Travel

Travel inspiration: go island-hopping in New York City

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Stylist contributor Annabel Herrick finds a luxury New York island glampsite that changes the way she sees the city.

When big city-breaking, the second visit is when you decide if you really like a place. It’s less about box-ticking the sights and more about digging beneath the surface and finding new ways to explore. So, for my second visit to New York, I reject the usual hotels – such as Moxy on Times Square – and stay in a yurt on an island overlooking Manhattan. Yes, a yurt.

Hopping between NYC’s cluster of islands is eye-opening. Who knew Rockaway Beach in South Queens has a surf school that offers private lessons for $100? After riding the waves, fuel up on a sizzling stir fry at Thai Rock. It’s next to Rockaway Jet Ski School, if you’re up for more ocean adventure. If not, head to nearby Coney Island for kitsch fairground rides and salt water taffy.

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And then on to Governors Island – just an eight-minute ferry ride from Lower Manhattan – where Collective Retreats offers luxury glamping properties from May to October. Having just launched this year, it’s the first time in the island’s history that visitors can stay overnight. The premium tents have 1,500 thread-count linens, chandeliers and private decks. Either eat dinner on-site with ingredients sourced from the island’s urban farm or head to nearby Island Oyster for a mean lobster roll. But the best thing is the seclusion – only Collective Retreats’ guests can stay over. The first Manhattan ferries don’t dock until 10am (all guests receive a pass to sail back and forth, with boats running until 7pm), so your sunrise yoga will only be seen by fellow campers.

Days on the 172-acre island can be spent cycling with Blazing Saddles or touring art installations (The Eclipse by Jacob Hashimoto has transformed the Chapel of St Cornelius with 15,000 kites). At night, the tents glow like orbs in front of Manhattan’s silhouette while guests toast apple pie s’mores around the bonfire. Tents book up fast so plan well in advance (weeknights are quieter).

Governors Island is a stone’s throw from Lady Liberty

Collective Retreats is not the only proof that NYC is swelling to the waterfront and beyond. The Seaport District will transform later this year with Pier 17’s new shops, restaurants and Mr C Seaport Hotel. In 2019, a $70million museum on Liberty Island will launch, and the new NYC Ferry will add routes later this year too, so the Lower East Side, Soundview in the Bronx and the Upper East Side will also be accessible from Governors Island by boat.

Drifting off with Lady Liberty at my feet, this visit proves that, to fall in love with a city, all you need is a little distance. Close enough to see it, but far enough that the lights don’t dazzle.

Stay with Collective Retreats from £95 per night, collectiveretreats.com; Virgin Atlantic flies six times daily from London Heathrow to JFK New York and is offering return Economy Light fares from £329 per person, virginatlantic.com; for more information on New York City, visit nycgo.com 

Images: Collective Retreats