Long Island Ferries - Traveling To & From LI Via Ferry Boat
Each year, more than a million tourists visit Long Island to play on its beaches, wander its wine country and enjoy its preserved natural parks, and for many, taking a ferry back and forth is a special part of the experience. Each ferry company has a distinctive purpose and character and delivers a unique service for those who choose to slow down and enjoy the journey as much as the final destination.
The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, the Cross Sound Ferry and the Viking Fleet Ferry regularly transport vacationers and business people, with or without their vehicles, from Long Island to southern New England.
The Davis Park Ferry Company, the Bay Shore Ferry Service and the Sayville Ferry Service carry pedestrians across Great South Bay to Fire Island, a popular vacation spot on the southern side of Long Island. Water taxis connect the 17 different communities and various attractions that make up this recreational hot spot.
For those visiting or leaving Shelter Island, the North Ferry connects to the North Fork at Greenport, and the South Ferry travels to North Haven, a South Fork community.
Across the Sound
There are several great reasons to take the ferry from Long Island to southern New England. For those who love the excitement of gambling, the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos in Connecticut are popular attractions, and special deals are available to ferry-users on selected days. One-day tours of scenic New England are offered through the N.E. Tour Department, a division of the ferry company. Fall foliage tours and ski packages are also available. “Leaf-peeping” in Maine, skiing in Vermont, collecting sea shells on the shores of Cape Cod and touring mansions in Newport, R.I. are wonderful vacation excursions. Other popular attractions include Mystic Seaport and Aquarium, the Nautilus Museum and for golfers, the famous Pequot Golf Club of Connecticut.
Of course, Long Island has its own brand of charm as well — wine tasting at more than 30 romantic vineyards; relaxing at quaint bed and breakfast inns; touring the fabulous estates of the “Gold Coast”; playing golf at public and private courses; getting wet at Splish Splash, the largest water park in New York state; shopping at Tanger Outlets and expensive boutiques; and, of course, sunbathing on the miles and miles of Long Island's unspoiled beaches and coastline.
Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company
Operating since 1883, this ferry service was founded by a company of 27 stockholders. The investors included P.T. Barnum, the circus impresario and long-time resident of Bridgeport, and his close friend, Captain Tooker, a deep-water sailor from Port Jefferson. Barnum was elected the first president of the company. Steamboat activity in the Sound was very common in the 1880s when ferries were used primarily to move farm produce to the industrialized mainland.
The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamship Company has employed several carriers during more than a century of operation. The 120-foot Nonowantuc was the first steamship to be placed in service. A crew of six operated the craft from 1884–1902, transporting up to 350 passengers across the Sound.
Today, the company’s three ferries make numerous daily trips across the 17.1 nautical miles from Long Island’s Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, Connecticut:
The P.T. Barnum has been plying the waters of the Sound since 1998. The 300-foot ship has a beam of 52 feet and can carry 120 vehicles and 1,000 passengers.
Park City, also known as the “green” ferry, has been working for the company since 1986. Just slightly smaller than the P.T. Barnum, this ship can accommodate 95 vehicles and 1,000 passengers. State-of-the-art engines and generators that produce 40 to 55 percent fewer emissions have replaced the original parts, and fuel savings has been significant.
The Grand Republic has been in operation since 2003. As large as the P.T. Barnum, it can also handle 120 vehicles and 1,000 travelers. Despite its size, it moves through the water at an impressive 20 knots per hour.
Passengers crossing Long Island Sound may be treated to both a breakfast and an all-day galley menu that includes hot and cold sandwiches, salads, fruit cups and hot or cold drinks. At the lounge, burgers, fries and sandwiches are offered with a variety of alcoholic beverages. In the summer, an outdoor bar area is also a popular place to “hang out” during the crossing. Flat screen TVs and wireless Internet help pass the time or provide an opportunity to work. Live entertainment is offered on specific nights during the warmer months.
While walk-on passengers are welcome at all times, the company strongly recommends that those who are driving a vehicle obtain a minimum two-hour reservation to guarantee a space on board. Commuter ticket books are available at the Port Jefferson terminal. Children under the age of 12 can travel at no charge, and senior pedestrians can receive a discount. Elevators assist the handicapped. Pets on leash or in carriers are allowed in limited areas of the ferry. Bicycles are also free. Travelers are responsible for their own luggage. A freight transport occurs once a day.
