The searing July sun beats down as we weave between tourists sporting "I ❤ NYC" T-shirts, lolling about as they wait for their Statue of Liberty tours to start. My boyfriend and I are in a part of Manhattan we rarely frequent, but here we are darting through the chaotic Financial District with our weekender bags in tow, motivated by a single image we'd seen a few weeks prior.
The scene we're chasing seems too good to be true. A mere eight-minute ferry ride away sits Governors Island, a 172-acre green space that's home to two buzzy attractions: Island Oyster, a waterfront seafood restaurant and bar with an unrivaled city view, and Collective Retreats, a luxury glamping retreat that looks worlds away from Manhattan. The island is more accessible than ever this summer, thanks to a late-night ferry service sponsored by Grey Goose. Watch the sunset from Island Oyster with a Le Grand Fizz in hand, and then catch the last ferry at 11 p.m. back to the city (or retreat to your plush tent).
As the ferry crosses the 800-yard stretch toward Governors Island, the chaos and stifling heat of Manhattan slip away. Up ahead: coastal cycling paths, fresh East Coast oysters, lawn games, and one of the best vodka martinis we've ever had. Bon voyage, Manhattan—here's why New Yorkers are escaping to Governors Island in droves.
EAT & DRINK
Island Oyster remains relatively under the radar, though it opened on July 2017. The 32,000-square-foot waterfront restaurant and bar is everything you want from a summer venue—minus the crowds that plague the usual hot spots. Created by the crew behind Grand Banks, a popular oyster bar on the Hudson River, the space is thoughtfully designed as a tropical retreat from city life. A 36-seat white marble and mahogany bar lets guests watch as oysters are shucked and cocktails are shaken, a 44-seat waterfront banquette is the perfect date-night spot, and communal tables come alive as martinis and tacos are passed around.
In addition to sponsoring the late-night ferry that connects Governors Island to Manhattan, Grey Goose has also partnered with Island Oyster and features on the bar menu. The Fair Winds Fizz (a vodka, lime, Fassionola, orgeat, and seltzer cocktail) is the perfect daytime treat when paired with an oyster plate. As the bar's name suggests, fresh seafood is a specialty—choose from oysters from Long Island Sound, Cape Cod, and Baynes Sound to create the ultimate summer platter. Tacos, burgers, and lobster rolls are also on the available. The fish tacos with fried North Atlantic cape shark, fennel slaw, and chipotle mayo are particularly good.
If your evening ends with an oyster platter and cocktail, jump aboard the ferry back to Manhattan. The service runs every half hour on weekends and the last connection from Governors Island leaves at 11 p.m. on Saturday night. Thankfully the dock is right next to Island Oyster, so you can watch the boat pull up, finish your drink, and jump aboard to motor back toward the glowing highrise. Looking to extend your weekend escape? Continue the adventure by sleeping the night in a luxury tent by Collective Retreats.
You'd be forgiven for thinking this glamping retreat is set in the Serengeti or among the fir trees in Big Sky, Montana. That's exactly the thought I had when I first saw the luxury tents that dot Governors Island: How does this exist mere minutes from the Financial District? The retreat feels worlds away from the sirens and sweltering heat of the city. Pitched right by the water, the tents billow with a breeze straight off the river (which is important to note, given they do not have air conditioning), and most have direct views of the Statue of Liberty or Freedom Tower.
Collective Retreats is the first-ever hotel on the New York City landmark, adding to its portfolio of luxury offerings in Montana, the Texas Hill Country, and more. Take your pick from two lodging options—a Summit Tent, which is complete with a king bed and private en-suite bathroom, or a smaller Journey Tent, which has a shared bathroom.
Our accommodation for the night is a surprisingly spacious Summit Tent (pictured). In fact, calling it a tent seems like an undersell—the luxury lodging has amenities to rival a hotel, including a rain shower with hot water, marble vanity, plush Parachute bath towels, 1500-thread-count linens, and rustic chandeliers with electricity. As we watch the Freedom Tower and Statue of Liberty glitter from the bed, I can't help but think of the tourists we passed on our way to the ferry.
Surely this is the best way to see New York.
Loved the cocktails you had at Island Oyster? Try them at home with these three-ingredient cocktail recipes.
This press trip was hosted by Grey Goose. Editors' opinions are her own.