Staten Island Ferry – free ferry to see Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty ferry for free

A New York holiday is incomplete without a visit to the Statue of Liberty.

If time and money aren’t an issue, you can always book a Statue Cruises ferry and explore the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island.

However, if you are a backpacker, a large group, or a family with kids, you have reasons to love Staten Island Ferry, which is also often known as the Statue of Liberty’s free ferry.

In this article, we explain everything about Staten Island Ferry and how you can use it to explore the Statue of Liberty for free.

1. Statue Cruises vs Staten Island Ferry
2. Why Staten Island Ferry is free?
3. Directions to Whitehall Terminal
4. Directions to St George Terminal
5. Parking at Whitehall Terminal
6. Parking at St. George Terminal
7. Staten Island Ferry schedule
8. Best time to board ferry
9. Staten Island Ferry route
10. Views from Staten Island Ferry
11. Where to stand for best views
12. Staten Island Ferry at night

Statue Cruises Ferry vs Staten Island Ferry

Statue Cruises’ Statue of Liberty ferry is the best way to explore Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island because they drop you at the Island and then take you back. 

However, this experience comes at a price. 

The Reserve ticket is the most basic and popular Statue of Liberty ferry ticket and costs 25 USD for all adults (13+ years).

Kids 4 to 12 years get a discount of 10 USD on the adult price and hence pay only 15 USD per head. And seniors (62+ years) get a discount of 5 USD and pay only 20 USD.

If you were a family of four (two adults and two kids below 12 years), you might end up paying around 80 USD for Statue of Liberty visit. 

If you do choose to land on Liberty Island and explore the monument from up close, we recommend you buy Statue of Liberty tickets online.

Or you can decide to take the Staten Island Ferry and be done with your Statue of Liberty visit at zero cost. 

Staten Island Ferry is an 8.4 Kms (5.2-mile) voyage from Manhattan to St. George in Staten Islands and takes approximately 25 minutes.

The ferry runs 24 hours a day, all through the year. 

Around 25 million people ride a Staten Island Ferry every year – that’s about 70,000 a day. 

The Staten Island Ferry is free, and you get to go right past Lady Liberty.

You don’t land on Liberty Island, but you can take in the stunning views of the massive Statue and take lots of photographs. 

Many tourists take the free Staten Island Ferry to see Statue of Liberty.

Watch this video to get a quick overview of the ferry ride:

https://youtu.be/lM9dlbQXJ1o

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Why is Staten Island Ferry free?

The Staten Island lies in New York Harbor south of Manhattan and between New Jersey and Brooklyn. 

In the year 1817, Staten Island Ferry got established, and since then, it has been one of the fastest ways to get to the Island. 

However, the people of Staten Island, who had to take the ferry almost every time they came to the mainland, weren’t happy about paying 50 cents per ride. 

Fifty cents seems like a small amount, but when one sees it in the context of the 25 million rides taken every year, it all adds up. 

Staten Island people had been campaigning for making the Staten Island Ferry free for a long time, and it finally happened in 1997 when New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was up for re-election. More here

As a result, Staten Island Ferry became a no-cost service for the public, paid for by the City of New York. 

Important: Be aware of scammers trying to sell Staten Island Ferry tickets outside the terminals. 


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Staten Island Ferry terminals

Staten Island Ferry service is a commuter ferry that shuttles back and forth from the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island. 

For the locals, the Staten Island ferry is a means of transport, while it is a means of entertainment for the tourists. 

Here are a few things you must know about the Staten Island Ferry terminals –

  1. Both the terminals have escalators and elevators 
  2. Passengers who use wheelchairs must use lower-level boarding
  3. Staten Island Ferry doesn’t carry vehicles
  4. Pets are not allowed on the ferry except for service animals
  5. Both Whitehall Terminal and St. George Terminal offer free wifi

If you are a tourist holidaying in New York, you are most likely to be boarding at the Whitehall Terminal and get down at St George Terminal, sit in the return ferry and get back to Whitehall terminal again. 

Directions to Whitehall Terminal

Address: 4 Whitehall Street, New York NY 10004. Get Directions

The Whitehall ferry terminal is in the South Ferry section of Lower Manhattan, New York City, at the corner of South Street and Whitehall Street. 

Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan
Entrance of Staten Island Ferry’s Whitehall Terminal. Image: Ajay Suresh

It is also known as the South Ferry. Some even refer to it as the Staten Island Ferry Manhattan Terminal.

There are many ways to get to this Staten Island Ferry in Manhattan.

Subway to Staten Island Ferry

Since many Subway Stations are within walking distance, most tourists end up using the Subway to reach this Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Broadway 7th Avenue Line

Board Train 1 and get down at South Ferry Station. You must be in the first five cars to exit at the South Ferry.

From the South Ferry Station, the Whitehall Terminal is less than a minute’s walk. 

Nassau Street Express

Get on either the J or Z train and get down at Broad Street Station to get to the ferry terminal.

Broad Street Station is .6 Kms (.4 miles) from the ferry terminal, and you can walk the distance in around 8 minutes. 

Broad Street Station to Whitehall Terminal

Lexington Avenue Express

Get on to 4 or 5 trains and disembark at Bowling Green Station

The Bowling Green Station is .3 km (.2 miles) from the ferry terminal, and you can easily walk the distance in around 4 minutes. 

Bowling Green Station to Whitehall Terminal

Queens Blvd – Broadway – 4th Ave Local

Use the R train and get down at Whitehall Street Station.

Whitehall Terminal is just next to the Whitehall Street Station. 

Bus to Whitehall Terminal

Select Bus Service is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s rapid transit service in New York City. 

Select Bus Service is the brand name under which these buses ply. 

M15 Select Bus Service to Whitehall Terminal
An M15 SBS bus passes Madison and James Streets on its way to South Ferry. Image: Fan Railer / Wikipedia
Bus No.WeekdaysSaturdaySunday
M55:45 am –
1:20 am
4:50 am –
11:45 pm
6:10 am –
12 Mid
M15All TimesAll TimesAll Times
M15 (SBS)4:45 am –
10 pm
6:50 am –
10 pm
7 am –
10 pm
M206:30 am –
11 pm
7 am –
11 pm
7 am –
11 pm

Routes the buses take to South Ferry –

Bus No. Route to South Ferry
M5West 178 St. / Broadway. Via 6th / 7th Aves and Riverside Drive.
M152nd Avenue / East 126 St. Via 1st / 2nd Avenues.
M15 (SBS)2nd Avenue / East 126 St. Via 1st / 2nd Avenues
M20W 63 st / Broadway. Via 7th / 8th Avenues and Hudson St.

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Directions to St George Terminal

Address:  1 Bay Street, Staten Island NY 10301. Get Directions

Staten Island Ferry's St. George Terminal
The main concourse of Staten Island Ferry’s St. George Terminal. Image: Wikimedia

St. George Ferry Terminal is at 1 Bay Street and can be accessed by Staten Island Railway (SIR) and MTA Busses.

But we won’t get into the details of how you can reach St. George Ferry Terminal because this article is for the tourists who board the free ferry at Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan to take in the stunning views of Statue of Liberty.

Once you reach St George Terminal, you can’t continue to sit in the ferry, hoping to be dropped back at Whitehall Terminal, Manhattan.

When the boat reaches St. George Ferry Terminal, all passengers must disembark.

If you want to explore Staten Island, you can exit the Terminal.

Most tourists like to do the full round-trip and get back to Manhattan.

If you want to return, walk through the Terminal to the departure gates on the Staten Island side, and board the next ferry back to Manhattan.

If you are fast, you can eliminate a layover and get on the boat, bringing you to Staten Island.

Else, you may have to wait for around 30 minutes in the waiting room.

Till some years back, the waiting room at this Staten Island Ferry terminal used to be old and boring.

One of the significant design changes as part of the upgrade was removing the harbor side brick wall and replacing it with a 40-foot tall glass wall.

Now, people waiting for a ferry boat will be able to see it coming, and you also get to see views of the harbor.

Besides, there are lots of places for eating, drinking, and entertainment.


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Parking for Staten Island Ferry

In this section, we detail out the parking near Staten Island Ferry terminals.

Parking at Whitehall Ferry Terminal

There is no public parking at the Whitehall Ferry Terminal.

However, you can try the parking at Quik Park located at 1 New York Plz, New York, NY 10004. 