Passengers should plan to arrive at the terminal at least 30 minutes before departure. Fares are collected on board. The scenic crossing will take approximately 75 minutes. The nearest train connections are within one mile of the Port Jefferson terminal and one-fourth mile of the Bridgeport terminal.
Cross Sound Ferry
Founded in 1975, this company is still owned and operated by a brother-and-sister team, Jessica and Adam Wronowski. The original intent of their ferry service was to allow travelers the option of circumventing the 100- to 200-mile drive through the congested traffic of Long Island and Connecticut. More than one million passengers a year use the Cross Sound Ferry from Orient Point, Long Island, to New London, Conn. They use this service for business trips, romantic getaways and family vacations. Ferries from the New London terminal also travel to Fisher’s Island and on a seasonal basis to Block Island, R.I.
The eight-vessel fleet operated by Cross Sound Ferry makes 23 daily crossings — carrying passengers, autos, trucks, buses and motor homes. The following ferries are currently on duty:
Cape Henlopen - Built in 1941, this ship participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy as a World War II landing craft. The largest of the ferries in service, it is 327 feet long and can carry 900 passengers and 90 vehicles.
MV John H. - Built specifically for Cross Sound Ferry Service, this craft can transport 1,000 passengers and 120 cars. Its amenities include a children’s entertainment area, comfortable movie theatre chairs, a lounge, a snack bar, and elevators for the elderly or disabled.
Mary Ellen - One of the swiftest in the fleet.
Susan Anne - Formerly used to ferry travelers between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Canada, this ship can make the crossing in 75 minutes and carries 840 passengers. Airline style seating and booths improve the quality of the ride.
New London - Standard ferry with length of 260 feet.
North Star - Standard ferry with length of 168 feet.
Caribbean - The smallest ferry in the fleet. At 128 feet in length, this ship can still transport 120 passengers and 22 vehicles.
Sea Jet 1 was built in Australia in 1989 and purchased by Cross Sound Ferry in 1995. It has also seen duty in Hawaii and California prior to coming to the East Coast. The 122-foot craft carries 400 passengers, but unlike the others, it does not transport vehicles — not even motorcycles or bicycles. Its unique, wave-piercing catamaran design and 5,000 horse power engine propels the ferry across the Sound at speeds as high as 30 knots (35 mph). The Sea Jet 1 can complete the 16-mile crossing successfully in 40 minutes or about half the regular trip time. Comfortable airline seating and passenger amenities such as eight TV screens make the short trip enjoyable, stress-free and relaxing. Free motor coach service and special packages to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos are available.
The Cross Sound Ferry has replaced commuter cards with the “Captain’s Card,” a reloadable debit card that offers bonus dollars for certain purchase amounts. There is also a Rewards Program for frequent travelers. Children under the age of 12 pay a reduced rate. Bicycles and motorcycles are allowed on all ferries except the Sea Jet 1.
Viking Fleet Ferry
Paul G. Forsberg owns and operates Viking Fleet, a company that was started by his father in 1936 in Freeport, NY. His father brought the company with him when he moved to Montauk in 1951. It is still very much a family business with children and grandchildren actively involved. In addition to a single high-speed ferry, the fleet maintains three party-fishing boats, a commercial fishing vessel and a cruise vessel. A new addition is under construction in Florida.
Ferry service connects Montauk passengers to Block Island in Rhode Island, New London and Mystic in Connecticut, and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. The three-deck Viking Super Star was custom-designed by Captain Paul Forsberg and is operated by USCG-licensed captains. Its 120-foot-long, anti-sickness design offers the best possible comfort in high-speed water transport. A total of 225 passengers can be seated indoors or outdoors. Both air-conditioning and heating are provided as the weather dictates. No vehicles are accepted on Viking Fleet, but there is limited space for bikes and surf boards with prior approval. Passengers may bring two pieces of luggage and a carry-on bag or a two-piece combination of luggage and golf clubs or fishing equipment and a carry-on bag at no extra charge. However, there is a fee for additional pieces of luggage or equipment. Pets on leash are welcome in outdoor areas of the ferry.
