Home Travel 23 New York State Islands You Have to Visit

23 New York State Islands You Have to Visit

by Ohio Digital News

Spend some island time in New York State! Whether you prefer an island with a mysterious history, beachfront ambiance, or an elegant castle fit for royalty, New York’s islands are waiting for you to explore. Unlock an up-close view of Niagara Falls, zoom down a 700-foot oceanside zipline, island camp under the stars, and more, from Long Island to the Thousand Islands. Read on for 23 New York islands to add to your next island-hopping adventure! Photo credit: @_tani.photography_ on Instagram.

Heart Island (Thousand Islands-Seaway)

Aerial view of Boldt Castle on Heart Island on a sunny dayCredit: @410films on Instagram 

Surrounded by the dazzling waters of the St. Lawrence River just off the coast of Alexandria Bay is an island dedicated to love. Heart Island (which does actually resemble a heart) is home to the 120-room Rhineland-style Boldt Castle, which was originally commissioned by George Boldt as a gift to his wife Louise in 1900. Not only is this castle breathtaking, there’s also hearts hidden all throughout the grounds and structures. Take a scenic boat ride out to this lovely island with Uncle Sam Boat Tours and explore the castle on a guided tour (open May-October).   

Dark Island (Thousand Islands-Seaway)

Side view of Singer Castle on Dark Island from the airCredit: @featherinflightproductions on Instagram

Take a boat ride out to Dark Island, where you’ll find the 28-room Scottish-inspired Singer Castle. This amazing landmark was once occupied by the fifth CEO of Singer Sewing Machine Company, Frederick Bourne. The seven-acre island grounds are sure to impress, featuring a five-story clock tower, four-story boat house, heated squash court, pergola and rose garden, as well as hidden passageways into almost every room and outbuilding. Climb aboard Uncle Sam Boat Tours for a narrated tour of the castle (open April- October). You may even get to hear about the castle’s mysterious history and possible haunting. If you really want to live like royalty, stay overnight in the Singer Castle Royal Suite!

Grindstone Island (Thousand Islands-Seaway)

Across the river from the idyllic Town of Clayton lies the Thousand Islands’ fourth largest island! Grindstone Island’s 650 beautiful acres are home to a delicate and unique ecosystem almost half of which is preserved and protected. On the parts open to visitors, you’ll find beautiful beaches, working farms, a vibrant seasonal community, and Grindstone Winery’s 3.5-acre vineyard. Book a winery boat tour with 1000 Islands Excursions, which includes a relaxing boat tour of the area and a stop at the Grindstone Tasting room (open May-October).

Wellesley Island (Thousand Islands-Seaway)

A tent by the water at sunsetCredit: @alicaspe on Instagram

The largest of the Thousand Islands on the U.S. side, Wellesley Island is a secluded island paradise. The island is accessible by car via Thousand Islands Bridge which offers a stunning view of the St. Lawrence River and nearby islands from above. Stop at Wellesley Island State Park, home to the largest camping complex in the region, fantastic fishing opportunities, amazing views, and the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, featuring eight miles of trails, exciting events, and in July and August, a mesmerizing butterfly house.     

Rock Island (Thousand Islands-Seaway)

A boat cruising through the water in front of the Rock Island LighthouseCredit: @itswandering on Instagram

Pay a visit to this little island located between Clayton and Alexandria Bay. Rock Island is home to the picturesque 19th-century Rock Island Lighthouse, one of six lighthouses built along the St. Lawrence River to aid navigation along the waterway to and from Lake Ontario. The island is accessible by boat only, so book an unforgettable tour to the island with Clayton Island Tours (offered May-September). You’ll get to admire the St. Lawrence River from a boat with a clear glass bottom, explore Rock Island Lighthouse State Park, and climb the steps of the historic lighthouse.

