7 Coolest Islands in New York To Visit (with Photos)

by Jon Miksis
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Ready to discover New York’s amazing islands? Step into a world where urban jungles give way to serene shores and lush landscapes. While Manhattan captures the spotlight, New York State holds a treasure trove of captivating islands, each with its own distinct character and hidden wonders to uncover.

Picture yourself strolling along sandy beaches, passing by luxury mansions, and immersing yourself in the mysteries of these hidden gems. With numerous islands awaiting discovery, there’s a boundless array of landscapes, stories, and experiences to enchant your senses.

Lose yourself in quaint fishing villages, where charming streets wind their way to waterfront eateries. Dive into the rich history of old military outposts that have been transformed into cultural hotspots and scenic gardens. With the smell of the sea and the emerald-green waters that surround you, these New York islands will spark your imagination and leave you in awe.

In this article, we invite you to embark on a thrilling journey through the coolest islands in NY that lie beyond the bustling streets of Manhattan. From the Great Lakes to the Long Island Sound, just wait until you see these gorgeous isles. So let your imagination soar and let’s take an odyssey through the coolest islands of New York.

A New York Island like no other
Looking for a New York island that will blow your mind? Keep reading

1. Fire Island

Looking for islands near NYC to add to your wish list? Welcome to Fire Island, where the sun-soaked beaches, carefree atmosphere, and unique island vibes merge to create an irresistible destination. This slender, sandy haven off the coast of Long Island beckons beach lovers and those seeking a respite from the everyday chaos.

Fire Island has an aura of relaxation, where flip-flops are the official footwear and sun-kissed skin is the norm. It attracts a colorful array of visitors—from bohemian beach bums to trendy day-trippers.

But Fire Island isn’t just about its vibe; it’s also about the breathtaking landscapes that unfold before your eyes. Picture this: rolling sand dunes, untouched coastal forests, and pristine sandy shores that stretch for miles.

Explore the iconic Fire Island Lighthouse, perched majestically on the island’s western end. Climb to the top and take in sweeping views that make your heart skip a beat. Indulge in the lively social scene at Ocean Beach, with its charming boardwalk, trendy shops, and vibrant nightlife that keeps the island buzzing well into the night.

Fire Island remains refreshingly untouched. Forget about cars; it’s all about bicycles, flip-flops, and your trusty feet. The island boasts a laid-back ambiance where the absence of flashy resorts and towering hotels allows nature to take center stage. Rustic beachfront homes and quaint guesthouses offer a cozy retreat. This ensures your escape from reality is nothing short of idyllic.

Feel the sun on your face, the sand between your toes, and the whispers of the ocean breeze. It’s easy to see why Fire Island is among the best islands close to New York.

Aerial view of Fire Island
Aerial view of Fire Island

2. Rock Island, NY

Looking for an island experience like no other? Add Rock Island to the list. It’s located in the Saint Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands region of NY that touches Ontario, Canada.

One of the main attractions on Rock Island is the picturesque Rock Island Lighthouse. Perched majestically on the island, this historic structure offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding river and islands. Climb to the top of the lighthouse and let the breathtaking vistas take your breath away.

As you explore the island, you’ll encounter charming walking trails that wind through the lush forests. Be sure to keep an eye out for unique wildlife and the vibrant flora that flourishes in this enchanting ecosystem.

For those seeking adventure, Rock Island offers fantastic opportunities for boating, kayaking, and fishing. Cruise along the river’s shimmering waters, paddle through hidden channels, and cast your line to reel in the catch of the day.

While Rock Island embraces a serene and remote vibe, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t have extensive tourist infrastructure. Visitors can find accommodations and amenities in nearby towns and villages, such as Alexandria Bay or Clayton, where charming bed and breakfasts, hotels, and restaurants await.

So set sail and discover Rock Island in the Thousand Islands region. Let the tranquil beauty, historic landmarks, and outdoor adventures immerse you in an experience that’s truly unforgettable.

Rock Island Lighthouse State Park is a must-see on the New York island
Rock Island Lighthouse State Park is a must-see on the New York island

3. Governor’s Island

Looking for an island in NYC that will blow your mind? Experience Governors Island, the crown jewel that graces the waters just a stone’s throw away from Manhattan’s towering skyline. This magical island of NYC boasts a vibe that’s equal parts urban escape, cultural haven, and whimsical wonderland.

As you step foot on Governors Island, you’re enveloped in a sense of tranquility, as if the city’s hustle and bustle is but a distant memory. Explore lush gardens that burst with vibrant colors, where flowers bloom like confetti tossed in celebration. Immerse yourself in the island’s larger-than-life sculptures and interactive installations that spark the imagination.

