26 NYC islands you might not even know existed
Whether you still get turned around in the West Village or are one of those people who "doesn't do Brooklyn", there are a lot of places in NYC you still haven't had a chance to check out. Chief among them: the roughly two-dozen other islands that populate the five boroughs, including one you can kayak to, and another that's about to be home to "Hammock Grove", a 10-acre section of 1500 trees strewn with hammocks. Because we were super bored beating Battletoads for the 1000th time, we put together a guide to every single one worth knowing about.
1. The Blauzes
Their name means 'Little Blue Ones' in Belgian-French, which is apparently a language, and they're part of a reef, which is apparently a thing New York has.
2. Chimney Sweeps Islands
There used to be a bar on the island that served local
chimney sweeps? boaters, until the government bought the island, closed the bar, ruined everything, and turned it into part of Pelham Bay Park.
3. City Island
This is actually as close as you'll probably get to a seaside getaway in the city. It's the only inhabited island in the borough, and is home to a ton of fun seafood places. We like Sammy's Shrimp Box, Lobster Box, and Crab Shanty in particular.
4. Hart Island
Sadly not named after Bret "The Hitman", there is some controversy as to whether it was named for its shape, or the English word for Stag -- it's variously been home to POW camps, a reformatory, a missile base, and a burial field for the Department of Corrections. Fun times!
5. High Island
It was once much, much more-terrifyingly named Shark Island.
6. Rat Island
Covered in rocks, mussel shells, and bird sh*t, this adorably named land mass is actually private property owned by a dude who snatched it up and is now hosting BBQs all over it.
7. Twin Island
Don't be fooled: this isn't even actually an island anymore (nice try Twin!), thanks to the landfill connecting it to Orchard Beach and Rodman's Neck.
8. North Brother Island
This is the island where they kept typhoid fever Patient Zero, Typhoid Mary. Maybe don't go here.
9. South Brother Island
Jacob Ruppert -- the former Yankees owner who bought Babe Ruth and was the President of the United States Brewer's Association -- had a summer home here for a while, making it pretty much the boss-est island of the early 20th century.
10. Rikers Island
It was settled by Abraham Rycker, used as a training field for Union soldiers, and you probably never want to go here.
11. Canarsie Pol or Small Marshland Island
It's an uninhabited island that you can kayak to (other boats probably work too, but you can definitely launch kayaks from nearby Canarsie Pier). It used to be smaller, but when they dredged to make way for ships, they dropped the dirt here.
12. Ruffle Bar
They have a bunch of fixin's laid out, so you can top them with queso, ranch… ohhhhh, wait, you meant Ruffle Bar ISLAND. Yeah, this used to be a booming area for the clam and ester industries before it became too polluted.
13. Mau Mau Island
In 2011, an art collective (Flux Factory) organized a DIY boat party, complete with a pop-up bar and "boat jousting", and called it the Battle for Mau Mau Island. See all the cool s**t you're missing by not being into art!?
14 & 15. Ellis Island and Liberty Island
They're kind of actually in New Jersey.
16. Governors Island
You know it's home to concerts, parties, and rehabilitated castles, but did you also know that it's the future home of "Hammock Grove", a 10-acre section of 1500 trees strewn with hammocks?
17. Mill Rock
This was part of the formation that made up Hell Gate, until the US Army Corps of Engineers blew up the the adjoining Flood Rock with what was said to be the largest planned-explosion in the US before testing started on the Atomic Bomb.
18. Randalls/ Wards Islands
Randalls and Wards are connected by landfill, and loaded with activities from concerts like Governors Ball and Electric Zoo, to an urban farm, to a golf center with batting cages & a beer garden. There's also a rich history involving the Revolutionary War that we've chosen not to explain because, beer garden.
19. Roosevelt Island
Once called Hog Island, Blackwell Island, and Welfare Island, Roosevelt Island is MAX 800ft-wide, and you 1) probably looked at an apartment here once, and 2) didn't get the apartment but still really want to take the tram someday. Also: Grandpa from The Munsters used to live here.
20. U Thant or Belmont Island
This is the smallest island in Manhattan -- it was created by the construction of tunnels beneath it that now operate the 7 train, and its only inhabitants are a colony of Double-crested Cormorants and the "Oneness Arch", which holds personal items of the namesake former United Nations Secretary-General.
21. Broad Channel
It's actually called Rules Bar Hassock, which is a lot less catchy than Broad Channel. It's the only populated island in Jamaica Bay and if you're wondering why, it's probably because of their bagel place The Bay Gull Store, which does "famous cheese bagels" with cheese melted into the top half.
22 & 23. Hoffman Island and Swinburne Island
These guys were once used to anchor anti-submarine nets during WWII, so now you know anti-submarine nets are a thing.
24 & 25. Isle of Meadows and Prall's Island
Sadly, you can't go to either of these unless you live in the nesting habitats/are a bird.
26. Shooters Island
The boundary between NJ and NY runs through this island, which
is under the sole purview of Shooter McGavin was where one of the first news movies of all-time was shot in 1902, under the direction of Thomas Edison (it featured the launching of a yacht for Wilhelm II). It's also now another bird sanctuary.
View NYC islands you might not even know existed in a larger map