Islands of New York City
No man is an island, but New York is. Flanked by the East River and the Hudson River, New York City is a collection of water-locked destinations and getting around these islands has never been easier. So forget to decamp to the Hamptons with the East Coast set, and focus on the very doable day trips you can take from hipster Coney Island to surfer’s paradise, Rockaway Beach.
Just as there are good islands in New York suitable for tourism, so are there ones that are very obscure that most natives wouldn’t want to visit. Below are a few of the best and worst islands of New York:
Best Islands of New York
A quaint seaside escape, City Island feels like no other place within the city limits. The Bronx fishing village is full of New England-style yacht clubs and waterfront restaurants.
Best for: Seafood lovers
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What to do: It’s popular with visitors during the warmer months for its laid-back vibe, fresh seafood dining options and range of activities including scuba diving.
How to get there: Travel to City Island via car, bus or bike.
Governor’s Island is a car-free paradise where you can picnic, play mini golf, swing in a hammock or get a dose of history. Additionally, it is best for families.
What to do: Experience the hills, which give visitors a new relationship with sea and sky offering breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty and New York harbor. Adventures at Governor’s Island are new every summer and offer zip lining, a rock climbing wall and a maze.
Where to eat: Families will appreciate the different options at king avenue food court in the historic district. If you are looking to be more adventurous, the pop-up dinner asks guests to bring their white tableware, decoration, and meals set up a flash mob-style dinner party at a secret location somewhere on the island.
How to get there: Travel to governor’s island via NY waterway ferry or NYC ferry.
It’s the Big Apple’s legendary amusement district, but Coney Island is not a theme park. The home of the Cyclone roller coaster, the wonder wheel and Nathan’s famous hot dogs is a seaside playground that’s also a bonafide NYC neighborhood.
What to do: Visit the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island boardwalk. The 5,000-seater opened to the public in June with an inaugural concert, with more festivals planned throughout the summer and winters.
Where to eat: Every few planks of the boardwalk, you’ll find another hot dog, gelato and empanada stall to satisfy any stomach rumblings. Sit down options include Ruby’s Bar and Grill and Nathan’s famous.
How to get there: Take the D, Q, N OR F train to Stillwell Avenue.
Worst Islands of New York
Hart Island is unoccupied – by the living. The island’s 101-acre potter’s field is home to the largest tax-fraud cemetery in the world, with well over a million souls buried beneath it, a third of them infants and stillborn babies. Rikers inmates conduct burials, and the department of corrections thus restricts island access. Those who can prove, through paperwork, that they are family members of the deceased, are only occasionally granted access to the island – and then they are allowed only to look at the burial field from a distance, from inside a gazebo. So not only can you not get to hart island, you shouldn’t want to be able to get there.
A submerged rock that is the only significant hazard for navigation in Eastchester Bay, Big Tom hides under the water, only visible at extremely low tide.
East Nonations and South Nonations
These two are a real bummer. Apparently, these islands were so impossibly useless that neither Holland nor England could be bothered to fight for them. Hence the names.