For history enthusiasts, exploring the island’s historic buildings is a must. The stunning Governor’s House, Castle Williams, and Fort Jay offer glimpses into the island’s storied past as a military outpost. Marvel at the breathtaking views of the city skyline, a panorama that blends the old and new. It’s cool to see centuries of history stand tall against a backdrop of modernity.

Governors Island is a playground for all, from families seeking a day of leisure and exploration to culture enthusiasts craving a dose of artistic inspiration. Rent a bike and pedal your way through the island’s picturesque paths. Find respite under the shade of towering trees, enjoying a picnic with loved ones as laughter fills the air.

For a unique experience like no other, be sure to add Governor’s Island to your list this year!

Views of Manhattan from Governors Island
Views of Manhattan from Governors Island

4. Heart Island

Let’s embark on a whimsical journey to the captivating Heart Island, nestled in the dazzling Thousand Islands region of New York. Prepare to be enchanted as you set foot on this island paradise, where romance, history, and beauty converge.

Heart Island, aptly named for its romantic shape, attracts visitors from far and wide. This island of NY draws in hopeless romantics, history buffs, and nature lovers alike. It’s a place where dreams come alive and where love stories are etched into the very fabric of the island.

The landscapes of Heart Island are a sight to behold. Picture yourself amidst lush gardens, meticulously crafted to create a botanical wonderland. Stroll through vibrant flower beds, where colors dance and fragrances perfume the air.

At the heart of Heart Island lies the mesmerizing Boldt Castle, one of the world’s coolest castles. Explore its grand halls, marvel at the intricate details, and let the whispers of its history transport you to a bygone era. The castle’s romantic aura lingers, a reminder of the passion that inspired its creation.

As you meander along the island’s scenic trails, be sure to soak in the panoramic views of the St. Lawrence River. Let the gentle breeze caress your face as you take in the awe-inspiring vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.

So, let Heart Island ignite the fire of wanderlust within you. Let it be a symbol of enduring love and a gateway to the imagination. Are you ready to fall under the spell of Heart Island, one of the top places to visit in Upstate NY? It’s not hard to see why this is one of the coolest islands to visit in New York!

Boldt Castle is an architectural wonder
Boldt Castle is an architectural wonder

5. Roosevelt Island

Want to visit an island in NYC with culture and charm? Introducing Roosevelt Island, a hidden gem on East River between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens.

Take a ride on the iconic Roosevelt Island Tramway and soar above the river. From there, admire the panoramic views of the city skyline as you glide towards this enchanting haven. Once you’ve landed, you can savor breathtaking waterfront vistas and feel the pulsating energy of the city at a comfortable distance.

Discover the remnants of its past as a quarantine zone and mental institution, walking in the footsteps of those who once sought solace on this captivating land. This island of New York is a thriving residential community, where picturesque parks and neighborhoods welcome locals and visitors alike.

Top sights on Roosevelt Island include the iconic ruins of the Smallpox Hospital, an architectural gem that serves as a haunting reminder of the island’s past. Traverse the lush landscapes of Four Freedoms Park, an oasis of tranquility honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here, you can pay homage to his legacy while relishing the stunning views of the East River and city skyline.

Fun fact: Did you know that the NYC island was once known as Welfare Island and was home to various charitable and medical institutions? It underwent a transformative rebranding in 1973, paying tribute to the esteemed president who championed social progress and equality.

Grab a bite at local eateries and browse boutiques, all while maintaining the serene ambiance that sets it apart from its bustling neighbors. It won’t be long until you realize why this island close to New York captures so many hearts!

Visit this New York island when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom
Visit this New York island when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom

6. Wellesley Island is one of the most beautiful islands in New York

Looking for New York islands to visit in 2023? Explore the picturesque wonderland of Wellesley Island, a true gem nestled in the Thousand Islands region. This island paradise on the St. Lawrence River is a haven of natural beauty that captivates visitors and locals alike.

Embark on thrilling outdoor adventures as you navigate the island’s scenic trails, winding through lush forests and breathtaking landscapes. Hike through Wellesley Island State Park and let the maze of trees guide you to hidden coves and picnic spots. Cast your line into the crystal-clear waters and reel in a prized catch, immersing yourself in the island’s fishing culture.

For those seeking luxury, indulge in the island’s esteemed golf courses, where meticulously manicured greens beckon you to perfect your swing while taking in the stunning river views. Let the tranquil surroundings inspire you to reach new heights of golfing excellence. Or at the very least, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the scenic fairways.

Wellesley Island also boasts magnificent natural wonders, such as the awe-inspiring Thousand Islands International Bridge. The island connects New York State to Canada, bridging two nations and reminding us of the world’s interconnectedness.

Fun fact: Did you know that Wellesley Island is the largest of the islands in the Thousand Islands region?

As you explore this island paradise, you’ll find a perfect balance between rustic charm and modern amenities. Comfortable accommodations, charming campgrounds, and delightful dining options provide everything you need to unwind and recharge after your adventurous escapades. Is this one of the most amazing islands in New York? You bet!