Reservations are recommended and boarding passes should be picked up when checking in 30 minutes prior to departure.
Montauk, home port for the Viking Fleet Ferry, is one of the world’s fishing capitals. The Viking Super Star is berthed at Viking Dock at 462 Westlake Drive. Parking is available across the street from the office when a $10/day parking pass is purchased.
Passengers leaving New London for Long Island board at the Cross Sound Ferry Dock. Because there is no office, tickets are purchased on board. Parking is available at the public lot across the street from the nearby railroad station and in a municipal lot that sits adjacent to the ferry. Passengers arriving in New London will find the variety of casinos, countryside and culture is more than enough to fill a vacation with wonderful memories.
Passengers traveling to and from Martha’s Vineyard are dropped off and picked up in Oak Bluffs. Viking Fleet Ferry notifies local cab companies of arrivals so that transportation is waiting at the dock. The crossing time from Long Island is six hours. Cape Cod visitors are drawn to Massachusetts by the lure of the beaches, the Theatre Company and the possibility of crossing paths with the rich and famous.
Block Island travelers are picked up and dropped off at Champlin’s Marina. Visitors from Long Island visit this little island paradise to enjoy its 350 freshwater ponds and 17 miles of pristine beaches.
Across Great South Bay To Fire Island
From its shady beginnings as a hideaway for pirates and rum runners, Fire Island has evolved into a summer play area for vacationers from nearby New York City, from across the United States and from around the world. Enjoying the island’s 32 miles of pristine, sandy beaches may be the biggest reason to visit Fire Island, but it is certainly not the only one. Fine dining, historic lighthouses, a primordial holly forest, countless varieties of birds and an abundance of wildlife are also worth the trip. Two openly gay communities thrive on Fire Island, and there is plenty of exciting nightlife for the after-hours crowd. Whether visitors come to backpack, sunbathe, souvenir shop, party or simply wander the boardwalks, families and singles can find all kinds of vacation fun here. With that being said, there are also a few residential communities that do not appreciate tourist invasions. They ask that their privacy be respected. Knowing where tourists are welcome is an important part of having a positive experience on Fire Island.
A two-hour drive by either car or the Long Island Rail Road brings vacationers to the north side of Great South Bay, within range of fun and relaxation. However, because private vehicles are not allowed on this long, narrow sand spit that is known as Fire Island, access is limited to ferries, water taxis, private boats, and sea planes. The first ferry service across the Great South Bay began in 1856. As more communities have expanded on Fire Island, every kind of craft from clam dredgers to rum runners to fishing boats and yachts has been used to transport people.
Today, the 17 diverse communities and attractions that perch along the length of Fire Island are serviced by three ferry companies.
Fire Island Ferries operates Bay Shore Ferry Service, which handles the communities on the west end of the strip. Main terminals are located at Bay Shore, Ocean Beach and Seaview.
Sayville Ferry Service transports passengers to the central villages of Cherry Grove, Fire Island Pines, Water Island and Sailor’s Haven/Sunken Forest, a part of the Fire Island National Seashore.
Davis Park Ferry Company travels from Patchogue to Davis Park and Watch Hill on the eastern end of the island.
Other locations also served on Fire Island are: Atlantique, Duneland, Fire Island Lighthouse, Fair Harbor, Kismet, Ocean Bay Park, Point O’Woods and Saltaire, Corneille Estates, the Fire Island Summer Club, Robin’s Rest and Lonelyville.
Parking is available adjacent to each company terminal on a first-come, first-served basis. Motorcycles are charged at the same rate as larger vehicles. Cash only is the accepted method of payment, not only at the parking lots but at most businesses on Fire Island.
Fire Island Ferries At Bay Shore
Located just off Montauk Highway, which is also known as Bay Shore’s “Main Street,” Fire Island Ferries Service offers transportation year round, as weather permits. Peak service occurs between May and September. Departures for the 25-minute ride leave every 60–90 minutes, starting at approximately 7 a.m. and ending around 10 p.m. Departure times from Bay Shore are scheduled to coincide with train arrivals and taxi delivery to the dock. Later evening rides may be available during summer weekends. Fire Island Ferries service is also available for private charters for weddings, graduation parties, sunset cruises and other such celebrations. Reservations must be made in advance.
