, a former US Army post, Sandy Hook Chapel, and the Sandy Hook Lighthouse can all be seen from the boat. The fort’s Officers Row houses line Sandy Hook Bay.

Through the Narrows

In addition to the views of the shoreline and open water, the Seastreak ferries provide comfortable seating on two floors of indoor cabins and on an open top deck. A busy bar in the middle of the lower deck keeps many commuters happy on their way home. After grabbing a drink, some riders choose to secure a seat on the top deck, or if breezy, to find a comfortable place of the ferry floor. Most riders stay in the climate-controlled cabins, watching the financial news on monitors or just quietly recovering from a busy day at the office.

A bonus view of Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 docked at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. 

On my return trip, the ferry intentionally slowed down near the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 was at dock that day, ready to set sail on another transatlantic voyage. Everyone on board was given a little time to admire the enormous cruise ship and to snap a few pictures.

On a Seastreak ferry, near Sandy Hook, NJ.

The Seastreak sightseeing round-trip ferry ride is an excellent option for anyone who likes to ride on a fast boat into the open waters of New York Harbor or for anyone flirting with the idea of the Jersey Shore but not yet ready to commit.


Images by Sailing Off the Big Apple from Friday, June 20, 2018.

Resources:

Seastreak https://seastreak.com/

Gateway National Recreation Area https://www.nps.gov/gate/index.htm

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