Ellis Island

Ellis Island: discover the historic island of the United States

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In New York harbour, about a kilometre from Liberty Island (where the Statue of Liberty stands), Ellis Island is a historic island covering 11 hectares – part of which is man-made. It is two metres high and U-shaped, so boats dock easily. The famous American immigration island was the place where thousands of immigrants came to live the American dream. Find out in this article why Ellis Island is one of the most incredible places in US history 🙂

All the useFul information to visit Ellis Island

how to get to ellis island

How to get to the island?

Battery Park, on the southern tip of Manhattan, is where you can buy your tickets: either at the Castle Clinton National Monument or at the Railroad Terminal Building. In either case, the island is only accessible by ferry from Battery Park. It is possible to board a ferry every 40 minutes between 9am and 5pm every day of the week. On the ferry ride, you will pass the Statue of Liberty Island on your way to Ellis Island.

How much does it cost to visit Ellis Island?

All of the following tickets include a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island:



No-queue ticket



+ Museum of Immigration



VIP tour with access to the first ferry



What are Ellis Island's opening hours?

Ellis Island is open to visitors every day from 9:30am to 5pm, except on 25 December. The first ferry leaves Battery Park Pier at 8:30am or 9:00am, depending on the time of year.

How long does it take to visit the island?

As with many secure locations in the United States, you will need to do everything by the rule before boarding the ferry. Expect 30 to 60 minutes waiting time at the security checkpoint. Afterwards, allow 2 hours each to visit Liberty Island and Ellis Island – for a total of almost 5 hours. That's why it is recommended to start visiting one of the islands in the morning 😉

Ellis Island is an emotional historical tour – it would be a real shame not to have enough time to discover every corner of it properly! 😁

Think of the tourist pass to visit Ellis Island! 🎫 

tourist pass for new york

If you want to make real savings, don't hesitate to get one of the New York passes! With one of these passes, you'll be able to visit several of New York's most famous monuments, including the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building 😀 If you want to visit Ellis Island, I'd recommend opting for theNew York CityPass – which will allow you to do 5 of New York's biggest attractions for around £119 per adult and £101 per child. This will save you 44% on the normal admission price and you will also get to visit:


Why visit Ellis Island?

It is highly recommended to visit the island if you’re on a trip to New York City. Ellis Island was an inevitable stop for immigrants who wanted to change their lives to believe in their dreams. It was a stepping stone for many families. Through the immigration museum, you will experience the emotions of these people who were looking for their Eldorado and who discovered the iconic Statue of Liberty when they arrived 🗽

The history of Ellis Island

ellis island history
history ellis island

Rich in history, this island was a symbol of happiness and freedom. Fleeing famine or political injustice in their countries, the island was seen as the Promised Land by immigrants. After an arduous journey by boat, they had no choice but to pass through Ellis Island where they had to undergo medical examinations and answer a large number of questions.

However, before becoming the famous Ellis Island, the island was also called the Island of Tears and Oyster Island.

Oyster Island

Ellis Island used to be called The Oyster Island because of the many oyster beds around the island. In fact, Ellis Island and Liberty Island were known as one of the main oyster resources until the oyster beds disappeared due to the development of reclaimed land. This reclaimed land was a source of conflict between the State of New Jersey and the State of New York.

In 1998, the Supreme Court decided that the artificial part of the island belonged to New Jersey and the natural island to New York State. In 1965, Ellis Island became part of the National Park Service, under the administration of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

Island of Tears

In 1785, a certain Samuel Ellis became the owner of the island. It was then taken over by the United States in 1808. It was a military site for 80 years, and is now owned by the federal government.

Speaking of, before Ellis Island was used as a reception centre for immigrants from 1892 onwards, the reception centre for New York was Castle Garden

Upon arrival on Ellis Island (which was inaugurated by Annie Moore, first landed on the island), newcomers were required to complete a rigorous questionnaire and undergo careful health checks. The results would tell them whether they could finally hear the famous "Welcome to America". Unfortunately, not all were accepted – 2% were turned away for reasons of principle or medical problems. This is why the island was also nicknamed the Island of Tears.


ellis island

After welcoming nearly 11 million immigrants from European countries between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island has now become a must-see American tourist site. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum, located on the island, opened its doors in 1990 for tourists interested in history. American immigration is indeed an integral part of American history. 

The museum is housed in beautiful buildings that have retained a certain authenticity, albeit they were renovated. When visiting the Immigration Museum, you will be immersed in the journey of immigrants in search of the American dream. You will discover, step by step, the journey of these people seeking happiness in a land that opened its arms to them and offered them a new life 🙂

How to visit the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island?

What is the Ellis Island Museum like?

inside the museum

Inside the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, you will discover the life of immigrants during their stay on the island. Throughout the different floors of the building, you will discover objects such as clothing and luggage, but also rooms that trace the history and reception of newcomers to the centre. There is a floor dedicated to the statistics of immigration to the United States of America, and also the Learning Center, an interactive terminal that helps to follow the traces of the people who landed on the island.

  • On the first floor, you can discover the registration room where the immigrants presented themselves.
  • On the second floor are the dormitories and dozens of photos that trace the evolution of Ellis Island.

The Registry Room is the room where immigrants waited to have their applications accepted.

The Peopling of America Center is a place that describes the history of Mexican, Native American and European immigrants to the United States before the creation of Ellis Island.


Other not-to-be-missed visits on Ellis Island

During a visit at Ellis Island, you will find 3 other emblematic elements not to be missed – in addition to the immigration museum:

american immigrant wall of honor
  • The American Immigrant Wall of Honor is a large commemorative plaque in the heart of the park, on which the names of people who passed through the island are inscribed. There are no less than 600,000 names engraved.
  • The American Flag of Face is a beautiful mosaic of photos of Americans and their families.
  • The American Family Immigration History Center is the place where immigrants are registered, but also the boats that accompanied them on their journey across the ocean to reach their dreams.

That's it for this article on Ellis Island. I hope you enjoyed it and that you were able to learn a lot about this historical place of the United States! 😀 If you want to do other cultural activities in New York, don't hesitate to check my articles about the Natural History Museum or the Guggenheim Museum – or any other that piques your curiosity! I do have many😁

And to best prepare your stay, do consider reading my articles on what to do in New York and where to sleep in New York 😉

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