Passengers may purchase one-way, round-trip and discounted books of tickets. Seniors with a Suffolk County ID qualify for reduced prices. Children of ages 2–12 and dogs travel for the same lower rate. Little ones under 2 years of age are free. Travelers may carry two pieces of luggage totaling less than 25 pounds with no extra expense, but shopping carts and extra pieces will be charged. Neither bikes nor large wagons are transported on the passenger ferries. However, they may be brought over to Fire Island by the freight boats that run Monday through Saturday. Printable schedules are offered on the website.
Parking is available at both Bay Shore terminals: 99 Maple St. and 104 Maple St. Rates apply for daily, weekly and monthly parking on a first-come, first-served basis. Payment must be made by cash as checks and credit cards are not accepted. Motorcycles pay the same rate as cars, and oversized vehicles are charged extra by the day.
Sayville Ferry Service
Founded in 1894, the Sayville Ferry also runs year round, weather permitting. Departures leave every 30 minutes starting at approximately 7 a.m. and may run until midnight or later, depending upon the time of year and demand. The trip across the Bay generally takes about 20–25 minutes.
Tickets to Long Island Pines and Cherry Grove, the two predominantly gay communities on Fire Island, are interchangeable. Other stops include Water Island and Sailor’s Haven/Sunken Forest. Fares vary according to the distance and destination. One-way and round-trip tickets are available. Children under age 12 pay a reduced rate. There is also a charge for dogs on leash. Each passenger may bring two pieces of luggage at no extra cost, but shopping carts and other items will be charged an additional fee. In addition to discounts for seniors and the handicapped, frequent travelers can benefit from commuter and winter rates. Although bikes are not allowed, they can be carried over as freight on certain days. There are no bathrooms on the Sayville ferries.
It is possible to take a taxi directly from the Long Island Rail Road to the main terminal on River Road in Sayville. Drivers can park in the lot across the street.
Davis Park Ferry Company Inc.
The Fred Sherman family has owned and operated their ferry business since 1947. From two small wooden boats, it has grown to a fleet of six steel- or aluminum-hulled ferries and a freight boat. Departures leave Patchogue every 60–90 minutes for the 20–25 minute trip across Great South Bay from mid-March through November.
Passengers leaving Patchogue for Davis Park will use the terminal at Country Road 83. Parking is free for Brookhaven residents at the Sandspit Park and Marina at 80 Brightwood St. Parking is also free for Brookhaven residents at the Watch Hill terminal. There is a charge for non-residents. Watch Hill travelers will leave Patchogue from the terminal at Country Road 19.
In addition to regular ferry service, Davis Park Ferry Company offers water taxi transport for those who miss their ride, are enjoying after-hours activities or need off-season service. With prior reservations the ferries can be chartered for private parties and celebrations, school trips, romantic dinners and sunset cruises.
Fire Island Water Taxis
Although local water taxis do make trips across Great South Bay, their primary function is to ferry visitors back and forth between the various communities and places of interest on Fire Island. They are available 24 hours a day, weather permitting and run on an hourly schedule during the busy summer season as well as weekends during off-season. Trips to Water Island, Davis Park, Barrett Beach and Watch Hill are on a demand basis with at least two paying passengers.
To locate water taxi landings, look for pilings displaying their distinctive sign. Posters are usually close to the ferry docks.
Expect a fast and windy trip when riding a water taxi. Moving at speeds of 30 knots (35 mph), these boats provide an exciting ride from start to finish. However, they are all safely piloted by USCG licensed captains, and bench seating is available indoors for those who prefer a little less wind. Of course, the more adventuresome may enjoy the same bench seating out on the deck.
Passengers pay their fare, which is determined by the distance to the destination, once on board, and as with a regular taxi service, tips are always appreciated. Children under the age of 12 and dogs pay 50 percent of the regular adult fare. There is no fee for infants under the age of 2. Small freight and bicycles are also charged per item. Since frequent traveling by water taxi can become rather expensive, many visitors choose to walk one way to their destination and take the water taxi back later.
Recently, the Fire Island Water Taxi Application has been made available to Android smart phone users.
