Los Angeles gets all the attention for being an urban city with beautiful beaches, and while that's partially due to Southern California's pleasant year-round climate, it would be a mistake to ignore New York City's easy, breezy summer beach access. The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation maintains 14 miles of free beaches, with lifeguards on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Typically, the beaches are open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, but this year, the city has extended the season until September 10. We rounded up our favorite New York City beaches to inspire you to explore the city's best patches of sea and sand before the seasons change.
Coney Island Beach
Coney Island doesn’t have the best water for swimming (it’s more suited to wading), but it’s the best beach for extending a day of sunning on the sand into a night of carnival games and amusement park rides at iconic Luna Park. There are also fun events like Friday night fireworks and Brooklyn Cyclones baseball games. The boardwalk can be a bit gritty, and the circus sideshow definitely adds a sordid element to the scene, but the area is safe and popular with families.
For those who want to avoid the crowds and shenanigans found on neighboring Coney Island Beach, we suggest you get off the train a few stops earlier at Brighton Beach. This part of Brooklyn is known as Little Odessa and the neighboring Russian grocery stores, fur shops, and Russian restaurants (with lengthy vodka offerings) on the beach prove why. The sand and sea are similar to what you’ll get on Coney Island, but the crowds are smaller and there’s less of a gritty vibe. Note that the most hardcore Russian sun-seekers can be found soaking up even the weakest rays in winter.
Beach at Fort Tilden
Fort Tilden’s scene is about as far from Coney Island as one can get. The mostly isolated stretch of sand (no lifeguards, bathrooms, or concessions here) is ultra popular with New York City’s fashion and LGBT crowds. Nudity and alcohol consumption aren’t out of the ordinary, and park rangers only occasionally patrol via horseback, but the atmosphere is very laid-back and safe. You’ll have to haul in (and haul out) all of your own food and beverages, but this beach is way more about the people on the sand than the convenience of buying snacks.
Beach at Jacob Riis Park
Located in Queens, Jacob Riis is the more popular (and crowded) neighbor to Fort Tilden. Riis has all the excellent amenities that Fort Tilden lacks, including bathrooms, lifeguards, and a variety of restaurants and bars on the boardwalk. Concerts are regularly held at Riis Park Beach Bazaar, and there’s a parking lot (though it fills up fast). Getting to the beach isn’t the easiest, but there is a private ferry with a bar, which runs on weekends from Pier 11 in Manhattan.
Rockaway Beach in Queens is a solid choice. The six-mile stretch of sand is just a few blocks from the subway, and offers great amenities like beachfront bars and restaurants, water sports rentals, and biking on the promenade. It’s often packed (think: towel-to-towel on holiday weekends), but the water is some of the nicest for swimming in New York City. Plus, the people watching is hard to beat. For the intrepid, New York Surf School offers lessons seven days a week.
Orchard Beach is the only public beach in the Bronx and it’s a good one. Its man-made crescent shape spans over one mile and 115 acres, and offers views of City Island. Like many of the area’s beaches, it was created by Robert Moses in the 1930s. Features are family-friendly with two concessions stands, picnic areas, and 26 basketball, volleyball, and handball courts.
Midland Beach and South Beach
Staten Island is an island with very little in the way of public beaches, apart from Midland and South beaches. Views of the Verrazano Bridge are especially nice from South Beach. Again, the water isn’t the most ideal for a full swim, but the beaches are lovely for walking (there’s a two-mile boardwalk that was refurbished after Hurricane Sandy), enjoying a scenic bike trail, or hitting the tennis or bocce courts. Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier serves as a serious fishing spot. Kids love the Sea Turtle Fountain and sprinklers.
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