New York: city of the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Yankees, Wall Street, the West Village, and… beaches? A sandy beach is not something that immediately comes to mind when you think of the Big Apple. This really is a shame, as the city boasts quite a lot of impressive beaches! And when it gets to the high eighties or even nineties (30-40 °C for the Europeans) in the summer months, a nice swim in cool salty waters sounds pretty good!
Unfortunately, not everyone knows where to find these patches of sandy paradise. Tourists who come to the city in warmer seasons try to cool off with overprized ice cream or in overcrowded public pools, oblivious to the fact that wide sandy beaches await just a short air-conditioned subway ride away! Perhaps this is because the island of Manhattan has no seashores. To get to the beaches, you will have to leave the center of the universe and visit the other 4 boroughs of New York City: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens & Staten Island, or travel even further to the wide beaches of Long Island.
One Beach for Every Borough
Once you start looking into beaches in and around NYC, you will find that there are quite many to choose from! To avoid heated discussions in Midtown Manhattan subway stations, we’ve narrowed down the list for you to the 5 best beaches in and around the city. We’ve selected one for each borough (except Manhattan) so no matter where you are in the city there’s always a beach nearby! Access to all of the beaches in the NYC boroughs is free. We’ve also included a beach in Long Island because it’s one of our personal favorites. All the beaches listed here have sections with lifeguards on duty daily from 10 am to 6 pm during beach season, which starts Memorial Day weekend. To find out more about water safety check out the official NYC Parks & Recreation website on beaches.
Without further ado: for those hot summer days and nights in the city that never sleeps, check out these beaches in New York to cool down!
1. Coney Island in Brooklyn
This iconic beach is probably the best-known among the beaches in New York City. Some New Yorkers say the beach, boardwalk and accompanying amusement park have seen their best days. It’s true that the once popular resort destination fell into decay after the Second World War. In recent years, however, Coney Island has been revitalized: the boardwalk has been renovated, new showers and toilets have been installed and the 2.5 mile beach is once more clean and inviting. It also doesn’t hurt that Coney Island is conveniently accessible by public transportation. A cheap subway ride from Midtown Manhattan takes less than an hour: you can catch the D, F, N or Q train to Coney Island/ Stillwell Avenue station, which is just two blocks away from the beach. Take a ride in the famous Cyclone Rollercoaster, have a hotdog at Nathan’s Famous, stroll along the boardwalk, relax on the beach and go for a swim! For more attractions and events, check out the Coney Island Fun Guide.
Just like in Manhattan, New York Habitat offers a wide variety of apartments in Brooklyn. Take this 2-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn for example, which is perfect for exploring this vibrant borough while being close to the beach. The rental has a private roof terrace with panoramic views, and is just about 5 blocks away from the F train which will take you right to Coney Island.
2. Rockaway Beach in Queens
Rockaway Beach has been named the largest urban beach in the United States. It is also the only beach in NYC that has a surfing area: there are two separate stretches on the beach reserved for surfing. In the summer the small waves are excellent for beginners, while experienced surfers frequent this beach during the height of hurricane season in the early autumn. The beach features swimming areas, a long boardwalk, food vendors, seven playgrounds, public beach bathrooms and of course plenty of sand to accommodate your beach towel! Rockaway Beach is also easily accessible by subway. Take the A train, or change to the S at picturesque Broad Channel, to Beach 90 Street for the surfer beach or to Beach 116 Street for the swimmers beach. Join the surfers, hip Brooklynites and local families at this versatile beach just a 1.5-hours scenic subway ride away from Midtown, Manhattan!
3. Orchard Beach in the Bronx
This manmade beach was once called “the Riviera of New York City”. It certainly boasts some attractive features: the crescent-shaped beach looks out over the Long Island Sound, while playgrounds and food vendors line the promenade. After an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming, our recommendation is to end the day at City Island which you will find at a walking distance from the beach. This picturesque island has a real small fishing town feel and is famous for its seafood restaurants. City Island Lobster House has amazing crab cakes, while the Original Crab Shanty Restaurant makes great seafood pasta. To get to Orchard Beach, take the 6 train all the way up to Pelham Bay Park, and then catch the Bx12 bus to Orchard Beach.
4. Great Kills Park in Staten Island
Staten Island’s most famous beach is the Franklin D. Roosevelt beach, which has a boardwalk that stretches on for 2.5 miles. Lesser known is the Great Kills Park, which means the beaches here are less crowded and more private. The journey to Staten Island itself is already very scenic. First, you can take the 1, 4, 5 or R subway downtown to South Ferry Station in Lower Manhattan. Once there, you board the free ferry to Staten Island. The ferry makes its way down the New York Harbor past Liberty Island, offering amazing views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline. Staten Island has its own railway, and you can conveniently pay with your MetroCard. Take the railway down to Bay Terrace, and you’re almost there: just a 3 block walk to the east will get you to the Great Kills Park. If you walk south from here you will come across an idyllic marina filled with small boats. To the east of this marina is a peninsula with a small harbor and a lovely quiet beach area. Apart from bathrooms and showers there is not much else here on this side of the marina, so be sure to bring your own picnic basket!
If you fall in love with Staten Island and want more time to explore everything it has to offer, we have an amazing vacation mansion on the island where you can stay. The 4-bedroom mansion even has its own swimming pool, and the rental includes three days of complimentary limousine service to take you the beach in style!
5. Long Beach in Long Island
Long Beach really is a gem: the white sand is soft, the beach is clean, the water is invigorating, there are great waves for surfing and parking is free! Plus, the beach is easy to get to even if you don’t have access to a car. The LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) takes you there in less than an hour from Penn Station in Midtown, Manhattan! The only downside is that the beach itself is not free: all beachgoers of age 13 and older have to buy a 12 dollar ticket to enter the beach at designated beach entrances (weekends only from May 16 – June 17 & daily from June 23 – September 3). If you’re based in New York, we advise purchasing a LIRR Beach Getaway Package: at just $21 the package includes a round-trip train ride plus beach access. Watching the sun set over the Atlantic, you’ll feel miles away from bustling New York City.
It wouldn’t feel right to talk about beaches in Long Island without at least mentioning Jones Beach, Fire Island and Cooper Beach. These three famous holiday spots are all a bit further out from New York City, but definitely deserve an honorable mention! Jones Beach was developed by Robert Moses and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful parks in the New York City area. It has many great amenities such as a swimming pool and an amphitheater where concerts are held in the summer. Fire Island is home to a stunning lighthouse built in 1857, and features 26 miles of coastline as well as many quaint towns, such as Ocean Beach and Fire Island Pines. Finally, Cooper Beach in the village of Southampton was named the best beach in America in 2010. It offers views of the impressive mansions of the Hamptons, has a lovely pavilion and pristine white sand.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of some of the best beaches in the New York City area. Of course there are many more beaches around that we didn’t discuss here. Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comment section below!
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