Fire Island Communities And Attractions
Fire Island Lighthouse - 1857 lighthouse now serves as a museum and observatory. Accessible by Sayville ferry on group basis.
Kismet - Most western community and a “party” village filled with nightclubs, bars and non-stop energy. This community is ideal for singles but becoming more family-friendly. Accessible by car with a 15-minute walk from Robert Moses Beach or by Bay Shore ferry service.
Saltaire - A quiet, family-oriented village with limited businesses but sports fields, tennis court, yacht club and youth activities. Accessible by Bay Shore Ferry.
Fair Harbor - A mixture of singles and families enjoy this village of 400 homes. Restaurants and bars are popular as is swimming in both Great South Bay and the ocean. Life guard supervision is provided. Creative artists abound. Accessible through Bay Shore ferry service.
Dunewood - A 100-home planned residential community with neither rentals nor share properties. Accessible by Bay Shore ferry service.
Lonelyville - One of the first villages on Fire Island, it remains isolated and secluded with no amenities to attract tourists.
Atlantique - Sitting on the narrowest part of Fire Island, this small community of 50 homes is devoted to boating. There are no commercial businesses, but the huge marina has room for 159 boats as long as 55 feet. Accessible by Bay Shore ferry.
Barrett Beach - This recreational area has a life guard on duty in the summer and public restrooms. It sits east of Atlantique and is accessible from the Watch Hill terminal at Patchogue or the Sayville ferry service.
Fire Island Summer Club - A 10-minute walk from Ocean Beach, this community is extremely private and exclusive. It has its own yacht club, beach and tennis courts. Trespassing is strictly forbidden. Accessible from Bay Shore ferry service.
Corneille Estates - Just west of Ocean Beach, this quiet and private community has attracted young single professionals, but it also possesses the only elementary school on Fire Island. It is accessible by Bay Shore ferry service.
Ocean Beach - Considered the unofficial capital of Fire Island, this community of 600 homes has the most restaurants, shops and bars. It also has a nostalgic Main Street that is a major tourist attraction. Accessible by Bay Shore ferry service.
Robin’s Rest - A charming beach village with about 40 homes and situated just a short walk from Ocean Beach. The community sits in the middle of the Federal Seashore Wilderness and is most known for Tequila Jacks, its bay-front hotel. It also has a beautiful marina. Access is from Bay Shore ferry service to Ocean Beach.
Seaview - One of the most desired communities on Fire Island, Seaview is self-contained with its own sports courts, beach, children’s playground and marina. It also has a nice, quiet village ambiance and offers the only synagogue on the island. Accessible by Bay Shore ferry service.
Ocean Bay Park - With a livelier attitude, this community is known as casual and fun-loving. Bike rentals are available here. Access by Bay Shore ferry service.
Point O’ Woods - The oldest community on the island, it is also the one that is entirely fenced in. Unbeatable as a quiet, rustic and secluded residential area. Residents must have children and lease rather than purchase homes. Accessible by Bay Shore ferry service.
Sailor’s Haven/Sunken Forest - Protected by the National Seashore, this is the ideal spot for a family day trip. Boardwalks wander through an ancient forest of holly trees. There are also restrooms, showers, a visitor’s center, snack bar, picnic tables and grills. The beach front has life guards during the summer. Accessible by Sayville ferry, private boat and on foot.
Cherry Grove - Once considered the “gay capital” of Fire Island, it has numerous restaurants, shops, bars and art galleries. It is a popular spot for lesbians, older gay men and artists. Accessible by Sayville ferry service.
Fire Island Pines - The largest community on the island, this town attracts urbane gay men. Discos, restaurants and boutiques abound. Accessible by the Sayville ferry service.
Water Island - A small, quiet community of 50 homes with Davis Park on the east side and Barrett Beach to the west. Residency is exclusive and very private. Accessible by Sayville ferry service.
Davis Park - A newer community and the most easterly one, it is home to both singles and families. The community includes Leja Beach, Ocean Ridge and Davis Park. It also has a 250-slip marina. Tourists are tolerated but not really encouraged. Accessible by Davis Park Ferry Service in Patchogue.
Watch Hill - The largest National Seashore complex, this area has campgrounds, one restaurant and a large public marina. Tourists can enjoy three miles of boardwalks. Accessible by Davis Park Ferry service in Patchogue.
