Amidst all the skyscrapers it can be easy to forget that Manhattan is an island and New York City is surrounded by water. That reality means there are a number of options for beach-going.
Escape the heat of the summer to one of New York City's (and the surrounding area's) many beaches. It's the perfect way to spend a day or weekend of your vacation in the northeast. Best yet, access to all of New York City beaches is free.
Home to the famous Mermaid Parade every June this beach is a "must-see" for first-time tourists hoping to make it out to the ocean. The Original Nathan's hotdog stand is located just off the boardwalk. There are also freak shows and carnival rides nearby when you get tired of relaxing in the sand.
You can access this popular tourist destination by taking the Coney Island-bound B, D, F, N, and R subway trains to Stillwell Avenue-Coney Island. Because of its popularity Coney Island has the most amenities, featuring public shower houses, a mile-long boardwalk, and even an aquarium. In 2018 a fun rooftop bar and restaurant opened on the top floor of the shark exhibit.
Brighton Beach offers visitors a spacious beach with a boardwalk just a short distance from the more hectic Coney Island facilities. Here you'll find many more locals than tourists, most of which are of Russian and Eastern European descent (Brighton has one of the largest communities in the eastern United States).
You can take the B or Q trains to Brighton Beach or just continue walking east from Coney Island after you pass the aquarium. It's worth it to also stop in the nearby Brighton Beach neighborhood for some authentic Eastern European food from markets, delis, and restaurants. If you walk a little further, you'll also come to the more-secluded Manhattan Beach Park.
Rockaway Beach is one of the best beaches located within the New York City limits, offering a spot to lay out with significantly less foot traffic than Coney Island. Rockaway Beach also has a boardwalk and is home to the only two stretches of shoreline in NYC that are appropriate for surfing.
Rockaway Beach is located in Queens from Beach 1st Street in Far Rockaway to Beach 149th Street in Neponsit. If you're flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport, Rockaway Beach is just a 10-minute cab ride. It you're heading over from Manhattan, you'll need to take the subway or a ferry service to get there.
From Manhattan, you can take the Rockaway Parkway-bound A train to Broad Channel anytime day or night, or you can board a New York Beach Ferry from Pier 11 on Wall Street on Saturdays and Sundays only for $30 round-trip.The ferry service is a fun option. You can sit on the top deck with a glass of rose and start relaxing before even getting to sand.
If you don't mind going a little bit further, Jacob Riis Park is technically on the same island as Rockaway Beach, but about a half-mile further than the train runs. This beach is among the cleaner NYC area beaches and has a topless/clothing-optional area near an area called Breezy Point Beach, which can be accessed by cutting through Fort Tilden Park.
This beach has a new food market that offers some of the best grub in New York City. You can get crab cake sandwiches, barbecue, famous Ample Hills Ice Cream, and more.
You can access Jacob Riis Park by taking the A train to Broad Channel and catching a local bus toward the western (Manhattan) side of the island or by taking the New York Beach Ferry to Riis Landing and walking down to Jacob Riis Park.
Three Beach Areas on Staten Island
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach span two and a half miles in the South Beach and Midland Beach neighborhoods of Staten Island. Filled with plenty of art, nearby facilities, and gorgeous beaches with relatively smaller crowds, this beach is a great destination for families visiting the city.
This destination can be accessed by taking the R train to the 86th Street Station. Here, you'll have to take the S53 bus to Sand Lane and Hyland Boulevard, then transfer to the S52 Bus to Father Capodanno Boulevard and Sand Lane, where the beach boardwalk starts. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the beach from Manhattan.
Another great beach is located in Wolfe's Pond Park, which offers visitors the chance to explore the nearby wildlife preserve and open space of the park as well as the beach. You can take the S78 to Tottenville at Cornelia and Highland Boulevard or the Staten Island Transit subway to Huguenot Avenue to get here.
Another epic park on Staten Island, Great Kills Park, features four beaches: New Dorp Beach; Cedar Grove Beach; Oakwood Beach; and Fox Beach. You can take the S76 to Oakwood Beach and then the S86 to Ebbitts Street and Cedar Grove Avenue for access to Great Kills Park.
A lot of New York City visitors don't realize that the Bronx in the north part of the city has its own beaches. The best among them is Orchard Beach that features a lovely promenade along the waterfront.
Located in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx—which is accessible by subway by taking the 6 train to its northernmost stop—you can access this public area by taking the Bx12 and Bx5 buses during the summer or the Bx29 to the City Island Circle in the winter.
One of the most famous New York-area beaches, Jones Beach has six miles of sandy beaches and a boardwalk. Just about all the beach amenities you'd want are available including lockers, chairs, a swimming pool, mini-golf, and shuffleboard areas. Additionally, the Jones Beach amphitheater hosts concerts throughout the summer.
Located in the village of Wantagh along Ocean Parkway, Jones Beach is only accessible by car, boat, or bicycle—so if you want to visit this Long Island destination, you'll either need to rent a car or be prepared to pay for an expensive cab there and back.
If you're looking for a Long Island beach that is accessible by public transit, the signature Long Beach can be reached by taking the Long Island Railroad to the Long Beach Station. However, keep in mind this beach, unlike New York City beaches, does charge a $12 access fee for adults and children over the age of 13.
Fortunately the boardwalk is free to access and has several permanent and seasonal shops including an ice cream parlor. You can often catch an arts or crafts festival or vendor event happening throughout the summer. Umbrellas and chairs are available to rent from several locations along the beach.
In the Long Island sound on the north shore of Long Island, about 80 miles east of Manhattan, the two-mile stretch of beach known as Wildwood State Park is home to one of the most secluded and beautiful beaches near the city.
To get here, you can take the Long Island Expressway to exit 68, then turn north on Route 46 to Route 25A east. You'll then exit left onto Sound Avenue, take a left at the traffic light onto Hulse Landing Road, and come to the park entrance on the right shortly.
As the name might suggest, Long Island is rather long. 118 miles from Manhattan you'll find the 363-acre Orient Beach State Park on the northeasternmost tip of the island. Swimming season opens in late June and continues to early September, and you can also view four nationally-recognized lighthouses in the park: Orient Point Lighthouse, Plum Island Lighthouse, Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, and the Cedar Island Lighthouse.
To get to Orient Beach State Park you'll need to drive along the north shore about 100 miles from Manhattan via the Long Island Expressway (Route 495). Once you near the end of the island, you'll want to merge onto Route 25 east, which dead ends in Orient at the park. There are also several nearby restaurants and accommodations if you want to stay the night.