That view. That unbelievably gorgeous (surreal, incredible) view of Manhattan from your luxury tent on Governor’s Island. Imagine yourself sitting in a slingback chair on a grassy lawn watching the sun set behind Lady Liberty; snuggling by a bonfire making s’mores; falling asleep knowing the lights of Manhattan are twinkling for you alone. You can pinch yourself, but it’s not a dream. You may not believe it, but this experience can be yours for the price of a hotel room, and it’s only a 7-minute ferry ride from New York City. For New Yorkers, this is the ultimate staycation.
Beginning this year, Collective Retreats is running a glamping (glamorous camping) site on the Statue of Liberty side of Governor’s Island. With our love of camping and its proximity to home, I booked a tent on the island as soon as I heard the opportunity existed. The “glampground” consists of a main/reception/dining area behind a lovely grassy lawn dividing two sections of luxury tents. The first section houses the smaller Journey Tents and the second has the larger, more luxurious Summit Tents.
We stayed in a Journey Tent: a large circular canvas tent outfitted with a queen-sized bed (you can get two singles) with nice sheets, a duvet, two bedside tables with lamps, two chairs, a rug, a cooler, a towel rack with towels, a lock box to store valuables, a kettle for tea/coffee, a fan for warm days and a heater for chilly nights. The Journey Tent was perfect for us (a couple with a 5 year old), but I think an extra bed (and thus an upgrade to the Summit Tent) might be in our future if we want better quality sleep.
While I didn’t get a chance to see the inside of the Summit tents, according to Collective Retreats they sleep more people, have their own bathroom/shower (we had to share an ok shower/bathroom facility), an actual front porch with chairs, higher quality sheets, a robe and the price includes breakfast. It is unclear if guests staying in the Summit Tents get a ride to the glampsite in a golf cart, but some people arrived in style. Regardless, the site is only a 10 min walk from the ferry dock, so not a big deal.
Unlike glamping at Stony Creek Farm, glamping in New York Harbor is definitely not off-grid. You get cell-reception on the island, there is wifi at the retreat, and each tent has electricity (overhead lights!) along with a couple of USB chargers. There is a restaurant where you can purchase a tasting menu ($120) or order à la carte and the chef uses fresh veggies from the island’s own GrowNYC’s teaching garden. We ate the delicious fish of the day (locally caught) with roasted veggies, our son had a healthy sized portion of pasta from the children’s menu and strawberries and blueberries with whipped cream for dessert. It’s a far cry from rustic, or any kind of an intro to actual camping in the woods, but it is a great experience where you just back an overnight bag and go.
There’s lots to do on Governor’s Island and by staying over you get a chance to really explore while the park is open to the public. You can climb “The Hills”, hang out at Hammock Grove, learn about Fort Jay and Castle Williams, go ice skating, play mini-golf, and walk/bike miles and miles of car-free paths. Kids can also learn about Governor’s Island National Monument while earning a Junior Ranger badge (Sat/Sun only at Fort Jay…or print the guide before you go and find a ranger at Castle Williams on weekdays). On the Collective Retreat grounds you will find balls, a crocket set, Jenga, hula hoops, bean bag toss games and lots of books to borrow. In the evening, the best entertainment by far is the mesmerizing sunset.
Know before you go:
- Check in time is 2 pm BUT you are at the mercy of the ferry schedule. Weekdays, the ferry departs Manhattan on the hour until 3 pm, then again at 3:45 pm and the last ferry is at 4:15 pm. Do not miss your ferry.
- Check out time is 10 am and on weekdays the first ferry back to Manhattan is at 10:30 am.
- You are required to be within the Collective Retreat boundaries when the park is closed to the public (when the last ferry leaves the island) until 7 am, or risk a fine. Trouble is that park employees close parts of the park 1 hour before the last ferry leaves the island. On weekdays (other than Friday), the last ferry leaves the island at 6 pm. This means that at 5 pm you are being rounded up to head back to the campground even though you are not taking the ferry off the island, and you technically have another hour to roam. Frustrating.
- The tents are very well equipped – they even have lanterns for you to use. Just bring a change of clothes, toiletries, water and snacks. A sweater or jacket for the evenings is helpful as the island is windy.
- The showers have shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
- All the food prepared is local and sustainable. Kids menus are also available.
- As of July 19, 2018, Collective Retreats is still awaiting a liquor license…you can’t buy alcohol and are not permitted to bring your own. Check back with them through the summer.
- While there is a lush lawn in the center of the campground for relaxing and playing, the landscaping between tents leaves a lot to be desired. From the sprinkler system it looks like they have seeded a lawn recently, but sod would go a long way to making the grounds look nicer before about mid-August. At nightfall, however, all is forgotten. Have I mentioned that view? Worth every penny.