Wellesley Island in Upstate New York
Wellesley Island in Upstate New York

7. Little Island

As one of the closest islands to NYC, Little Island emerges from the sparkling waters of the Hudson River.

Located at Pier 55, this NYC island is truly a playground for the senses. Immerse yourself in a world where imagination knows no bounds, as artistic performances and lively events unfold against the backdrop of panoramic city views. From live music to dance performances, theater productions to interactive installations, this island’s stage is set for unforgettable experiences.

Little Island was designed by renowned architect Thomas Heatherwick. It’s supported by 132 tulip-shaped concrete columns that give it its distinctive look. These “petals” create a unique topography – making you feel like you’re walking on clouds.

This enchanting island presents a harmonious blend of nature and urbanity, offering a respite from the concrete jungle without straying far from its core. Explore the inviting amphitheater, unwind on cozy seating areas, and let the joy of discovery guide your footsteps.

If you’re seeking out one of the top islands of New York within reach of NYC, this is it!

Little Island in New York City
Little Island in New York City

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about islands in New York

Ready to learn more about all the different islands in NY? Here are some popular questions and answers about the top islands of New York.

What are the 5 islands of New York?

Get ready to uncover the hidden jewels that adorn the magnificent cityscape of New York. Here are the five extraordinary islands that form part of the vibrant tapestry of New York City:

1. Manhattan

The heart and soul of the city, Manhattan is an island bursting with energy and iconic landmarks. From the dazzling lights of Times Square to the towering skyscrapers of Wall Street, this urban playground never fails to mesmerize. Lose yourself in the vibrant neighborhoods, stroll through Central Park, and immerse yourself in the cultural mosaic that defines the Big Apple.

2. Staten Island

Connected to the mainland by the famous Staten Island Ferry, this island offers a tranquil escape from the city’s frenetic pace. Explore the greenery of Snug Harbor Cultural Center and catch views of the Statue of Liberty. Or take a leisurely stroll along the charming streets of St. George.

3. Roosevelt Island

Nestled between Manhattan and Queens, Roosevelt Island offers a peaceful oasis amidst the urban chaos. Accessible by the Roosevelt Island Tramway or the iconic Queensboro Bridge, this island boasts beautiful waterfront parks, scenic promenades, and captivating views of the Manhattan skyline. Uncover the island’s intriguing past, including its history as a former quarantine zone and home to a renowned mental institution.

4. Governors Island

A short ferry ride from Manhattan, Governors Island is a beloved retreat for both locals and visitors alike. This former military outpost has transformed into a cultural haven, hosting vibrant art installations, outdoor concerts, and festivals. Explore its sprawling green spaces, rent a bike, and enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan.

5. Randalls and Wards Islands

Located in the East River, these islands are connected by a series of bridges and offer a serene escape from the urban landscape. Discover the beautiful Randall’s Island Park, home to sports fields, bike paths, and sprawling lawns perfect for picnicking. Take in stunning views of the river and the city’s skyline, and immerse yourself in the island’s tranquil ambiance.

These five islands of NY collectively weave the story of New York City. From the bustling streets of Manhattan to the peaceful retreats of Staten Island, they beckon you to embrace the spirit that defines the city that never sleeps.

Some New York islands to visit are better known than others
Some New York islands to visit are better known than others

How many islands are in NY State?

New York State is home to a staggering number of islands, boasting over 1,700 in total. Yes, you read that right, more than 1,700 islands scattered throughout the state! These islands range in size, shape, and character, forming a diverse archipelago that stretches across lakes, rivers, and coastlines.

From the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River to the lesser-known gems hidden in the Finger Lakes region, the state’s islands offers a wealth of captivating destinations.

What are the names of the islands in New York City?

The islands of New York City include Manhattan, Staten Island, Roosevelt Island, Governors Island, and Randalls and Wards Islands. Each island contributes its unique charm and character to the vibrant tapestry of the city. They offer a mix of urban energy, cultural havens, and serene escapes amidst the bustling metropolis.

From the iconic streets of Manhattan to the tranquil shores of Staten Island and the cultural oasis of Roosevelt Island, these NY islands form integral parts of the diverse and captivating landscape of New York City.

Exclusive islands of NY offer golfing among other activities
Exclusive islands of NY offer golfing among other activities

What are the forgotten islands of NYC?

