Aerial view of Governors Island

Governors Island has become a popular summer location for New Yorkers to take a day trip on the weekends. With spectacular views of Manhattan, open green spaces, and fun tours, it’s a perfect oasis from the daily grind of the city. This little getaway has a deep and rich history, starting with the native Lenape people who fished there and called it Paggank or Nut Island, for its hickory, oak, and chestnut trees. Dating back to the American Revolution, Governors Island was a vital strategic point given its location at the convergence of the East and Hudson Rivers. Today, it is a vibrant hub of arts and culture and a convenient place to soak up some nature. Any place with a complex history, we’ve learned, has plenty of good secrets to unearth. Here are our 10 favorite secrets of Governors Island:

You can explore the hidden gems of Governors Island on our upcoming walking tour!

Governors Island Tour

Governors Island Gantry

1. Governors Island was Once Home to Manhattan’s Only Golf Course

Governors Island Fort Jay Aerial view
Looking North-Northwest, Photo by Jet Lowe, via Library of Congress

Golf first came to Governors Island in 1903. At that time, a three-hole course known as the Quadrangle was created behind the historic Fort Jay. Later, the course was expanded to nine holes. It was the only golf course in Manhattan since the island is technically part of that borough. As a 1925 New York Times article titled “Fort Jay Golf Offers Weird Hazards” points out, the Governors Island golf experience was unlike any other. Aside from the distraction of the absolutely gorgeous views of New York Harbor, the course itself was quite challenging. Golfers had to contend with typical course obstacles like sandtraps and water, but they also had to hit balls over parts of the fort on the par-3 course!

The island had many other sports facilities including softball and baseball fields, tennis courts, soccer and football fields, and a track as well. The Coast Guard used the golf course until they vacated the island in 1996. There was a short-lived mini-golf course on the island in the early 2000s.