Smith Point - The most eastern point on Fire Island and home of the only surfing competition in this region. It is actually attached to the mainland by the Smith Point Bridge and the William Floyd Parkway. Spacious room for camping. Accessible by car.
From Shelter Island
Shelter Island sits comfortably between the North and South Forks, surrounded on three sides by Shelter Island Sound and on the fourth side by Gardiner’s Bay. It was first settled in 1652 by Nathaniel Sylvester, a sugar merchant from Barbados who built a home on the island for his 16-year-old bride. By 1730, the village had grown to be a town and a refuge for persecuted Quakers. By 1872, it had become a romantic, rural residential area. The first ferryboat service was offered by the Boisseau family from Stearns Point.
During the early 1900s, fish-processing plants were set up on the island, and with the prosperity of that time came more summer camps and permanent homes. However, the Depression left many places abandoned. It wasn’t until after World War II that summer visitors began to return. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, families began to move permanently to Shelter Island, and the population has slowly increased to approximately 2,400 full-time residents. Fans of the feature film “Shelter Island” might recognize some of the scenes shot on location.
The North Ferry Company was established in 1868 to connect Shelter Island to the North Fork at Greenport. It is owned by the Shelter Island Heights Property Ownership Corp. Three ferries are in active, year-round service. They provide a short ferry ride that averages eight minutes in length. Departures leave every 15–20 minutes from early morning to late evening, with extended service hours in the summer. Passengers, autos, vans, and pickup trucks that are less than 22 feet in length are loaded at one of the two docks at the base of Shelter Island Heights. Loading is on a first-come, first-served basis. Over-size vehicles are charged by length, weight and number of axles. Travelers can purchase one-way or same-day return tickets. Pedestrians pay each way. Adult fares cover both vehicle and driver. This applies not only to cars and trucks, but also to bikes and motorcycles. Additional passengers pay separately and each way. There is no charge for children younger than 10 years of age or for pets. Subsidized tickets for residents and discounted commuter passes are also available. All payments are by cash or local check. Credit cards are not accepted. The ferries are handicap accessible.
For pedestrian travelers, tokens may be purchased from the office or the machine at the passenger terminal. Subsidized tokens are also available at the office. Cyclists and motorcyclists should wait at the staging area in front of the terminal building until directed to load. Vehicle, bicycle and motorcycle fares are collected from those who have boarded.
Travelers from New England will catch the Cross Sound Ferry in New London, Conn. and land at Orient Point on the North Fork. From there, follow Route 25A west to 114 South to Wiggins Street in Greenport. Follow Wiggins Street as it loops to form a line across the street from the ferry.
Travelers leaving Shelter Island should wait in the ferry line that is to the right of the white line. Free parking is offered at the lot on the nearby street.
In the late 1700s, Samuel Clark of Connecticut moved to Shelter Island and began a rowboat service between Hog Neck, now known as North Haven, on the South Fork and the south side of Shelter Island. His ferry business has been carried on by five generations of Clark family members. Brothers Cliff and Bill Clark share ownership of the South Ferry Company today and assert that it may well be the longest continuously running ferry service in America. From the original two wooden boats, the fleet has grown to four ferries. The two newest additions, the Sunrise and the Southern Cross, are outfitted with modern, eco-friendly technology.
The South Ferry Service operates year round, weather permitting, from early morning to late evening. Hours are extended during the summertime and weekends when tourists flock to this bucolic little island. Departures leave every 15–20 minutes for the 4–5 minute crossing. Autos, vans, and trucks less than 20 feet in length are transported for one fee. Oversize vehicles are charged a separate commercial rate. There is also an additional charge for bumper racks. Drivers or riders are included in the vehicle fare for one-way or same-day return trips. Passengers and pedestrians pay each way.
Travelers coming from Long Island will pass through Sag Harbor and follow 114 North to North Haven and the South Ferry terminal at 399 Ferry Rd. Route 114 is also the main thoroughfare across Shelter Island.
In addition to ferry service, the South Ferry Company hosts private parties, dinners and celebrations. A minimum of two weeks’ notice is required. Assistance with music and catering services is also available.