After we’d taken the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan, we visited Castle Clinton. However, we really wanted to do something more before we took the ferry back to where we’d parked on Staten Island. And, oh, did we find something nice in the East River Esplanade! We got great views of the East River, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. We even saw Wall Street, albeit far away from the buildings that have made Wall Street famous. A crowning touch was several tallships docked near a viewing area. It was a very nice way to spend an afternoon; I’d love to go back and explore it further. There is construction on the Esplanade at the moment, but eventually it will be very nice—safe for pedestrians and cyclists, and a great place to walk and enjoy the river. We walked about a mile (2 km) down it to a viewing platform—a great place to hang out for a while, eat lunch, enjoy the view, watch river traffic, whatever. We just snapped pictures, watched the helicopters take off from the nearby heliport, and admired the tallships next to the platform. And, it’s even wheelchair- and bicycle-accessible, so it’s a great place for both those who are used to walking and those on wheels!
To get to the Esplanade (known as the “East River Bikeway” on Google Maps) from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal on Long Island, turn right out of the doors and head over toward the building where the Governor’s Island Ferry docks. This ferry only runs on Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays, although I’ve read that the ferry is free those days. Since we were visiting on a Friday, we continued past this building and on towards the Esplanade (which seems to begin as soon as the Governor’s Island Ferry building ends). As a word of warning for those on wheels, the area between the Staten Island Ferry building and the Esplanade is wheelchair- and bicycle-accessible, but you’ll have to keep a sharp eye out for the ramps to take you off the curb. The member of our group who was in a wheelchair had to look a bit to find the path that would take her over to the Governor’s Island Ferry building. The sidewalk in front of this building is narrow, but wide enough for an average wheelchair.
After you’ve walked past the Governor’s Island Ferry building, you’ll walk out onto the Esplanade. When we walked it, the sidewalk was under construction, so a very narrow path led between gates and cones—it’s wide enough for a wheelchair, but not much else! Once this is completed, it will be very nice, with the river on one side and, a nice distance away, a road. There’s also an elevated road (FDR Drive) next to the Esplanade; you can walk underneath it to get to the “side streets” that intersect the main road. After a short while, the fence ended, and we were treated to what the Esplanade will look like when it’s finished. About 0.4 miles (0.6 km) from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, you’ll come to Wall Street—you can access it by walking underneath the elevated road and crossing the street at the crosswalk. We crossed over and enjoyed the gardens and fountain (dedicated to some of the victims of 9/11) on Wall Street on our way back.
After you’ve enjoyed Wall Street, keep walking down the Esplanade with the river on your right. About 0.2 miles (0.3 km) later, you’ll come to a cool little platform on your right. This is after the heliport and before a docking area where two large tallships and several smaller boats (including water taxis and a ferry cruise boat) were moored—I get the impression that the tallships are there semi-permanently. Turn right here to go up on the top of the viewing platform. This is a ramp, so it’s accessible by wheelchairs, bicycles, strollers, etc. It looked like this was a favorite place for those who worked in the area to eat lunch. We just enjoyed the view. From up here, you can see a variety of boats in the river. You can also see the Brooklyn Bridge clearly, and the Manhattan Bridge beyond it. Turning the other way, you can see the heliport (which was simply buzzing with helicopters the day we saw it—there are scenic rides available). The whole area is nicely done; you can even walk underneath the platform out to the end of the pier to be closer to the water if you don’t go up the ramp.
The area beyond the platform seemed to be under serious construction. Also, my group members were tired and hungry, so we decided to go back to the ferry terminal. You could keep walking; someday I’d like to go back and walk up to and across the Brooklyn Bridge (1 miles (2 km) from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal). No matter what you do, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, strolling the waterfront and enjoying a “nicer” part of New York City!
Round Trip Trail Length: About 2 miles (4 km); varies
Facilities: None along the Esplanade; the Staten Island Ferry Terminal has restrooms and there are drinking fountains outside
Fees: None (unless you pay $8 to park for the Staten Island Ferry)
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
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Wed Aug 16
Sunshine and a few clouds. High 86F. Winds light and variable.
Thu Aug 17
Mostly sunny skies. High 81F. Winds light and variable.
Fri Aug 18
Chance of a Thunderstorm
Mixed clouds and sun with scattered thunderstorms. High 79F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Sat Aug 19
Cloudy skies early will become partly cloudy later in the day. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High near 85F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph.
Sun Aug 20
Mostly sunny skies. High 86F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.