Discover New York’s Forgotten Islands

Things to Do, What's New — By elizabethmonson on April 5, 2010 at 11:39 pm

New York is not only one of the most interesting and exciting places to live; it is geographically very interesting as well. It often goes unnoticed; New York is actually made up of several islands large and small. Aside from Staten Island and Long Island, Manhattan is also completely surrounded by water, but some of the most unique places to visit when in New York are the small islands that dot the waters of the city.

Here are a few tiny islands that often go unnoticed, even by New Yorkers.

Governor's Island

A view of Governor's Island from the water.

Governor’s Island

This small island off the bottom tip of Manhattan was recently named a National Monument when the city bought it from itself for only $1 to prevent it from being developed. The island has gone through several uses from military base to Coast Guard residency and summit for Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Now a public space, you can rent bikes to ride around its perimeter, relax in hammocks at one end, drink in a beach beer garden, or attend their annual Jazz Age Party in the summer. The free ferry ride over will also grant you one of the most unique views of the Manhattan skyline.

City Island

Located just north of the Bronx by Pelham Bay, City Island was originally an English settlement as early as 1685. Now the small seaside community is a great place to rent a boat and sail or fish. For a taste of history, here is also a unique Native American burial ground and several funky antique shops.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island from the Staten Island Ferry.

Ellis Island

Deeply entrenched in American history, this small island saw every immigrant to the United States from 1892-1954, over 12 million people. Now it serves as an important museum for the origins of the country. It also makes a great trip when coupled with a stop at the Statue of Liberty.

Randall’s Island

Randall’s Island is one of New York’s true multipurpose facilities. It plays host to several sports centers, the Olympic Trials, and a very popular summer concert series. Bike lanes surround the park with scenic views of the East River. Be sure to check ticket listings for the summer concert series that has featured acts like LCD Soundsystem and Arcade Fire.

Roosevelt Island

The East River from Roosevelt Island.

Roosevelt Island

One of the stranger places to live in New York, Roosevelt Island is easily accessed by gondola instead of subway. This narrow island in the East River was used for years as a place for hospitals for Small Pox victims and Insane Asylums. It still home to the Blackwell House, one of New York’s oldest landmarks.

Coney Island

Not an island, but a great beach!

Some islands that you can’t visit include:

Rikers Island (unless you’re in prison), Hart Island (now used as a cemetery for unidentified bodies), Hoffman Island (used for quarantines), U Thant Island (now a sanctuary for migrating birds), and Mill Rock (they tried to build a park, but there were too many rats).

[photos courtesy of dsearls,, hmerinomx, Monika Szyma]

Tags: Forgotten NYC, New York Islands, NY Islands, NY Travel

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