Prepare to be whisked away to the forgotten islands of New York City, where hidden tales and mysteries await! Among these lesser-known gems are:

Forgotten islands of NY

  1. North Brother Island: Tucked away in the East River, this uninhabited island holds a haunting past. Once home to a hospital for infectious diseases, it housed infamous patients like “Typhoid Mary.” Today, it stands as a captivating ghost island.
  2. South Brother Island: Located near its northern counterpart, South Brother Island shares a similar air of mystery. Covered in lush vegetation, this untouched sanctuary serves as a nesting site for various bird species. Human footprints are rare here, allowing nature to reign supreme.
  3. Mill Rock Island: Nestled between Manhattan and Queens, Mill Rock Island is often overlooked by its towering neighbors. Once a site for a lighthouse, it now offers scenic views and peaceful seclusion, with remnants of its past hidden amidst its rocky terrain.
  4. U Thant Island (Belmont Island): A tiny sliver of land in the East River, U Thant Island boasts an intriguing history. Previously known as Belmont Island, it has been a sanctuary for wildlife and a private retreat for secret societies. Today, it serves as a haven for birds and a reminder of its enigmatic past.
  5. Shooter’s Island: In the Arthur Kill waterway near Staten Island, Shooter’s Island is shrouded in maritime history. Once a military training ground, its name originated from soldiers using the island for target practice. Today, it offers a peaceful escape and an opportunity to observe local wildlife.

These forgotten islands of NYC hold captivating stories, hidden ecosystems, and a sense of intrigue that sparks the imagination. While access to some may be restricted, they remind us that beyond the well-known cityscape, there are still secrets waiting to be unveiled on these enchanting, offbeat isles.

What is the biggest island in New York?

Curious about the largest of islands in New York State? The biggest by far is Long Island. Stretching over 110 miles, Long Island boasts an impressive size that commands attention. It’s a world of its own, with vibrant beach towns, charming villages, and stunning coastal landscapes.

From the bustling streets of Nassau County to the serene beauty of the Hamptons, Long Island offers a diverse range of experiences. Sink your toes into sandy shores, savor fresh seafood delights, and immerse yourself in the unique culture that defines this magnificent island. So grab your sunglasses and get ready to explore the biggest and boldest island in the Empire State. Long Island will leave you in awe of its grandeur and endless possibilities!

What is the small island off of New York?

A tiny island, a mere speck in the vast expanse of water, sits just off the coast of the great city of New York. Its name? Liberty Island! This iconic gem, home to the majestic Statue of Liberty, stands as a symbol of freedom and hope, welcoming countless visitors from around the world.

Standing proud and tall, the statue holds her torch high, illuminating the dreams of millions. This small island in New York packs a punch, capturing the hearts and imaginations of all who lay eyes upon it. So, hop on a boat, feel the salty breeze on your face, and embark on an unforgettable journey to the small but mighty Liberty Island, where history, beauty, and the promise of a brighter future collide.

Waterfront views in NY
Waterfront views in NY

What are the islands near New York?

Prepare to embark on a thrilling island-hopping adventure near the dazzling city of New York! Here are some of the captivating islands of NY that await your exploration:

  1. Governors Island: Just a short ferry ride from Manhattan, this island oasis invites you to escape the urban jungle and immerse yourself in lush gardens, art installations, and breathtaking views of the city skyline.
  2. Fire Island: Off the coast of Long Island, Fire Island beckons with its endless sandy beaches, charming beach towns, and a car-free environment that embraces relaxation and tranquility.
  3. City Island: Nestled within the Bronx, City Island whisks you away to a picturesque fishing village. Enjoy its quaint streets, Victorian-style homes, and delectable seafood shacks.
  4. Roosevelt Island: Connected to Manhattan via the Roosevelt Island Tramway, this island holds a blend of history and modern allure. Explore scenic promenades, waterfront parks, and enjoy stunning views of the East River and the city’s skyline.
  5. The Thousand Islands: Straddling the New York-Canadian border, this breathtaking archipelago in the St. Lawrence River boasts emerald-green waters and countless islands. Discover Boldt Castle, enjoy boating adventures, and revel in the natural beauty of this magical island wonderland.

These best islands near New York offer a diverse array of experiences. This includes everything from cultural exploration to beachfront relaxation and natural wonders. So, grab your sense of adventure, hop on a boat or a ferry, and uncover the hidden treasures that await just beyond the city’s glittering skyline.

Islands near New York that everyone should visit

I hope you enjoyed reading about these NYC islands and destinations throughout the Great Lakes!

As we conclude our exploration of the best islands in New York, we hope you’ve been captivated by the incredible landscapes, rich history, and unique experiences these hidden gems offer. From the vibrant cultural haven of Governors Island to the tranquil shores of Fire Island, and the historic charm of Roosevelt Island, each island has painted a vivid tapestry of adventure and discovery.

Whatever your choice, the islands of New York eagerly await your arrival. Embark on a journey that will ignite your wanderlust and immerse you in the rich tapestry of nature, culture, and history that these islands offer.

The question remains: Which island will you choose to explore first? Happy Travels! -Jon

Islands by New York that all travelers will appreciate
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