Navigating the Garden State: By Boat

It's exactly 200 years since regularly scheduled steam ferry service began right here in New Jersey. Two centuries later boats still transport thousands daily.

October 11 marked the 200th anniversary of the start of the first regularly-scheduled commercial steam ferry service in the world. John Steven's Juliana began running between Hoboken and Manhattan. With that important milestone being noted, I thought it was an appropriate time to note how you can get around New Jersey by boat. 

For a state that's bordered by water on the east, south and west, it's not too surprising that boats have long played an important role in transporting people, but it's only been in the last quarter century that ferries have made a comeback and service has grown after nearly disappearing.

A Historical Perspective

Ferries were among the first forms of transportation in New Jersey. In 1787 the first successful trial of a steamboat took place on the Delaware River. Years later, when railroads began to crisscross the state, their terminals were located on the Hudson and Delaware rivers and ferries were used to transport passengers to their destinations in New York City and Philadelphia. 

In November 1967 the last of the railroad ferries in New Jersey completed their runs at the Erie Lackawanna's Hoboken Terminal. It looked as if the days of the ferry had come to an end for the most part in New Jersey.

In 1986 Arthur Imperatore, Sr. created NY Waterway and the company revived ferry service between Weehawken and Manhattan. Today, there are numerous ferry routes connecting New Jersey with New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Cape May-Lewes Ferry

This service connects the southern tip of New Jersey with Delaware. It's owned and operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority. This has, by far, the largest boats of any ferry service in the state, and is the only one to currently carry vehicles.  The service runs year-round. You can also get information by calling 800-643-3779.

Liberty Landing Ferry

This is a single route ferry service that connects two stops at the Morris Canal Basin in Jersey City with the World Financial Center in Manhattan. The service runs from 6:00 am until 8:45 pm on weekdays and from 9:00 am until 7:45 pm on weekends. Call 201-604-5799 for additional details.

NY Waterway

NY Waterway has the most extensive network of ferry services operating. They serve nine terminals along the Hudson River in New Jersey as well as additional terminals along the East River on the East River and in the Hudson Valley.  They also have service out of Belford, New Jersey connecting with terminals in Jersey City and Manhattan. As part of their service, NY Waterway also offers an extensive network of free buses that connect with their midtown and downtown Manhattan terminals as well as their terminals at Port Imperial and Edgewater in New Jersey.  There are also connections with NJ Transit bus and rail service at several of their terminals as well as PATH.  You can dial 800-533-3779 for more information.

RiverLink Ferry

This is a seasonal service that connects Camden and Philadelphia. The crossing of the Delaware takes twelve minutes and will bring passengers to Penn's Landing in Philadelphia and to the Wiggins Park Ferry Terminal in Camden. Additional information is available at 215-925-LINK.


SeaStreak's commuter service connects both Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey with two stops in Manhattan; Pier 11 and East 35th Street. Service operates year-round seven days a week. 

Ferry service is probably the most relaxing form of commuter transportation in the state. Unlike your fellow commuters who are crossing the rivers in their car or on the train, you have a much better view and usually a lot more space. Weather will rarely halt service and since the water is wide-open you don't have to worry about getting stuck behind a stalled train or an automobile crash.  You can reach SeaStreak at 800-BOAT-RIDE.

Guest Traffic Tip

This week's tip comes from a veteran traffic reporter who's been keeping an eye on South Jersey and Philadelphia traffic for over 30 years. Randy Chepigan is currently heard on WHYY-FM, WRTI, WPHI, WNTP, WURD, WSJO and WSJR.

South Jersey's Fortunate Parallels 

One of the finer points about South Jersey travel is that almost all major highways have nearby parallels — convenient time-savers when majors are closed or unbearably congested.

The most obvious examples are I-295 and the Turnpike. They parallel each other so closely through South Jersey that folks wonder why both were built. They can truly be used interchangeably (pun only half intended) anywhere between Bordentown and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

When a shutdown affects the North-South Freeway and Atlantic City Expressway, (the main route between Philadelphia and Atlantic City,) the old original routes they replaced both still exist as nearby parallels — the Black Horse Pike (comprising portions of NJ-168, NJ-42 and US-322) and the White Horse Pike (US-30).  They can be vital alternates, usually only at a cost of sitting through some traffic signals. The same can be said of limited-access NJ-55 and its parallel, NJ-47 (Delsea Drive), between Bellmawr and Vineland.

With a little map knowledge or a good mapping program, a labyrinth of countless county roads throughout South Jersey provides even more creative alternates.  They don't necessarily save much time, but are certainly prettier, especially through rural areas on the way to the shore.  (I may have to keep the specifics on those to myself for now to preserve my own peaceful drives to the shore!)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom October 13, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Good story but terrible and misleading title. The story is not about "getting around New Jersey by boat" but rather about the ferry services that are available.
Martin October 14, 2011 at 11:33 AM
Doesn't one (or more) of the ferry companies offer sightseeing rides up the Hudson River? This is especially appealing while fall foliage is in its glory. Can we get on a boat in NJ and enjoy a scenic round trip for a couple of hours? Aren't there sightseeing boats that go around Manhattan (a la Circle Line) leaving from NJ? Also, is there a ferry from NJ to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island? Isn't there a "tall ship" that offers rides on the Delaware River in summer? And how about mentioning the "paddle wheel" boats from Toms River and other shore towns? We NJ residents who fortunately don't have to commute to NYC & Philly every day are more likely to board these kinds of boats that the ferries emphasized in this article. Please give us the whole story. Thanks.
harvey morginstin October 14, 2011 at 03:55 PM
PUBLIC ACCESS FROM THE WATER Harvey Morginstin, PE Abstract: Public access to the water should be expanded to include the public’s right of access from the water to the land. This will provide benefits to the people on the shore as well as the water. What is generally missing from the achievements of public access is access from the water to the land. All too often waterfront developers and city planners seem to think that waterfront “access” is merely a finely paved pedestrian walkway lined with paving blocks and landscaping with a great variety of colorful flowers. It should be just as convenient to take your boat to a waterfront site as it is to drive there in your car. Just imagine the public’s reaction if all public travel was only allowed by mass transportation. Yet that is the general situation when water travel is concerned. An excellent example of what should be done is the almost finished “Barge” Meadowlands facility just north of the Route 3 Bridge on the Hackensack River. Public launching ramps, restrooms and many floating docks may soon be available 24/7. Looking at the waterfront improvement to bring the public to the water is only half the design; the finishing touch is to have a design that allows those already on the water to have access to the land.
Vinny Varvaro October 15, 2011 at 02:03 PM
Love local history and maps. We take the Cape May Ferry all the time when we go to Virginia...
Bernie Wagenblast October 16, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Thanks for the comments and my apologies, Tom, for misleading you with the title. This was one of a series about getting around New Jersey, each starting with "Getting Around the Garden State."


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