A Favorite Summer Activity: Taking the Ferry to Greenwich’s Island Beach

By Jessica Reid of IN Greenwich

Have you taken the ferry out to Island Beach yet this season? As it’s one of our favorite summer activities, we’ve put together some up-to-date info about how to visit Island Beach, what to expect once you’re out there and some other insider tips like overnight camping, Cruise to Nowhere dates and Dixieland Jazz Band Concerts on the Sound dates.

Island Beach, owned by the Town of Greenwich, is situated in Long Island Sound about two miles south of Greenwich Harbor. The Greenwich Parks & Recreation Dept manages the 3.9-acre island and transportation is by seasonal ferry service, departing from Arch Street.

In addition to the beach, the island offers lots of shade from trees off of the beach, a concession stand, playground and swings, plenty of tables and even locker rooms.

There are great sea glass finds at Island Beach but the beach is rocky, so water shoes are a good item to bring if you have them.

Abilis is back for the second year in a row to run the Island Beach concession stand, and this year they’re cooking up hamburgers, hotdogs, veggie burgers and fries, in addition to providing soft pretzels, drinks, candy, ice cream and more.

As always, you can bring your own food and drinks. There are charcoal grills that you can use, just bring charcoal.

Ferry Tickets

If you don’t have a boat to get you to Island Beach, then you will need BOTH a ferry ticket and beach pass to visit.

2022 fees

Resident Pass holder 16-64 yrs $6.00

Resident Pass holder 5-15 yrs $5.00

Resident Pass holder 65+ yrs FREE

Single Entry Pass holder 5-64 yrs $13.00

Single Entry Pass holder 65+ yrs $7.00

Children under 0-4 yrs No Pass

If you don’t have a Resident Pass, you’ll need to get one separately. Residents can purchase guest passes online Monday-Friday, otherwise you must go in person to the Cos Cob Dockmaster Office (94 Strickland Road, Cos Cob, CT 06807) on Wednesdays or Thursdays between 9:00am and 1:00pm (or until sold out for the day), in order to purchase Entry/Guest Passes.

Ferry Hours   

Please note that there have been issues this summer with the Indian Harbor Ferry and it’s worth checking in advance to make sure that both ferries are in fact running every half hour on the weekend.

2022 Ferry Schedule link.

Dixieland Jazz Band Concerts

Dixieland Jazz Band Concerts on the Sound happen twice every summer.  You can hop on the Island Beach Ferry at 4:00pm for a jazz performance on the ferry, as well as on the Island and when returning to the dock at 6:00pm. The 2022 Dixieland Jazz Band Concerts on the Sound dates are Sunday, July 17 (Rain Date: July 24) and Sunday, August 7 (Rain Date: August 14).

Cruise to Nowhere

Want to enjoy a ferry ride without stopping at Island Beach? Then the Cruise to Nowhere’s two hour tour of local waters is for you! Open to the public and all ages, Cruise to Nowhere tickets are sold at the Arch Street Dock from 10 am on the day of the cruise, with limited availability. Remaining 2022 Cruise to Nowhere dates: Wednesdays, 5pm to 7pm, July 20th + 27th, August 3rd, 10th, 17th + 24th

Camp Overnight

Overnight camping on Island Beach is available to Greenwich residents mid-June through mid-September. You can book one evening per season, with set up starting after 7:30 pm and camp items taken down by 9 am the next morning. Overnight campers are charged a rental fee plus a cost per participant with a maximum of 25 campers. Reservations begin in February and book up fast and camper tickets include camping, ferry and parking. 

Island Beach Overnight Camp Permit Form

Online Island Beach Overnight Camp Registration and Information

We are so fortunate to have this special town park available to the public and look forward to each trip on the Island Beach ferries. Those that grew up in town have fond memories of their visits to Island Beach.  While I wasn’t old enough to see the diving board at the end of the dock I do fondly remember the floating dock/platform that we would swim out to and dive off of.  I also have memories of a full bar attached to the concession stand.

History of Island Beach in Greenwich

This small island has a lot of history. The first known private owner of Island Beach (known at the time as Little Captain’s Island) and Captain’s Island was in the 1700s.  In the early 20th century, the Island Beach Corporation built an amusement park on the island, featuring a merry-go-round (the canopy still exists today), shooting gallery, booth games, goldfish tank, a dance hall, a restaurant and bungalows. The Island Beach amusement park eventually closed due to WWI.

In 1916, the island was up for sale, but the Town of Greenwich RTM rejected the purchase. Eventually two families, the Lauders and the Greenways, bought the island and donated it to the town as a gift in 1918, in memory of George L. Lauder, Jr.  Today, at the base of the flagpole on the island you can find an engraving that tells of this gift.

In 1920, two Mead Point residents, Mrs. Wilks and Mrs. Campbell donated money for the first ferry, The Island Beach ferry. In 1937 another boat, The Indian Harbor, was purchased and at the time the fee to ride was 10¢. Both ferries remain in service to this day.

Island Beach became a popular destination once the ferries were running and it wasn’t long before people started coming by train from New York City to visit the island. This prompted the town of Greenwich to institute the use of beach passes that is still in effect today.

Over the years, weather has had a profound effect on the island. From Greenwich Harbor and the Long Island Sound freezing over in 1860 to the Great Hurricane in 1938 knocking the bungalows off their foundations. The dock was ruined by a windstorm in 1955, storms in 1980, 1992 and more recently Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc with the structures there.