We’re now officially in summer, which means we’ve got just one thing on the brain: how soon we can reach certified beach bum status.
Beaches aren’t exactly what New York City is known for, but believe it or not, the Big Apple is home to 14 miles of public beaches from Brooklyn, to the Bronx, to Staten Island, and beyond. Summer here is notoriously sticky, so we’re already looking forward to any opportunity to take a dip in something other than our own sweat for an afternoon. We’re also in desperate need of some Vitamin D after the Polar Vortex decided it didn’t want to be the whitest thing in NYC and delivered a soul-crushing, endless winter that left us looking decidedly un-sunkissed.
Pack a picnic, slip into your swimsuit, and grab your MetroCard – ’cause you’re about to hit up the best beaches near NYC. No car required.
Coney Island Beach
New York’s most iconic beach earns the honor of the first mention on our list. The Coney Island beach and boardwalk are home to amusement park rides like the famous Cyclone, venerable edibles like The Original Nathan’s hotdog stand, and attractions like the New York Aquarium. They’re also the site of the annual Mermaid Parade, a not-to-be-missed aquatic spectacle happening this Saturday. And most importantly, you can do it all and still make it home in time for your favorite local happy hour.
How To Get There: Take the D, F, N, or Q train to Stillwell Avenue.
Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk
Image: Dan DeLuca
All of New York City’s nearby beaches have sun, sand, and seawater, but only Rockaway Beach is a surfer sanctuary. Pros can take to the water right away, while several surf camps and schools are available to teach newbs the ways of the waves. Fishing, volleyball, skating, swimming, and sunbathing are also on the menu if hanging 10 isn’t your thing. After you’ve worked up an appetite, be sure to visit the boardwalk’s beloved food vendors, including Rippers burgers and Rockaway Taco.
How To Get There: Take the A train to Broad Channel, then switch to the S to Rockaway Park-Beach 116th St.
Jacob Riis Park
Jacob Riis Park is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and essentially an extension of Rockaway Beach, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of an entry of its own. The spot is surprisingly clean (which is a depressing thing to have to say about a beach, but let’s face it: this is New York City we’re talking about, so you’re probably expecting garbage, rats, hobos, or rats eating garbage off of hobos). The beach also has a topless/clothing-optional area which is a…bonus? Maybe?
How To Get There: Take the 2 to Flatbush Avenue, then take the Q35 bus to Riis Park. Alternatively, take the ferry from Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach may be named after one of the most famous figures of the 20th century, but they’ve been around much longer. The area was a popular resort in the late 1880s and got a second wave of popularity the 1930s thanks to FDR’s Works Progress Administration. Now, instead of music halls and shooting galleries, it’s full of playgrounds, bocce courts, and playing fields, plus a beach with 2 1/2 miles of pristine sand and launch sites for canoes and kayaks.
How To Get There: Take the Staten Island Ferry (it’s free!) to St. George Terminal, then transfer to the S51 bus to FR Capodanno Blvd/Seaview Ave.
After Coney Island, New York’s next biggest beachy household name is Brighton Beach. The waterfront of Brooklyn’s Little Odessa is a prime spot for cooling off during the sweaty summer months. It’s quieter than neighboring Coney Island, plus it’s packed with restaurants and stores specializing in East European fare from pierogis to borscht to vodka. Brighton Beach a chance to cook in the sun and have a cultural experience, all in one. Plus it partially inspired a Neil Simon play, which can’t be said of any of the other places on this list.
How To Get There: Take the Q or B train and get off at the (appropriately named) Brighton Beach stop.
Manhattan Beach Park
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Manhattan Beach Park is a cleaner, less-crowded alternative to the nearby Coney Island and Brighton beaches. The surrounding Manhattan Beach residential area provides an envy-inducing array of real estate eye-candy. While you admire the stately mansions, you’ll be stuck making sandcastle versions of the dream home you’ll never be able to afford (thanks, New York City rents and student loan payments!). If you need something to distract you from all the nihilistic thoughts about your future, there are tennis, basketball, and handball courts, as well as two baseball diamonds.
How To Get There: Take the B or Q to Brighton Beach, followed by a short trip on the B1 bus to Oriental Blvd.
Orchard Beach and Promenade
Upon its opening in 1936, Orchard Beach hosted 50,000 sun seekers and was dubbed “the Riviera of New York City.” The man-made beach was built using sand from beaches in Queens and New Jersey, a project that cost a cool $8 million, so don’t waste it. Playgrounds, two golf courses, a whole bunch of tennis courts, and miles of hiking trails are amongst the more recent upgrades that make Orchard Beach a leading oceanside destination for New Yorkers looking to leave the pasty days of winter behind.
How To Get There: Take the 6 train to Pelham Bay Park, then transfer to the Bx12 bus to Orchard Beach.
Image: Dan DeChiaro
This isn’t Southern California’s famous Long Beach, but Long Island’s Long Beach was also once a celebrity hotspot, back when it was a popular resort in its early 20th century heyday. It may be slightly past its peak, but Long Beach is still a popular destination for locals and urban day-trippers alike. Take advantage of its five-mile stretch of perfect sands (ideal for games of beach volleyball or frisbee), its historic boardwalk (for rollerblading or cycling), and it’s surprisingly cool local music scene (for your aural enjoyment).
How To Get There: Take the LIRR and get off at Long Beach. Note: a $12 day pass is required for beach access.
Image: Ted Eytan
Fire Island’s 26 miles of coastline offer something for everyone. There’s Ocean Beach if you want something scene-y. Dunewood and Fair Harbor are family areas. Point O’ Woods caters to an exclusive crowd. The Pines and Cherry Grove are the epicenters of Fire Island’s legendary gay community. All over you’re going to find quaint red wagons, bicycles, and bare feet – because no cars are allowed anywhere on the island. For more info, check out our post on great NYC weekend getaways.
How To Get There: Take the LIRR to one of three ferry terminals on Long Island – Patchogue, Sayville, and Bay Shore – then take the ferry.
Jones Beach State Park
Jones Beach is one of the state’s biggest, with a whopping 6.5 miles of sand for you to explore. Beach bums can swim in the ocean or one of two swimming pools, and landlubbers can stroll the two-mile boardwalk, enjoy a round of mini golf or go on an educational tour courtesy of the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center. Jones Beach is also well known for its amphitheater’s annual big-name summer concert series. This year’s performers include Fall Out Boy, Lionel Richie, Wiz Khalifa, Kings Of Leon, NIN, and the VANS Warped Tour.
How To Get There: Take the LIRR from Penn Station to Freeport, then hop on the Jones Beach shuttle bus.
The Jersey Shore
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Header Image: drpavloff