Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and visit New York City’s only island borough – Staten Island.
Brimming with history, friendly neighbourhoods and all-American community spirit, there is a great deal to explore here.
Access is easy via the iconic Staten Island Ferry, a free service that crosses New York Harbour every half hour.
While the population sits just under half a million, Staten Island is the largest of the city’s five boroughs and the pace on the island feels much more relaxed than the busy heart of downtown Manhattan.
Live like a local by dining in the welcoming restaurants and visiting historic attractions that share stories which have shaped the borough and influenced the culture of the broader city.
Things to do on Staten Island
Snug Harbor Cultural Centre Museum and Gardens
Just a short bus ride or 30-minute walk from the ferry terminal sits 83 acres of historic parkland, a space that has been lovingly restored to its former glory by the dedicated local community.
The grounds were once a retirement home for sailors and many of the historic buildings from this time still stand.
The ‘Snug’ story is told in well-curated detail in the Staten Island Museum, while the expansive gardens, with nine separate and unique precincts, offer the perfect place to enjoy a picnic which you can source from the on-site cafe, Harbor Eats.
The grounds are also home to the Staten Island Children’s Museum and various other galleries and performance spaces.
Snug Harbor Cultural Centre and Botanical Garden: 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY.
National Lighthouse Museum
A visit to the National Lighthouse Museum is a great way to get a glimpse into America’s lighthouse history and the lives of lighthouse keepers.
The intimate museum features Staten Island’s very own Kate Walker, one of the most well-known female lighthouse keepers on the Atlantic coast.
Her husband was a lighthouse keeper and taught her how to tend the light. After her husband’s death in 1886, Walker continued to tend the light but only earned the appointment of lighthouse keeper after the position was turned down by several men.
During her time as a keeper, Walker raised two children and rescued about 50 people.
A highlight is the plinth of replica lighthouses from all over the nation – who knew that the Statue of Liberty was once a lighthouse?
National Lighthouse Museum: 200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point, Staten Island, NY.
Alice Austen House
Visit the historic home of Alice Austen, one of America’s most prolific female photographers.
She was a woman who balked tradition and lived in a same-sex relationship, rode bicycles and drove cars.
The homestead is restored to appear as it did when Alice lived there, before financial troubles forced her to move in 1945.
The cottage grounds are beautiful and open daily until dusk.
Get to the Alice Austen House via a 15-minute bus ride, departing from the ferry terminal. Be sure to visit the website before you visit as exhibitions and events at the homestead regularly change.
Alice Austen House: 2 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY.
Places to eat and drink on Staten Island
Head to local favourite Pier 76, a traditional American-Italian eatery.
You’ll find all the classics here – thin crust pizzas, loaded sandwiches, seafood risotto and waffles.
A little treasure is the outdoor space dubbed ‘the yard’ where you can enjoy your food in the open air.
Pier 76: 76 Bay St, Staten Island, NY.
This simple little Spanish restaurant features some great homestyle tapas dishes.
The set menu offers the best value including a choice of three courses. Tip: try the brunch set menu, it’s delicious.
The cocktail list has all your favourite Latin cocktails including eight varieties of sangria.
No reservations are taken so arrive early.
Beso Restaurant: 11 Schuyler St, Staten Island, NY.
Famous for its ‘pies’, known to most as pizzas, this Italian restaurant has an extensive menu.
The vodka pizza is a must try. The pizza comes with a special sauce made from a smooth passata, vodka, typical Italian herbs and cream. The sauce is used sparingly due to its rich consistency but takes the pizza to a whole new level.
Take advantage of great value lunch specials here to refuel before exploring more of the island.
Molo Ristorante: 987 Bay St, Staten Island, NY.
Where to stay on Staten Island
Choose from a selection of choices on Airbnb. Stay close to the many attractions in West Brighton and St George.
Alternatively, stay in Manhattan and make a day trip (or two) to Staten Island.
Getting to Staten Island
The Staten Island Ferry is a free service between Manhattan and the island which runs on the half hour.
The journey across New York Bay takes half an hour and offers fantastic views looking back at New York City.
On the journey to Staten Island, find a seat outside on the right-hand side of the second floor for the best views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The Whitehall Terminal is located at 4 South Street, Manhattan, NY.
The St. George Terminal is located at 1 Bay Street, Staten Island, NY.
Getting around Staten Island
There are a few options to get around once you’re on Staten Island:
- Buses are the most efficient all-weather way to get around. An MTA ticket is required to ride
- In fair weather, cycling is a great option. Bike rentals are available from a few stores, along with a bike share program. For details download the app from JUMP
- One train line runs along the island but there is no connection to the other boroughs
- Uber and taxi services are also readily available.
Disclaimer: The writer was hosted by Visit Staten Island – the tourism office of Staten Island Borough President, James S. Oddo.