If you follow my blog for a while, you probably know that one of the goals of my job is to show a different New York, with unusual and traditional tourist routes. I never tire of saying how much this city is amazing and offers thousands of things to do! I don’t even remember how I found out about City Island, which is the subject of today’s post, but the fact is that since I learned about the existence of this small island I put on my mind that I had to go there!
City Island is a small island and a neighborhood approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long by 0.5 miles (0.80 km) wide and a population of more than 4300 people. This island is part of The Bronx borough – yes, City Island is in New York City. Visit this place is to be transported to a small town with super beautiful landscapes and great atmosphere. If you are looking for places out of the obvious to visit during your time in the city, it is worth considering a trip to City Island.
City Island’s history of European settlement began around 1614, when Adriaen Block claimed the land for the Dutch. In 1655, the Englishman Thomas Pell came to the island and purchased land from the Siwanoy. Dutch Governor Pieter Stuyvesant tried to eject him, but Pell refused to leave. He was eventually permitted to remain on condition that he swear an oath of allegiance to Dutch rule. The Pell family owned City Island until 1749. In 1761, Benjamin Palmer purchased the island and he was ambitious: he planned to build on his new property a city that could be a commercial rival to Manhattan, and so the name New City Island came into use around 1800. As the island began to develop its own commercial identity, the community of oyster fishers and shipbuilders chose to drop the ‘New’ from their name, to become naturally City Island. In 1896, residents of City Island voted to detach themselves from Westchester County and to become part of New York City proper.
Because of its proximity to Long Island Sound, the island played a significant role in shipbuilding during the 19th and 20th centuries. It serviced boats traveling to and from the city, and its factories were instrumental in assembling minesweepers and tugboats for both World Wars. That changed in the 1980s, when the already shaky boat construction industry all but evaporated. Today, the nautical history is preserved through the City Island Nautical Museum, which displays artifacts and documents that detail the neighborhood’s founding. City Island has retained a unique small-town, atmosphere frequently compared to that of a New England fishing village
In fact, by the size of the island, you can imagine it isn’t difficult to explore the place, right? City Island has a main street, City Island Avenue, which bisects the island from end to end. On this avenue, there are two small supermarkets, a gas station, a pharmacy, a bank and a variety of other small shops. The island is super famous for its seafood restaurants and antique shops. Parallel to the main avenue you can see the residential streets. Full of charming houses, one more beautiful than the other, these streets make us feel in an American movie. Impossible not want to live in one of those houses.
Walking through the residential streets of the island, we also can see the views of the bay and then, on a sunny day and blue sky, it is impossible not to want to enjoy the view of each of these streets. Most of them, unfortunately, have fences and protective walls. But, don’t give up: walk to the end of the island and you have a super cool space to enjoy the waterfront and a sunset breathtaking. You can enter the parking lot of Johnny’s Reef and take some pictures too. But for me, the most extraordinary view from City Island is at the end of Horton Street. This is one of the only streets where the wall is not high and you can enjoy a fantastic view of the water and even the Manhattan skyline and the background. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. And there are the super charming houses by the water.
And your experience on the island will be even more complete with a lunch or dinner in one of the many seafood restaurants that are located there. Seriously, I was shocked with the amount of restaurants in City Island, a fact that makes the fame of the place. It ‘s hard to choose one with so many options. Several of them even have a privileged view. We used Foursquare to choose where we would eat, since the offer is vast. We chose The Original Crab Shanty and we could not have been happier with our choice. The restaurant atmosphere is very friendly and the waitress who served us was an odd sympathy.
The menu is huge (see photo above) with choices of dishes with lobster, crab, shrimp, calamari, oysters, and fish. We chose a combo – Whole Lobster, Snow Crab Legs & Shrimps ($42.99). It is for one person – but as we imagined it would be huge, we order to share it. This combo is served with soup and a side (linguine, rice, baked potato or french fries). Also, the courtesy of the house is a delicious garlic bread. Our combo came with a whole lobster, served in two parts with a delicious seasoning, crab legs – two parts – and three shrimps – Breaded. I confess I had never eaten or lobster or crab in this style – break it and eat it – but the experience is very cool. Then, Thiago saw a dish on another table and just order it: some crab cakes, delicious! The portion with 6 cost about $17. We left the place mega-satisfied and happy with the experience! Ah, we also ordered a Marguerita – giant, by the way – which cost $14. On this link, you can check the menu for lunch and dinner. We have been there around 3 pm, so, we got the Dinner Menu. The Original Crab Shanty opens every day – except on Thanksgiving – from 11 am. It is worth mentioning that the place also serves pasta – and the portions are gigantic! Certainly, can you share with someone!
As I mentioned, this is not the only restaurant in City Island – there are more than 15 options on the island and, as I checked there, they open all year. Some of them may not open Monday and Tuesday. On this link here, you can check all the restaurants.
One last tip: remember that City Island also has a Yacht Club and Marina (marked on the map below). We entered the marina, and it’s amazing the number of boats and yachts. It has a deck with a beautiful view – there was a sign saying it was only for members but we got there anyway lol.
My verdict? I loved City Island – the island has exceeded my expectations. We had an intense day and walked a lot around the island; we saw beautiful views and we eat well. I wonder how cool it must be the place during the summer! I want to go back to eat in another restaurant!
How to get there? Use the 6 line to Pelham Bay Park Station – is the last station. Go to the bus stop, Bx29 line. This bus goes to City Island – the end of the line is southern of the island. There are several stops. We got off at Ditmars and explored everything walking. This route will take from 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes. From southern, we made the opposite way: we took the bus to Pelham Bay Park station and then we took the 6 train back to Manhattan. Remember, the BX29 bus crosses the Pelham Bay Park, the largest park in New York (no, Central Park is not the biggest one) and this path is fantastic. I was delighted with the park – which was especially beautiful because of the Fall landscape!
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.