I’m not going to bash Circle Line cruises or any of the companies that specialize in touting tourists along NYC’s rivers. They have their perks. But today I’m going to tell you about the South Brooklyn Ferry, a cruise alternative for the explorer on a budget who’d rather not drop a couple of Hamiltons on a boat ride.
You’ve probably already heard of the Staten Island Ferry, but that’s not the only ferry service in town. NYC has seven other ferry lines chugging along the East River and the Upper New York Bay. While these ferries are primarily for commuters, everyday city explorers are also welcomed aboard. Here’s what you can expect, at least on the South Brooklyn Ferry route.
Before You Board
- For the full cruise experience, start your journey at either ends of the South Brooklyn Ferry route: Corlears Hook in Manhattan’s Lower East Side or the American Veterans Memorial Pier in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. (I recommend starting in Bay Ridge where the ride will progress from the bucolic South Brooklyn waterfront to the iconic bridges and skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, rather than the reverse. You won’t go wrong docking in Bay Ridge either. The American Veterans Memorial Pier is part of Shore Road Park, which follows the coastline all the way down to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
- Unlike the Staten Island Ferry, this ferry has a fee: $2.75 for a one way ticket and an extra dollar if you want to bring your bike on board. You can purchase your tickets from a kiosk at the pier or through the NYC Ferry app. (I recommend using the app because the purchasing process is a lot smother. Plus you’ll have easy access to all the ferry schedules.)
- Only activate your ticket once you are about to board. Tickets are only valid for 90 minutes after activation, so you can use them to transfer between ferry lines before the time runs out. You can also hold onto any unused tickets for up to a year after your purchase.
What to Expect on Board
- Once you step onto the ferry, you’ll immediately be faced with a dilemma: should you stay indoors with the refreshment stand or should you venture to the top deck? Always choose the top deck, weather permitting—of course. The top deck has 360° views as opposed to the lower deck’s streaked windows. (Note: the refreshment stand was not operating the day I took the ferry, but it’s good to know that it’s there.)
- You’re going to be blown away by a few things on the South Brooklyn Ferry ride. For starters, Brooklyn’s waterfront is incredible. It goes from adorable leafy neighborhoods to industrial sites to a funky cross between both. While the Brooklyn waterfront is beautiful, Lower Manhattan’s skyline is stunning. There’s something about approaching it by water that’s absolutely awe-inspiring. And you’ll have an infinite amount of respect for the people who built the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges as the boat cruises right under them, allowing you to observe their magnificent details. As for the last thing that will blow you away? Hang on to your hat. I mean it. The wind gets fierce on the top deck. It knocked over my tripod a few times and it almost blew my shawl away. You won’t regret bringing a light jacket.
Whether you want a cheap but worthwhile boat ride or you’re a local who wants to switch up your commute, you have to get on board the South Brooklyn Ferry. This is a boat ride you’ll never forget.
For dozens of other things you can do in Brooklyn, check out the Ultimate Brooklyn Bucket List. Also don’t forget to join my email list and follow me on social media to get to know NYC even better with Shiloh in the City! Thanks for reading!