Essential Experiences: Visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in New York City

When it comes to iconic destinations, few sit higher on that list than seeing the Statue of Liberty in the waters of New York City. Those on a tight schedule might choose to pass by it (from a large distance, I might add) on the free Staten Island ferry, but if you want to get up close and personal with Lady Liberty, as well as the nearby Ellis Island, here’s what you can expect from the experience.

First and foremost: you’re not the only person who considers this a must-do experience in the city that never sleeps, so be prepared for lengthy queues for the ferry, especially on weekends. You can look at scheduling a specific service, rather than getting the flexi-pass, which will help you avoid the biggest of the queues, or you can go via Liberty Park in New Jersey instead of Battery Park, New York, which is where we departed from. If you do go via Battery Park, try arriving before 11am or after 2pm to avoid the longest queues.

Once you get through security, you’ll be ushered onto the next departing boat – they leave regularly, and there’s food and cold drinks on board. If departing from Battery Park, your first stop will be the island that Lady Liberty calls home, and the second will be Ellis Island and the National Museum of Immigration. If you leave from New Jersey, you’ll approach them in the opposite order.

Though we were coming from Battery Park, we decided to head to Ellis Island first. Depending on the sort of ticket you purchased (e.g. there’s an option to head into Liberty’s crown for an extra fee), it’s likely the place that will demand a longer visit. Just be prepared to sit through a lengthy stop at Liberty Island, as you wait for everyone to got on and get off. The thinking also implied that we were doing the opposite thing to the crowds, and in theory the smarter route.

It seemed to work, and the return service would take you back to the statue before heading back to New York. The only downfall to our plan was that by the time we explored Ellis Island, we didn’t have enough time to explore the Statue as well. By the time we got to Ellis, it had already been almost two hours from the time we arrived at Battery Park. But we still had a great view from the boat, and the experience on Ellis was well worth the trip and the wait.

Run by the National Parks service (who are currently celebrating their 100th anniversary), the museum is spread over the complex that was once where new arrivals (by sea) to the USA were processed. It’s full of exhibitions that tell more about life in that time, providing insight into how they arrived, where they went, where they were coming from, and what the processes were like on the island. A 45 minute audio tour is included as part of your admission, and there’s also a 30 minute audio tour back at the Statue of Liberty. Interestingly, you’re going to struggle to find mobile reception while on the island, but with views this good, you really shouldn’t be looking at your phone anyway.

The view of Manhattan from the gardens on Ellis Island

No trip to New York City is complete without a trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. But make sure you plan well for it – get out there early and keep in mind you may require to dedicate your day to the experience. By arriving in peak time, we definitely faltered in doing the same. It’s well worth it either way though, and once you get back to New Jersey or New York, there’ll be more than enough activities for you to enjoy through the evening. This is, after all, the city that never sleeps.

Admission

Entry to both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island costs US$18.50 for adults and $9 for children, and includes the ferry rides to, from and between the destinations. If you want to visit the crown of the Statue, that will cost you an extra $3. For all those details, head HERE. You can also visit the the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as part of the “CityPass”, which also gives you access to the Empire State Building, The Met, The Guggenheim, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Memorial Museum and more. Head HERE for more details.

Getting There From Australia

Any airline who flies to the USA from Australia will offer connecting services to one of New York City’s three main airports from Los Angeles, Dallas, Honolulu or San Francisco. Some connect to other airlines – such as Virgin Australia, who will usually link you up with a Delta flight, while Qantas have their own aircraft (QF11), as do United. There’s also the option to fly via Vancouver with Air Canada.

If you’re inclined for a slightly different (or longer) journey, flights are also possible via the Middle East and Europe with airlines like Etihad and Emirates, or China with China Southern Airlines. Air New Zealand also offer competitive rates via Auckland. We recommend searching through Skyscanner for the best options, as prices vary through the year, or have a chat to your travel agent.

The writer visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island courtesy of NYC & Company and CityPass. While in New York City, the writer stayed in Times Square courtesy of Hotel Edison