(New York) Standing on the deck of a ferry, hair blowing in the wind, looking out to sea, the world is our oyster. No, we are not in the South, even less in the Mediterranean. But much closer, in New York, for a unique trip to its many islands of a thousand wonders.

We love this city that never sleeps, with its countless skyscrapers and its energy to spare. But it can be good, sometimes, to get away from it for a bit, to breathe a little, and appreciate it from afar. In this sense, Governors Island, accessible only by boat, is a true little oasis. We fell in love with an island with a rich past, long abandoned… which is being reborn.

We think we’re dreaming. Freshly boarded the ferry, you feel a bit like you’re fleeing the city, and that’s actually what you’re doing. After spending a few long days in the crowds, to the sound of all those horns, it’s good to head towards the coolest island in New York, according to Time Out (after Manhattan, obviously!).

For good reason: on this car-free island of barely 172 acres, which can be reached in about ten minutes and circumnavigated in a few hours, there are a number of unique historic buildings (mostly abandoned), fortifications , even cannons. A world frozen in time, frankly surprising. It’s not for nothing that Governors Island has long had a reputation for being haunted…

Then, here and there, hand-picked manifestations of rebirth. We discover them step by step, in an enchanting setting covered with hills, plants and birds. The cherry trees were even in bloom when we visited at the end of April. Imagine the happiness (and the smell)! Also worth mentioning are a few food trucks (special mention to the tasty Taco Vista tacos, with a breathtaking view of the Brooklyn Bridge), an urban farm, public art, and even an orchard. In season: sheep. Oh yes, and a slide of almost 20 meters, at the bend of a path, even a free play area (The Yard) for children, a sort of outdoor Ali Baba’s cave, forbidden to parents.

“This is my favorite place in New York! I come here at least 10 times a year! “, Jami Whitney will confide to us, comfortably seated in a hammock, planted in an isolated flowery park, taking a nap and enjoying her holy peace. Hard to contradict her.

Where the hell are we?, you ask. A relatively well-kept secret, this “governors’ island” has only been open to the public all year round since 2021. Its name also dates back to the colonial era (literally: the island for Her Majesty’s governors). Legend even has it that under a house (Governor’s House, the British governor’s house, located a few steps from the ferry landing) there is a tunnel connecting it directly to the continent, in the event of an invasion! Impossible to confirm, unfortunately, it is barricaded, like so many others here…

It must be said that after the English, the Americans actually ended up seizing this small piece of island, which at the time was only 70 acres. They built two forts there (Fort Jay and Castle Williams, still standing, the second open to the public seasonally) which also served as a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. For more than 200 years, the island served as a base camp for the U.S. Army, then was entrusted to the Coast Guard, not forgetting their families. Note that the island will also be expanded over the years. For the record, know that it was the earth excavated for the construction of the Lexington Street subway in Manhattan (their “green line”) that added 100 acres to the island.

All this to say that despite its appearance of an abandoned city, thousands of people actually lived here, on Governors Island, as evidenced by the majestic alleys, the rows of sumptuous houses and the century-old trees, which we barely discover the foot placed on the ground. However, somewhere in the 1990s, and for financial reasons, all these beautiful people were relocated, and the island was emptied.

Fortunately, and with the new millennium, the army finally ceded Governors Island to New York and its New Yorkers, for a symbolic sum (one dollar!). One condition: no real estate subdivision there.

It was in 2005 that the island was opened to the public for the very first time, but only in the summer. Since then, the City has committed to revitalizing it to make it a natural park, a public art space, as well as a sustainable development laboratory. Quickly, more than three kilometers of trails were designed, a bucolic promenade along the water was built, and large public spaces were created (soccer fields, picnic areas, play structures, etc.). ).

The first two tenants on the island were a school (Urban Assembly New York Harbor School) and an art center, which quickly took over two abandoned buildings. The former are committed to repopulating the bay with oyster reefs (Billion Oyster Project), the latter are offering artist residencies and several exhibition spaces.

In terms of recent developments, let’s mention this unique offer in terms of glamping (signed: Collective Retreats), for the lucky ones who can afford a “tent” here (from US$217 for two, a figure expected to easily triple depending on the dates), with breathtaking views of the city. We also challenge you not to bring back here the most beautiful photos of the One World Trade Center, which we see everywhere, and which we have rarely seen so majestic.

Speaking of clichés, a new spa (signed QC term, directly from Italy, of which this is the first installation in America), installed in yet another historic residence, also offers a very chic experience: outdoor hot pools (albeit no cold baths, heresy!), therapeutic showers and saunas, fiery sunset over the famous New York skyline included.

No doubt, slowly but surely, this little island is being reborn. This is without mentioning this latest and certainly not least new development: a project to build a climate change laboratory, in collaboration with Sony Brook University, valued at US$700 million according to the New York Times. Objective: to bring researchers, scientists and politicians to think together about constructive and sustainable solutions. Vacant buildings will be reused for these purposes, it is said, and various constructions are also in the plans. Work is due to begin next year, with an opening planned for 2028.

Friend’s advice: don’t wait to come and enjoy its still discreet charm and its large unexploited spaces, our little finger tells us that this little abandoned island risks becoming less and less so over the years…