Quik Park is a five minutes walk from the Terminal. 

There are a few more private parking options around Battery Park, which is next to Whitehall Terminal. For more options, check out Icon Parking Systems

Parking at St. George Terminal

There are two municipal parking lots at the St. George Ferry Terminal, both of which are accessible off Richmond Terrace.

Ferry Terminal South Municipal Parking Field

This parking space is next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and has 222 areas (including nine for disabled spots).

It is open 24 hours, all through the year, and offers an unattended metered facility. 

This public parking lot charges 25¢ for 15 minutes, and a maximum of 8 USD for up to 18 hrs. Get Directions

Staten Island Courthouse Garage and Parking Lot

Located at 54 Central Avenue, Staten Island, this public parking has 721 spaces, including 37 slots for people with disabilities.

It is open Monday to Friday, from 6 am to 10 pm.

The parking lot charges 1.75 USD for up to one hour and for additional hours 2 USD to a maximum of 8 USD.

Besides these two, there are privately operated parking lots as well nearby.  Get Directions


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Schedule for Staten Island Ferry

As mention earlier, around 70,000 people take these ferries every day.

More frequent service – one boat every 15 or 20 minutes – is provided on the weekdays during the rush hours of 6 am to 9.30 pm and 3.30 pm to 8 pm.

Despite the higher frequency, during the rush hours, the ferry boats are full.

The Staten Island Ferry follows a separate schedule for weekdays, weekends, and holidays, and we share them below.

Staten Island Ferry’s weekday time table

Schedule of ferries starting from both the terminals are provided below.

Office rush hours are shown in bold.

From St. George Terminal

AM TripsPM Trips
12:0012:00
1:0012:30
2:001:00
3:001:30
4:002:00
5:002:30
5:303:00
6:003:30
6:203:50
6:404:10
7:004:30
7:204:50
7:405:10
8:005:30
8:205:50
8:406:10
9:006:30
9:307:00
10:007:30
10:308:00
11:009:00
11:3010:00
 11:00

From Whitehall Terminal 

AM TripsPM Trips
12:3012:00
1:3012:30
2:301:00
3:301:30
4:302:00
5:302:30
6:003:00
6:303:30
6:504:00
7:104:20
7:304:40
7:505:00
8:105:20
8:305:40
8:506:00
9:106:20
9:306:40
10:007:00
10:307:30
11:008:00
11:308:30
 9:30
 10:30
 11:30

Staten Island Ferry’s weekend time table

There are no peak times during the weekend.

From St. George Terminal

AM TripsPM Trips
12:0012:00
1:0012:30
2:001:00
3:001:30
4:002:00
5:002:30
6:003:00
7:003:30
7:304:00
8:004:30
8:305:00
9:005:30
9:306:00
10:006:30
10:307:00
11:008:00
11:309:00
 10:00
 11:00
  

From Whitehall Terminal 

AM TripsPM Trips
12:3012:00
1:3012:30
2:301:00
3:301:30
4:302:00
5:302:30
6:303:00
7:303:30
8:004:00
8:304:30
9:005:00
9:305:30
10:006:00
10:306:30
11:007:00
11:307:30
 8:30
 9:30
 10:30
 11:30

Ferry schedule on holidays

On New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day, the Staten Island Ferry operates on a separate holiday schedule.

The Ferry’s holiday schedule is very similar to the weekend timings we have shared above.

Note: The schedule gets adjusted without prior notice during severe weather conditions or when fog leads to reduced visibility.

Ferry Terminal late-night closures

While the waiting halls at Whitehall Terminal are always open, the St George Ferry Terminal waiting rooms get closed intermittently between the hours of 1 am, and 4:30 am to follow federally mandated security procedures. 

During such times, passengers must wait inside at a designated location inside the Terminal.

Once the Terminal authorities, passengers can once again enter the waiting room and wait for their boat to arrive.


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Best time to take Staten Island Ferry

While planning your leisurely ride on Statue of Liberty free ferry, you must plan outside of the rush hours. 

The best time to board the free Staten Island Ferry is between 10 am and 11:30 am or after 7 pm.

By 10 am, the office goers have reached their destinations, and the ferries far more comfortable for a sightseeing trip. 

By 7 pm, the office crowd is still trying to get back home, but they are few in numbers and don’t affect the sightseeing experience. 

