10 Fun Things to Do on Governors Island

Gillian Osswald

(Updated 05/13/2019)

Summer and Governors Island make a perfect pair. The 172-acre island, a former military base used in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, serves as a seasonal recreation space with green lawns ready for picnics, paths fit for bicycle rides and hammocks primed for relaxing in the sunshine. It’s a short ferry ride away, less than 10 minutes from Manhattan’s Battery Maritime Building (daily) or Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 (weekends only). Upon arrival, you’ll find plenty of ways to explore the New York Harbor oasis—no matter your style or speed. Read on for a few of our favorite island activities.

Courtesy, Governor's Island

1. Soar along a 300-foot zip line.

Riders on the Flywire Zipline, one of a handful of Adventures at Governors Island attractions, can check out the Lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty from high above while traveling up to 21 miles per hour.

Courtesy, Governor's Island

2. Take to the seas.

There’s fun to be had surrounding Governors Island too. Try a relaxing kayak ride in the bay via The Downtown Boathouse, which provides free boat rental and instruction.

Courtesy, Governors Island

3. Sleep over in style.

Thanks to the decked-out tents courtesy of Collective Retreats, visitors can now glamp (glamorously camp, of course) on the island overnight.

Installation by Jacob Hashimoto. Photo: Timothy Schenck

4. Experience the art scene.

Public art installations, like Jacob Hashimoto’s Never Comes Tomorrow, are located all around the island (also check out Rachel Whiteread’s Cabin on Discovery Hill), while rotating exhibits regularly take up residence on Colonels Row.

Photo: Kate Glicksberg

5. Pedal a quadracycle.

Bikes are great way to explore the island’s 7 miles of car-free paths, but rent a quadracycle or six-person surrey for double the wheels and the fun.

Photo: Timothy Schenck

6. Slide down NYC’s longest slide.

Kids and teens can head for The Hills to see impressive views of the City before sailing down Slide Hill’s 57-foot eponymous attraction.

Courtesy, Governors Island

7. Enjoy drinks with a view.

Cocktails, oysters and waterfront views await at Island Oyster, a sprawling tropical-themed drinking destination near the Soissons Landing ferry stop.


Photo: Julienne Schaer

8. Explore a castle.

Take a free tour around 200-year-old Castle Williams to learn about its storied past as a military fortress and army prison.

Photo: Kate Glicksberg

9. Attempt the Charleston.

Twice a summer, the Jazz Age Lawn Party invites revelers to kick up their heels in their finest vintage duds.

Photo: Timothy Schenck

10. Chill in a hammock.

Grassy, sunny Hammock Grove proves you don’t have to be doing much of anything to enjoy the Island life.