Can People Visit the Abandoned North Brother Island?
North Brother Island, part of New York City, is 22 acres of unsettling history.
It now lies abandoned, and maybe that’s for the best.
But can such a sad place ever turn into something good? And can you check it out for yourself?
We’ve got you covered!
Where Is North Brother Island?
North Brother Island is a tiny island in the East River of New York City. It and its companion island, South Brother, lay between the Bronx and Rikers Island.
What is North Brother Island?
North Brother Island is an abandoned area known for its history of sickness. Initially, it was a home for people suffering from infectious diseases such as typhoid, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and typhus. Later, six people with leprosy lived there.
The most infamous resident was “Typhoid Mary” Mallon. An Irish immigrant and cook, Mallon stayed healthy herself while transmitting typhoid to those around her. She was responsible for an estimated 43 infections and three deaths.
She was incarcerated on North Brother Island and eventually released after promising not to return to work as a cook. However, she changed her name and kept cooking.
In the 1950s, North Brother Island held a facility for teen drug addicts. Their methods were called into question, especially amid reports of staff corruption and ineffective treatments.
Ultimately, in 1963, North Brother Island was abandoned.
Pro Tip: After exploring North Brother Island camp out on one of these 7 Best New York Beach Campgrounds.
Can You Visit North Brother Island?
North Brother Island is closed to the public for a few reasons. First, the buildings are incredibly unsound, and it’d be dangerous to allow people there.
One of the very few happy things in the story of North Brother Island is that it’s now a protected bird sanctuary. Herons and eagles, among other birds, enjoy peaceful lives there.
On very rare occasions, visitors may acquire permits to visit if it proves necessary for research.
Pro Tip: Like North Brother Island, Central Park can get spooky at night. Before you pitch a tent in this iconic New York spot, read Is Camping in Central Park Okay?
What’s On South Brother Island?
South Brother Island is also a nature preserve. Visitors aren’t permitted there either.
Things To Do Near North Brother Island
Visit Edgar Allan Poe’s Cottage
Since you can’t visit the haunting dilapidation of North Brother Island, perhaps you can console yourself with a trek to a house once occupied by American Gothic master Edgar Allan Poe. The writer moved to the cottage in 1846, hoping the then-rural country air would heal his wife’s tuberculosis.
The building has been open to the public since 1913 and fell into disrepair in the 1970s.
Since then, the Bronx Historical Society has maintained the Poe Cottage, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The house is unfurnished and designed to look as it would have when Poe lived there. There is an adjoining building with exhibits on Poe’s life and work.
Know Before You Go: Poe’s Cottage is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check the website for updates before you plan your trip.
The Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo has over 8,000 animals and a broad range of programming. Prepare to devote a whole day to it. Keep in mind that the entry fee is nearly $40 for anyone over 13, and parking is $17. So make sure you have the time to get your money’s worth, which won’t be hard to do.
Spread out over 265 acres, the zoo entertains and informs on exhibits from big baboons to butterfly gardens.
Their JungleWorld, which mimics an Asian jungle, is a favorite.
The Bronx Zoo also has experiences that permit visitors to watch animal feedings, and there are many options for kids.
In addition, it offers a shuttle to help get you between exhibits faster.
Best Camping Near North Brother Island
Nickerson Beach Campground
The Nickerson Beach Campground is on Long Island, convenient to the beach and other attractions. It’s very close to Lido Beach, which is excellent for surfers. However, it’s only open from April to November.
There are 74 gravel sites, 66 of which have sewer. All spaces have electricity and water, and the current rate is around $71/night.
Battle Row Campground
This 44-acre campground lets you be close to commuter trains to New York City while enjoying a relaxed environment in Nassau County. They have 52 asphalt RV sites and 12 tent camping areas.
The Battle Row Campground is open year-round, but rentals are by reservation only. The last reported price was $29/night.
From Sickness to Sanctuary
North Brother Island is a small piece of land that holds a staggering tally of sicknesses. Photographers have been inside and posted photos that capture the eerie beauty that so often accompanies abandoned places.
For now, only the birds get close-up looks at the sites there.
Fortunately, the Bronx is rich with other places to visit, including a cottage where Poe lived and one of the world’s most famous zoos. Plus, you can camp in Poe’s healing Bronx air while still being close to the city.
Have you ever visited the Bronx? Tell us about your experience!
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