Some tourists believe that 7 pm is the best time to be on the Staten Island Ferry in summer because they get to see the sunset. 

How long does Staten Island Ferry take

The Staten Island Ferry’s travel time in either direction between Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan and St. George Terminal in Staten Island is approximately 25 minutes. 


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Staten Island Ferry route

Staten Island Ferry’s route is 8.4 km (5.2 miles) long and takes 25 minutes to complete.

Staten Island Ferry route map

The ferry to Staten Island departs from the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal at the southernmost tip of Manhattan and follows a single route. 

On Staten Island, the ferry boats to Manhattan depart from the St. George Ferry Terminal on Richmond Terrace, near Richmond County’s Borough Hall and Supreme Court.

The route followed by the Staten Island Ferries is a simple straight line between these two points. 

However, looking at the route map, one can argue that the ferries try to get ‘a little’ closer to the Statue of Liberty when they pass by the monument. 


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Views from Staten Island Ferry

The experience of being on the free Staten Island Ferry is so moving (pun intended!) that the backdrop of the Staten Island Ferry’s route is a popular place for film shoots. 

It has featured in movies such as Working Girl, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, SpiderMan: Homecoming, etc. 

The Staten Island Ferry isn’t just about seeing Statue of Liberty. 

You get to see a lot more fascinating views during your 25 minutes on the boat. 

When looking forward, toward the bow of a ship, port and starboard refer to the left and right sides, respectively. 

We list them below – 

Downtown Jersey City’s skyline

Downtown New Jersey's skyline from Staten Island Ferry
Image: R36 Coach

From the right side of the ferry, you get to see impressive views of New Jersey, across the river.

Lower Manhattan skyline

Manhattan Skyline from Staten Island Ferry
Image: Wikimedia

You then see Manhattan with its impressive One World Trade Center (also called Freedom Tower), standing like a colossus.

Views of Ellis Island

Ellis Island from Staten Island Ferry
Image: Wikimedia

When you realize the importance of Ellis Island – the place from where 12 million immigrants arrived at the Port of New York and New Jersey, it becomes an emotional moment. 

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island

View of Statue of Liberty from Staten Island Ferry
Image: Peter Miller

Ten minutes into the ferry ride, you pass by the Statue of Liberty for one of the best views in New York City.

The photo above captures the Staten Island ferry view of Statue of liberty beautifully.

Governor’s Island

View of Governor's Island from Staten Island Ferry
Image: Ferry.nyc

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge

Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island Ferry
Image: Derek Ramsey

On the Brooklyn side, you get to see Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.

Besides these visuals, you are also likely to see many Naval vessels and ocean liners because New York Harbor is an extremely active port. 

Do keep an eye out for wildlife as well. Seagulls are aplenty, but then there are the occasional dolphins and rare blue whales too!


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Where to sit for best views

While boarding the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan, you must go to the right side of the boat (starboard) for the best view of the Statue of Liberty.

When traveling from Staten Island to Manhattan, stand on the left side (port) of the boat for fantastic views. 

If you stand in front of the ferry (the bow), you can see the oncoming sights and plan your position. 

The outside upper decks on the New Jersey side of the ferries are always the most packed. 

If you get caught in such a crowd, there is no need to push and shove to secure a good position. 

Just head down to the main deck, which has a lot of space and equally good views. 

Camera usage on Staten Island Ferry

You can take as many photographs and videos as long as they are for your personal use. 

However, for commercial use of video, photography, or audio recording, you must have a DOT-issued permit


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Staten Island Ferry at night

Since Staten Island’s free ferry is a 24-hour service, you can even ride it at night.

Night rides are quite beautiful.

https://youtu.be/AM3DD0_H2mQ

Staten Island Ferry at night or day?

If you plan to go on the Staten Island Ferry only once, we recommend scheduling your ride during day time. 

If you have the time to go up to Staten Island and get back to Manhattan twice during your holiday – do it once in the daytime and once at night. 

Both are different experiences. 

More about Statue of Liberty

# Statue of Liberty ferry tickets
# Statue of Liberty tour from New Jersey
# Statue of Liberty trivia
# Reserve tickets vs Crown tickets
# How to buy last minute Liberty Crown tickets

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