Inside the New Waterfront Spa on New York’s Governors Island

The QC NY spa is now open—and AFAR got a sneak peek inside.

Inside the New Waterfront Spa on New York’s Governors Island

Enjoy panoramic views of lower Manhattan from the outdoor infinity pools, open as of May 28.

Courtesy of QC NY

It’s been nearly 20 years since New York City repurposed Governors Island—a former Army and Coast Guard base just a five-minute ferry ride from the southern tip of Manhattan—into a public park. Since 2005, the island has welcomed guests for numerous concerts and festivals, the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, and even overnight stays at the Collective Governors Island glamping resort.

Now you can add “relax at a day spa” to your list of reasons to visit Governors Island. On March 4, 2022, the QC NY spa opened to the public after five years of planning and careful restoration work on historic army barrack buildings. And as of May 28, the two outdoor infinity spa pools are now open to the public.

The first QC Terme Spa outside of Europe, the QC NY spa is part of an Italian brand founded in 1982 and owned by two brothers, Saverio and Andrea Quadrio Curzio. Influenced by the culture of ancient Roman baths, QC Terme spas are designed to be a gathering place for people to relax and linger.

Janine DiGioacchino, CEO of QC US, describes the New York location as an “enchanting oasis” set on the northern tip of the island with pools on the lawn outside and saunas, steam rooms, and treatment rooms indoors. Though you feel worlds away from the city, in reality, you’re just a five-minute ferry ride to downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn.

A few short days before the spa opened to the public, I got a sneak peek of the complex during a media preview. Here’s what it was like:

Inside the spa: Saunas, steam rooms, and foot baths

Eventually, the QC NY spa will spread across three restored army barrack buildings. Currently, only one of the buildings has been fully refurbished and preserved. But there’s already a lot to visit there.

After disembarking from the ferry, I easily found the spa’s entrance by following the QC NY signs pointing up the hill and to the right. In the main floor lobby—decorated with chic houndstooth sofas and globe mobiles dangling from the ceiling—I checked in with the staff to get my locker key wristband and was directed to the locker rooms upstairs, accessible via elevators or stairs.

From there the spa is yours to explore. Because the buildings are historic landmarks, not much could be changed when it came to the layout of the spa. But the labyrinth-like design is also part of the charm, as you discover new relaxation rooms and themed saunas around each corner.

After changing in the locker rooms at the top of the building, I’d recommend walking all the way downstairs to the “wet rooms” where you’ll find foot baths, steam rooms, and Vichy showers (where you lay on a stone slab and get massaged by jets from above).

Inside the Park Sauna at QC NY spa

Inside the Park Sauna at QC NY spa

Courtesy of QC NY

One floor up is the café and bar where you can order Italian snacks like focaccia sandwiches, Illy coffee, and prosecco. Beyond the café is where you’ll start discovering the themed saunas. In the tea tree oil–scented “Spa and the City” sauna, wooden cutouts of the New York skyline decorate the walls and blend directly into the real-life view of the lower Manhattan skyline out the window. Next door, the lavender-scented “Park Sauna” has fall city murals on the walls and bird sounds piped in through the speakers.

One more floor up, there are two more saunas (each with its own signature scent) plus five relaxation rooms kitted out with everything from infrared beds to cocoon chairs hanging from the ceiling. While some of these themed rooms veer toward Instagram kitsch (one is designed to look like everything is upside down), the overall effect is luxurious and high end.

If you choose to pay extra (from $100—$250), massage services are available in 25-, 50-, or 75-minute sessions on the third floor just above the locker rooms.

The QC NY spa is only steps from the ferry landing on Governors Island.

The QC NY spa is only steps from the ferry landing on Governors Island.

Courtesy of QC NY

The outdoor pools are now open

On May 28, the two outdoor heated infinity pools—situated to capitalize on panoramic views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge—finally opened to guests.

These aren’t just any ordinary pools. Billed as “spa pools,” each one features proprietary underwater hydro seats and loungers designed to massage the body and increase lymphatic circulation.

Plan on lingering

When I first read that the company’s European patrons spend an average of eight hours at the spa, I was dumbfounded. That’s a long time to spend moving from saunas to pools and back again. But I easily spent 2.5 hours exploring the complex during my preview visit before the outdoor amenities were even open. Although some of that time was spent getting a quick massage, it took me about two hours to check out all the different sauna and relaxation room options. When I return with friends in tow, I’ll plan on blocking out at least four hours of my day to grab a light meal in the café and maximize the time lingering in all the various rooms and outdoor pools.

Block off a day on your schedule and hang out awhile.

Block off a day on your schedule and hang out awhile.

Courtesy of QC NY

How to visit QC NY

QC NY Spa is open to guests 21 years old and over 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, with extended hours on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Day passes to the QC NY Spa start at $88 and include access to the entire spa and a round-trip ferry ticket from Manhattan or Brooklyn. Massage services, as well as food and drinks, are extra.

What you’ll need to bring

The only thing you really need to bring is a swimsuit, which is required throughout the spa. After checking in, you’ll be given a wristband with a key to a designated locker in which you’ll find a bathrobe, a pair of flip-flops, and one towel to use throughout your visit. Additionally, you’ll have access to shower products, hand lotion, and Dyson hair dryers in the locker rooms. The only thing I wish I’d brought with me was some face cream and makeup since it all washed off in the shower I took before heading home. If you plan on using the outdoor pools during the day, pack some sunscreen, too.

Other QC Terme Spas around the world

Heading to Europe this summer? In addition to the new Governors Island location, there are nine other QC Terme Spas across Italy and France in Milan, Rome, Bormio, San Pellegrino, Turin, the Dolomites, Pré-Saint-Didier, Chamonix, and Mont Blanc. Eventually, the company has plans to expand to other places in North America and worldwide, according to Francesco Varni, QC Group CEO.

This article was originally published in July 2021; it was updated in March 2022, and again on May 31, 2022.

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Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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