Fire Island (Long Island)

Aerial view of the Fire Island Lighthouse on the western end of the Fire Island National SeashoreCredit: @rjwphoto on Instagram 

Fire Island’s tranquil car-free oasis encompasses all you could need for true relaxation! Stretching 32 miles along the dazzling Atlantic Ocean, this island is also home to two of the country’s earliest LGBTQ communities, Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines. Take a walk down the Fire Island National Seashore and climb the 182 steps up to the Fire Island Lighthouse, located at the western end of the shore, or stroll down five miles of white, fine, sandy beaches at Robert Moses State Park, which also offers amazing opportunities for saltwater and surf fishing.

Jones Beach Island (Long Island)

WildPlay Jones BeachCredit: @rmdragon on Instagram

Add the world-famous Jones Beach to your island-hopping itinerary! Found on the outer southern coast of Long Island, this island is home to Jones Beach State Park. Featuring 6.5 miles of white sand beach along the Atlantic Ocean, Jones Beach is one of the most popular on the East Coast. Take a dip in the ocean, stroll the boardwalk, go fishing, grab a bite to eat at one of the concession stands, catch a concert at the Northwell Health Theatre, or take on high-flying thrills at WildPlay Adventure Park, home to the 700-foot Oceanside Zipline (pictured)! 

Shelter Island (Long Island)

Ocean and beach on Shelter Island at sunsetCredit: @love_longisland on Instagram

Nestled in between Long Island’s North and South Forks is the beautiful Shelter Island. This 27-square-mile island is known for its relaxing beaches, delicious dining (like fresh seafood), superb bird and wildlife watching, and some seriously breathtaking kayaking. The Mashomack Preserve, known as the “Jewel of the Peconic,” covers about a third of Shelter Island and offers great opportunities for outdoor adventure.  

Pollepel Island (Hudson Valley)

Bannerman Castle at sunsetCredit: @_tani.photography_ on Instagram.

Just outside of Beacon, a mysterious Scottish-style castle sits on an island in the Hudson River. Built in the 1900s, Bannerman Castle is a historic hidden gem of the Hudson Valley, found on the 6.5-acre Pollepel Island in the shadow of Storm King Mountain. Book a scenic cruise or kayak trip out to the island with the Bannerman Castle Trust from Beacon, which also includes a guided walking tour of the castle. Be sure to check the event schedule as the castle also hosts a variety of theatrical performances, movie nights, and themed dinners. 

Marshes on Iona IslandCredit: @saolimages on Instagram

Found among the 5,000-acre wilderness of Bear Mountain State Park lies Iona Island. This 556-acre bedrock island is bordered by meadows, shallows, and mudflats, making it a magnificent stop along the New York State Birding Trail. Participate in one of the free public programs offered by the reserve in the summer or take in the peaceful view of the island from the scenic overlook off of Route 9W.   

Staten Island (New York City)

Pink cherry blossom canopy over a path surrounded by green grass and next to a small castleCredit: @snugharborccbg on Instagram

Amid the bright lights and skyscrapers are wildlife refuges, botanical gardens, and beach views, making up New York City’s southernmost borough. Staten Island (yes, it is actually an island), is just a (free) ferry ride away, home to exciting attractions like the Staten Island Zoo and Staten Island Children’s Museum. You’ll also find the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (pictured), a true treasure that houses the New York Chinese Scholar Garden, one of two authentic classical outdoor Chinese gardens built in the United States.

View of Manhattan from the green landscape of Governors IslandCredit: @kingy27nyc on Instagram

Take a breath of fresh air from this 172-acre car-free oasis found in the heart of the New York Harbor. Governors Island is a truly unique des­ti­na­tion, just minutes from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, featuring an award-win­ning park, dozens of his­toric build­ings, a 22-acre Nation­al Mon­u­ment, and acres of green space to roam. Bike along the waterfront, relax in a hammock, stroll through summer-blooming lavender fields, glamp under the stars, and more, all alongside the stunning backdrop of New York City. 

Little Island at duskCredit: @doinx.phx on Instagram

Found at Pier 55, Little Island is a one-of-a-kind public park that appears to be “floating” on the Hudson River. Coming in at just about two acres, this man-made island is an urban oasis, making it the perfect spot to take a relaxing stroll, grab a bite to eat, enjoy a live performance, and admire beautiful views. 

