Bike To: Governors Island for colonial mystery and weekend festivals

Monday, August 17, 2009
By steven
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If you’re looking for a quick bike getaway from New York and a breath of air, Governors Island is your five minute ferry ride into a time warp. Ivy league-looking row houses meet colonial battleground at this former military base. They’ve got weekend concerts, art installations, and free 1 hr bike rental Fridays!

Bikes and the Ferry: departs Manhattan every half hour: Fridays from 10am – 3pm (last boat returning at 5pm), weekends from 10am – 5pm (last boat back at 7pm). Departs Brooklyn only Sat & Sun 11am – 5:20pm (last boat back at 7pm). Ferries alternate every half hour between the passenger ferry with a limit of 15 bikes aboard, and the car and bike ferry with unlimited bikes. The car ferry has a garage style bike rack (bikes are safe and don’t need to be locked up as long as you’re there to pick it up when you off-board). To board the Manhattan-bound passenger ferry leaving Gov Island, check if there’s a line for bikes. Facing the dock, bikes will be lining up against a wall on your right. Complete ferry schedule.

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What to do on Governors Island:

More info:

When you get off the Manhattan ferry you can head right or left. Most head right toward Castle Williams (pictured above) and then to the tree-shaded Colonels Row, which looks very colonial times meets East Coast Ivy-league campus grounds.

If you head right (west) to the water, you can take the main cycling road around the island. It’s beautiful to bike this mid-afternoon with the water glistening from westward sunlight. This road takes you up to Picnic Point (a very new-construction feeling park with hammocks and food vendor carts at the farthest tip of the island). The east road back down is much quieter.

Heading left from the Manhattan dock (east) takes you to the majority of the activity centers on the island: bike rental, the historical yellow houses open for view, the movie theatre, the Brooklyn Ferry landing, and the entrance to Fort Jay.

Fort Jay has two entrances (east and west), a dry moat, and a number of random pathways to explore. Inside the fort, the four corners each lead to different lookouts, some with cannons. I think the view of the fort buildings from the lookouts is highly reminiscent of London terrace housing (pictured below)… I love it.

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The Recommended Route from Manhattan to Manhattan Ferry:

1. Take West Side Hwy or East River Dr south to terminal if coming from above Houston St. If your starting point is below Houston, the key street to take down is St James Pl which will drop you off directly in front of Ferry Building.

The Recommended Route from Williamsburg to Manhattan Ferry:

1. Cross Williamsburg bridge and take the Clinton St bike path south.

2. R on East Broadway.

3. After 3 blocks, L onto Pike St bike path.

4. R onto South St until arrival at Ferry Building. (Governors Island Ferry Building is to the LEFT [east] of the Staten Island Ferry Building].

Total Biking Time from Williamsburg: 20-25 minutes
Total Biking Distance: 4.5 miles


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The Recommended Route from Williamsburg to Brooklyn Ferry:

1. South on Union Ave.

2. R on Flushing Ave heading west.

3. R at Navy St heading north, curving left at York St heading west.

4. L on Front St, which merges into Old Fulton St and takes you to Ferry Terminal at waterfront.

Total Biking Time: 20 minutes
Total Biking Distance: 3.6 miles


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The Recommended Route from South Brooklyn to Brooklyn Ferry:

1. Take your usual route toward the Brooklyn or Manhattan bridge (ie. any Avenue or bike path heading north, then L onto the Bergen St bike path heading west.)

2. R on Smith St for 5 blocks, a quick detour L on Schermerhorn for 1 block then turn back R onto Boerum Pl (aka Brooklyn Bridge Blvd).

3. L on Tillary St for 2 blocks, then veer R onto Cadman Plaza W (aka Old Fulton St) until you reach the waterfront.