Map of Staten Island in 1838.
Magical Places in Staten Island
A curated list of underrated or unheard of places that spark a sense of wonder.
This historic house, now remodeled as a museum, belonged to celebrated photographer Alice Austen. She was known for her collection of over 7,000 photographs of a rapidly changing New York City during the turn of the twentieth century, which also included pictures of intimate relationships between Victorian women. Austen lived with her partner, Gertrude Tate, for three decades in the house, which is now a nationally designated site of LGBTQ history. Visit the museum for rotating exhibitions of Austen’s work plus events like film screenings and wildflower crown making. The surrounding park and Buono Beach are open outside museum hours. The House is perched atop a grassy hill that overlooks the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and the downtown skyline, with a rocky beach just steps away. Frequent visitors of the park include locals and families. To get here, take the Staten Island Ferry and then transfer to a local Tottenville-bound SIR (Staten Island Railway) train. Exit at Clifton and walk 12 minutes along Edgewater Street. Note: The way here, if you choose to commute, is along a backroad and a bit secluded until you reach the neighborhood that the House is located in.
One of the city’s most beautiful diners is hidden behind an unassuming, plain black exterior. Head up the stairs to find retro booths, mini jukeboxes on each table, bright neon pink lights running along the walls, and a back room with a neon skyline display on the window. There’s also a large outdoor deck with a ceiling of string lights. Featured in the thrilling movie Nerve, this diner attracts fans of the iconic “You Got It” cover by Dave Franco and local Staten Islanders. You can take the ferry to the bus to get here, or take a car and park beneath the diner in the lot where Vee famously gets on Ian’s motorcycle and begins the most epic, one-night adventure. I highly recommend visiting at nighttime for the best experience. To get here, take the SIM1C bus and exit at Hylan Blvd/Jefferson Ave, which stops directly in front of the diner. The SIM is a Staten Island express bus that is so much more comfortable than the typical local buses with blue chairs. These buses are elevated, have a sleeker design, and blue velvet seats. The only downside is that it does cost more at $6.75 one way. But this is an underrated way to see the city from a comfortable seat and have a smoother trip with less stops!
The Snug Harbor Cultural Center is no secret, but this garden is a gem among other popular attractions. Inspired by the children's tale The Secret Garden, a shrubbery maze and flora are hidden here within the confines of three towers and surrounding walls. Snug Harbor is free and open to the public, which includes admission to the Garden. The main tower has a spiral staircase but its second level is currently closed for maintenance. To get here, take the Staten Island Ferry to St. George Terminal and then take the S40 bus from Ramp C of the terminal to Richmond Terrace/Sailors Snug Harbor Gate. The garden is located in the southwest end of the Cultural Center along Cottage Row.
A hidden oasis in the Park Hill neighborhood is home to the largest kettle pond in New York City, covering three acres. It's home to over 80 bird species such as the snowy egret plus a variety of flora and fauna. The pond shelters bluegill sunfish and painted turtles while its surface is painted with cattails and water lilies. A small wooden dock for observing the greenery and fishing sits by the water. The fastest way to get here actually doesn't involve taking the Staten Island Ferry, but instead taking the SIM33C bus. (More info about the SIM in #1). After you've boarded the bus, ride to Narrows Rd N/Targee St (just three stops after crossing the Verrazano Bridge) and then walk about 17 minutes.
Welcome to Staten Island's biggest used bookstore — it's filled with quirky & uncommon books, vinyl records and other vintage media formats, an extensive vegetarian café with small bites, refreshments, and coffee, a small art gallery, an internet café, and a neighborhood stage. The stage showcases events ranging from live jazz trio performances to experimental poetry open mics. Stop by and read a book on UFOs or watch a performance by a local artist. Books & other items are fairly priced. Events are suggested donation, usually under $10. To get here, take the Staten Island Ferry to St. George Terminal and then either walk 13 minutes or take the Staten Island Railroad one stop over to Tompkinsville.
One of the nation's oldest military installations is 226 acres large where visitors can explore, exercise, or view the New York Harbor and the Verrazano Bridge. Its main fort is Battery Weed, which was created to protect the state from attack by sea. It was an active military base until it joined the Gateway National Recreation Area in 1995. Battery Weed served as a filming location of the popular movie Nerve and is only open during summer tours or select Open House New York weekends. However, the surrounding park and military site are free, open to the public, and provide elevated views of the fort's interior. To get here, you can take either the SIM1C, SIM3C, or the SIM33C bus (more info about the SIM in #1). Exit bus at Narrows Rd N/Fingerboard Rd and walk about 16 minutes. It's a bit of a weird walk, so take a car if it's more comfortable. While you're at the Fort, check out the views at Von Briesen Park.
The 523-acre Great Kills Park has a large beach on the south shore of Staten Island. But if you enter the beach near its beginning by cutting through the shrubbery on a barely marked path near the entrance parking lot, you'll likely have the area to yourself. The ocean, part of the Lower Bay, is quiet and still. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge can be seen at a distance; it's the ideal place to unwind alone. Just down the road is Moonbeam Marina, where locals fish and boats are peacefully docked in the harbor as the Port Regalle catches the light in the distance. If you're commuting here, take the Staten Island Ferry to St. George Terminal and then take the Staten Island Railroad to Bay Terrace. From there, walk 34 minutes and enter the park at Buffalo St. You can also take the SIM1C and exit at Hylan Blvd/Buffalo St and then walk about 22 minutes (more info about the SIM in #1).
This fishing pier is located in Franklin D. Roosevelt Beach, known for its bright orange sand. A popular spot for locals and families, the pier is lined with lampposts and has a blue-roofed gazebo at the end. This is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. While you’re here, walk or bike along the boardwalk, which stretches 2.5 miles across multiple beaches and features a stunning view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. To get here, take the Staten Island Ferry to St. George Terminal and transfer to the Staten Island Railroad. Exit the train at Grasmere and walk about 33 minutes. You can also take the SIM5, SIM6, or SIM9 (more info about the SIM in #1) and walk only 3 minutes.
This 209-acre park is named after this man-made reservoir which was used for ice skating and boating at the turn of the twentieth century. It has a bridge crossing over its waters, leading to the park's many trails and several recreational areas such as tennis courts and a golf course. Cherry blossoms surround the lake in the springtime while summer trees add lush greenery. While you're near the park, I highly recommend walking down Oxford Place for rare, elevated views of the skyline in a neighborhood reminiscent of San Francisco. To get to Silver Lake, take the Staten Island Ferry to St. George Terminal and then board the S61 bus. Exit at Victory Blvd/Theresa Pl and walk about 4 minutes.
10. The Greenbelt
The Greenbelt is New York City’s largest remaining forest preserve with 35 miles of trails. Check out their nature center, wildlife refuge, public golf course, willow swamp, and hike up the man-made mountain in High Rock Park. Paulo’s Peak in Blood Root Valley stands at 200 feet and offers a 360-degree panorama of Staten Island. You can also visit Lake Ohrbach, Priory Pond, and Walker Pond. These parks will make you feel like you’ve ventured far away from the city. Click here to view the map and plan your next hike.