Open to the public since 2003, Governor’s Island is a great summer retreat when one wants to escape island life on Manhattan. A repurposed Army base, this summer-only hideaway has been on my “to see” list for a while and I was glad to make a trek to the island, despite the simultaneous HOPE conference.
There is a short ferry from Manhattan’s Battery that takes about ten minutes or so of actual travel time. Besides some great views of Brooklyn, the statue of liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan, most of the northern part of the land is open to the public. I was surprised to see a sand-filled beach beer garden and an abundance of table vendors from ice-cream trucks to recycling campaigns to political activists. All of this in front of a backdrop of closed military barracks and parade grounds makes for a surreal sight.
Renting bikes is popular here and so are collisions or near collisions among urban-dwellers who don’t get out of the city much. But, if one can manage to avoid a handshake with a bicycle, sitting and watching the water traffic is entertaining enough. By the way, the island, the ferries and the walking is free (as in beer)!
I recommend visitors bring water and snacks with them as the on-island carts are very much aware that you are stuck on an island. Also, when the military left apparently so did the sanitation system as most of the toilets are port-a-potties. But, besides these realities of island-life, it really is worth the trip on a nice day and besides central park, it’s probably the closest open-air escape from the city.