New York Harbor is one of the world’s biggest natural harbors. Everything in New York is big. The tidal estuary has both upper and lower bays.
Harbor islands include Liberty Island, Ellis Island and Governors Island. Even though the islands are closer to Brooklyn and New Jersey, they are considered to be part of Manhattan.
The harbor’s shoreline is home to the Port of New York and New Jersey; three cruise ship terminals, a lot of commercial tug traffic, the Staten Island Ferry, the Circle Line and other tourist boats.
The Staten Island Ferry is a Great Way to See New York Harbor
The free Staten Island Ferry is our favorite way to see the harbor. It crosses New York Harbor from the Whitehall Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the southern tip of Manhattan, to St George Staten Island Ferry terminal on Staten Island.
The trip takes about 20 minutes one-way. You have to wait 20 minutes in Staten Island and can then take the ferry back to Manhattan. If you don’t stay in Staten Island (which has some cool things to do), the round-trip takes about an hour.
It’s passes the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Governors Island. On the Brooklyn shoreline, you pass Brooklyn Heights, Red Hook, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. On the New Jersey shoreline, you pass Jersey City and Bayonne.
The return trip provides stunning views of Lower Manhattan. This is the point because it’s the way many of our immigrant ancestors first saw New York City at the end of their ocean journey.
They arrived in the Lower Bay, passed through the Verrazzano Narrows into the Upper Bay where you could see the great lady they heard about, and in the distance, the tallest buildings you ever saw.
As ships passed the Statue of Liberty, so many people would come on one side of the deck to see her, that captains would often have to ask passengers to move to the other side of the ship so it wouldn’t capsize.
That’s the magic of New York Harbor – to have that “wow” moment like seeing New York City for the first time.