2. North Brother/South Brother Harbor Herons Preserve

North Brother Island from River

North Brother Island and South Brother Island are two of the city’s best-kept secrets; Typhoid Mary spent the last 23 years of her life on North Brother Island at a now-defunct infectious disease hospital. North Brother Island was also the site of the wreck of the General Slocum, which killed over 1,000 people. South Brother Island served as one of the city’s first dumps, yet it would later become the summer home of brewery magnate and early owner of the New York Yankees Jacob Ruppert. Many ruins like the ferry dock and Caretaker’s House still remain on the islands, as well as a heron preserve that is on the Forever Wild list.

North Brother Island

The North Brother/South Brother Harbor Heron Islands are part of a larger complex of uninhabited islands and expansive marshes where many shorebirds reside. Colonial wading birds like herons and cormorants congregate at the islands each spring, secluded from human civilization. There has been a recent decline in the bird population around New York Harbor, but organizations like the New York City Audubon Society visit the islands each spring to quantify the number of birds and eggs. For the public, the best way to see North Brother is by boat but you might get lucky on an NYC Parks kayak trip — they occasionally make stops on the island.