Word of Mouth: NYC’s Governors Island

From sustainable oysters to pétanque courts and a verdant "dinner and dancing" destination

Offering some of the most extraordinary views of Lower Manhattan and the Hudson River, not to mention serene sunsets and picturesque sailing scenes, Governors Island is a brief ferry ride from South Street’s Battery Maritime Building (and several Brooklyn piers on weekends). Over the last few years, the verdant 172-acre island has transformed from the site of exclusive marquee events to a full-fledged hospitality destination. With a roster of exciting openings this summer, including the return of the inspiring NADA House (which closed for the season this 7 August), Governors Island is more than an escape for in-the-know New Yorkers, it’s a surprising part of the city that warrants exploration.

Courtesy of Collective Retreat

Collective Retreats

Even though the $4 roundtrip fare makes a short visit to Governors Island accessible, Collective Retreats allows people to spend a night on the island in private tents, or Outlook Shelters, with luxuriant amenities and breathtaking views. This glamping experience comes complete with a front deck and chairs, Byredo bath products and real bedding.

Courtesy of Gitano Island

GITANO Island

Tucked into a tree-covered corner of the Soissons Landing section of Governors Island, GITANO Island is a celebratory extension of the international lifestyle brand. More than a beach club, Gitano Island is a delectable dining destination with a swathe of signature cocktails and a dedicated mezcal bar. From its leafy entrance to its 40-foot water feature, Gitano Island feels so very far away from NYC—even though you can see the skyline. “GITANO Island is a restaurant first and foremost, a fun one, the kitchen and our food is the heart and soul,” says James Gardner, the founder and CEO of GITANO. “Our concept since we opened in the jungle in Tulum at the end of 2013 has always been ‘dinner and dancing,’ but we have always felt that good food is as critical as good cocktails, music and entertainment,” he continues. “Moving to an island has only increased the importance of good food—people are making a choice to come to a destination and a key reason they are coming is to dine, so a great menu is central to our concept and success on the island.”

Courtesy of Governors Island

Cabin at Discovery Hill

Throughout Governors Island, public art surprises and delights. Among the numerous works (both permanent and temporary), acclaimed artist Rachel Whiteread’s large-scale instal­la­tion alongside Discovery Hill, “Cabin,” manages to be both thought-provoking and aesthetically pleasing. Whiteread complements the central structure with bronze casts of rubbish, an addition that contributes to the work’s depth.

Courtesy of QC NY Spa

QC NY Spa

New this spring, QC NY Spa began to welcome guests to Governors Island in March. Featuring an outdoor pool and manicured lawn, the spa’s indoor facilities reside in three landmark buildings (formerly army barracks). From steam baths to an infrared bed and an upside-down room, the all-gender spa offers various opportunities to relax, rejuvenate or simply enjoy yourself.

Courtesy of Governors Island

Carreau Club

At Carreau Club, visitors to Governors Island can try their hand at the famed outdoor French game pétanque, which historically accompanies an aperitif. This outpost—a sister to the one in Industry City—is a 10-minute walk from Soissons Landing, and players can also order drinks or sandwiches (which are from Court Street Grocers) while they play.

Courtesy of Island Oyster

Island Oyster

From sustainable oysters to a mouthwatering lobster roll, along with an array of tropical cocktails and craft beers, Island Oyster serves a summery menu in front of a spectacular view. The walk-in only venue is the visual centerpiece of Soissons Landing and its convivial environment carries over from day to night.

Hero image courtesy of Gitano Island