For many New Yorkers, the Staten Island Ferry is a means to commute to work, but it can also be an opportunity to see the city from a different perspective. You can take some great photos of the downtown Manhattan skyline from the ferry, and you have two opportunities to do so – as you head away from Manhattan towards Staten Island, and again as you head back to the city on the return trip. And one of the best things about the Staten Island Ferry: it’s absolutely free!
Here are a couple of examples of the photos you can take from the ferry. The day that I took these photos, the air was a bit hazy, but you can still see the possibilities. First, here’s the look back at the Whitehall Terminal on the southern tip of Manhattan, where I boarded the ferry.
I took this photo of the skyline which shows both the possibilities but also the drawbacks of shooting photos on a hazy day. The tallest building is One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, built near the site of the 9/11 Memorial.
As the ferry travels further from Manhattan, the perspective changes further.
You may also get good photos of the Brooklyn Bridge and Governor’s Island, depending on your location on the ferry.
As we traveled further, we passed a ferry going the opposite direction. This is what the Staten Island Ferry looks like.
The ferry also passes by the Statue of Liberty. She’s still some distance away, but with a good camera you can capture some special shots.
If you’re thinking of taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, here are some things you should know. First, remember that locals use the ferry to get to work every day. That means that the ferry is most crowded during peak commuting times in the morning and early evening. You will have better views – meaning you will have better photo ops as well – if you travel on the ferry outside of those peak times. You can access the ferry schedule here. The ferry runs 24 hours a day. You will experience great views during daylight hours, but it can also be a magical way to view the city after the sun has set at night. Keep in mind the weather as well. If it is raining, foggy, or hazy, your views will not be as good. If it is cold or windy, make sure you are bundled up. The best views are from the outside deck areas, and the wind is even colder when the ferry is moving.
It’s also helpful to know what to expect at the ferry terminals. There is no waiting in line. When the doors open for boarding, you just work your way with the rest of the crowd to board. If you are uncomfortable in large crowds, you may find the boarding process intimidating. There is some seating where you can wait prior to boarding, as well as decent public restroom facilities.
Where can you catch the Staten Island Ferry? In Manhattan, you can catch the ferry at the Whitehall Terminal at the southern tip of the island, near downtown. To get to the Whitehall Terminal, take the 4 or 5 train to the Bowling Green station, the J or Z trains to the Broad Street station, the R train to Whitehall Street station, or the 1 train to South Ferry (make sure you are on one of the first five cars for the 1 train).
From Staten Island, you can take the Staten Island Railroad to the St. George Ferry Terminal. Numerous buses also go to the St. George Ferry Terminal, although some only run on weekdays. For more information about getting to the ferry terminals, please see the Staten Island Ferry’s website here.