Pink cherry blossoms canopy over the walkway along a river with a view of Manhattan and a bridge in the backgroundCredit: @4freedomspark on Instagram

Sweeping views of Manhattan’s East Side await at this island on the East River. Take in the birds’-eye view from the Roosevelt Island Tram, the only commuter cable car in North America, as you make your way over to the island. Stroll along the waterfront, displaying bright cherry blossoms in the spring, pay a visit to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, or admire the Blackwell Island Lighthouse from the island’s northern point.

"Welcome to City Island" sign with sunset over the water in the backgroundCredit: @fromthebronx on Instagram

A quaint summer seaside escape awaits in the Bronx! Just a bridge away, enjoy City Island’s laid-back vibe from the 1.5-mile main strip filled with restaurants like the Lobster House and Sammy’s Fish Box selling fresh seafood, locally-owned shops and boutiques, and small town charm. Take a relaxing walk along the waterfront and be sure to pay a visit to the City Island Nautical Museum to learn about the island’s seaside history.

Aerial of Statue of Liberty with the city skyline in the backgroundCredit: @adventures.of.peony on Instagram

The official home of Lady Liberty! Take the ferry over to Liberty Island, where you’ll find one of the world’s most recognizable, inspiring, and historic landmarks, the Statue of Liberty. Welcoming millions of visitors each year, this island is also home to the Statue of Liberty Museum with exhibits focused on the history, creation, and meaning of the iconic statue.  

Aerial of Ellis Island and city skylineCredit: @northjerseydroneshots on Instagram

From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island saw more than 12 million immigrants as they made their way to America. Take the ferry over to this island steeped in history and explore the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. Throughout the museum, you’ll find an array of stories capturing the experiences of immigrants who passed through the island as well as the history of the island before 1892 and after 1954. 

Niagara Falls from Goat Island at night

Nestled between Niagara Falls’ Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls, you’ll find the majestic Goat Island. Take the walk across Rainbow Bridge or climb aboard the Niagara Scenic Trolley to get to the island, where you’ll find the world-famous Cave of Winds, Top of the Falls Restaurant, and amazing views from Terrapin Point. If you’re up for even more scenic splendor, follow the Goat Island trail for ultimate tranquility.  

Aerial view of Niagara Falls on a sunny dayCredit: @portcityheights on Instagram

On your next visit to Niagara Falls, be sure to stop at Three Sisters Islands. Located on the southeast side of Goat Island, three historic walking bridges connect the three islands named after General Parkhurst Whitney’s daughters, Asenath, Angeline, and Celinda Eliza. There’s also a fourth named Little Brother Island after his youngest son. The islands offer a unique view of the upper rapids as the waters race towards the falls.  

Niagara Falls during the dayCredit: @lys.adventure on Instagram

Perched on the crest of Niagara Falls, Luna Island is the land separating the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Naturally, this ¾-acre island is popular for its spectacular views of both falls and can be easily accessed by foot from Goat Island. 

Green trees overlooking the water at Peebles Island State ParkCredit: Rachel Dymond

Found at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers is Peebles Island in Waterford. Hop in the car and head over to Peebles Island State Park, where you’ll find stunning vantage points of rivers and rapids and miles of paths through gently rolling wooded landscape. 

Aerial of Narrows Island clusters on Lake GeorgeCredit: @jdsoffer on Instagram

Go island camping on Lake George! “The Queen of American Lakes” is home to three clusters of island campsites only accessible by boat: Glen Island, Long Island, and Narrow Island. Spend a night under the stars and admire lakeside landscapes from one of the 380 shoreline campsites spread across 44 islands, which are available to book starting mid-May.  

Bluff Point Lighthouse from afar on Valcour Island

Among the sparkling waters of Lake Champlain sits an island rich in history and breathtaking beauty. Accessible only by boat, Valcour Island is well worth the journey, home to tranquil hiking paths through quiet sandy beaches and the Bluff Point Lighthouse, which is open to the public on Sundays throughout the summer. Guided tours can be booked by contacting the Clinton County Historical Association

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