Photo via Flickr
The Rockaways is the quintessential beach getaway for those looking to soak up some sun and still remain in the city. Once known as “New York’s Playground,” the Rockaways offers a 5.5 mile stretch of bustling boardwalk and over 120 acres of sandy beach. While definitely a go-to spot for city-dwellers, navigating the Rockaways can be daunting if you’re unfamiliar with the Queens neighborhood. We’ve rounded up the best of the Rockaways, including how to get there, where to soak up the sun, and, of course, the best spots to wine and dine.
Image © 6sqft
How to get there
What better way to start off your beach day than on the water? The Rockaways route of the NYC ferry runs from Wall Street to Sunset Park to the Rockaway Ferry terminal, which conveniently leaves you just blocks from the boardwalk. The trip won’t cost you more than a MetroCard swipe unless you’re planning on bringing a bike.
The Rockaways are also accessible by subway. Just take the A train to Broad Channel and transfer to the Rockaway Park Shuttle. There, you can get off at 90th st, 98th st, 105th st, or 116th st, which all leave you within walking distance of the beach. Alternatively, you can continue on the A train to Beach 67th st. or Beach 60th st.
You could also choose to skip dealing with the MTA and ride to the beach in style. OvRride offers a coach bus that picks up from select locations in Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan and drops passengers off at the beach. The buses also include free refreshments, as well as other amenities like air conditioning, on-board bathrooms, and exclusive deals at partnering businesses at the Rockaways, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and Bushwick.
For those whose perfect day at the beach involves craft brews, there’s also the Rockaway Brewing Co.’s “Brew Cruiser.” The mini coach bus (which only runs on Saturdays) picks up passengers at the brewery’s Long Island City location and drives them in air-conditioned style to the Rockaways. Passengers can also grab a drink for the road before they head out, and continue the party when they arrive at the brewery’s Rockaway location.
Photo via Flickr
Once called the “Irish Riviera,” because of its resort-like amenities and large Irish community, Rockaway Beach is arguably the most entertaining part of the Rockaways. Right by the heart of the boardwalk, there’s plenty to do. There are even surf lessons (more on that below), as Rockaway Beach is one of the few places in NYC where surfing is permitted. However, it also tends to be the most crowded beach.
Located to the west of Rockaway Beach is the Jacob Riis Park, and its attached beach. The Jacob Riis Beach is a little farther from the heart of the action, but what it lacks in crowds it makes up for in history. Beachgoers can relax in the shade of the park’s Art Deco-style bathhouse, or learn about the area’s past as a historic gay beach. The beach has enough concession options to rival nearby Rockaway Beach, so the hardest part of getting something to eat should be deciding between all of the delicious options. Bay 1, the easternmost portion of the beach, is unofficially considered clothing optional- so maybe consider setting up elsewhere if you have children with you.
Formerly a military base, Fort Tilden is now the hidden jewel of the Rockaways. Less than ten minutes from the Jacob Riis Beach, it’s hard to believe Fort Tilden is still a part of NYC. The beach is never crowded, leaving you free to enjoy a surprisingly quiet and secluded part of the city. The seclusion comes at the cost of infrastructure, however- The closest bathrooms are at Jacob Riis Beach, and there are no concession stands. Grab a snack at some of the more populated spots, and spend the rest of the day exploring the abandoned fort.
Photo via Flickr
Where to eat
You could pack a lunch to take with you, but half the fun of the Rockaways is all of the concession options. Treat yourself to frozen mixed drinks or delicious tacos before sitting by the water with your recently-purchased picnic. Make sure to bring enough cash, though- many of the vendors don’t accept cards.
What’s a beach day without some fish? Cevicheria serves mouth-watering bowls of ceviche with an assortment of fresh seafood, quinoa salads, and virgin mojitos. In the words of one Yelp reviewer, “I wish they sold Leche de Tigre (the sauce the ceviche comes in) by the liter.”
Photo via Bungalow Bar
Don’t let the name fool you- In addition to having a full-service bar, Bungalow Bar also serves sit-down meals. The biggest draws, however, tend to be the Pineapple Express (served in a hollowed-out pineapple) and the bar’s prime location. Located just steps from the beach, it can get crowded on weekends, but it’s worth the wait.
Photo via Flickr
Tacoway Beach, located inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, is the go-to for affordable and delicious tacos. Not only can you get a taco with chorizo, fish, or tofu, they also serve crowd-favorites like plantain chips with guacamole and elotes.
A popular watering hole for locals, those who know the Rockaways swear up and down by Connolly’s. This bar is known for their famed frozen pink lemonades and pina Coladas, served in styrofoam or paper cups. Tip: ask for it with a “floater,” or an additional shot on top, for one dollar extra.
Photo courtesy of Rockaway Brewing Co.
Born in the Far Rockaways (but now brewed in Long Island City), the Rockaway Brewing Co. returned to its beach roots a few years ago, opening a taproom on Beach 72nd Street in 2016. The location, which sits steps from the Jamaica Bay, offers an eclectic array of brews, from”Muscle Beach” to “Cloudwatcher.” Open all year round, the brewery’s Rockaway location hosts events like Bingo, live music, and a BBQ brunch on weekends.
Photo courtesy of Rockaway Jet Ski
Although a day that consists only of lying on the beach and chowing down on boardwalk food would be perfect, there’s more to do in the Rockaways. Whether you’re a die-hard surfer or an appreciator of antiques, there’s plenty of ways to entertain yourself.
Jet skiing seems like an activity you’d be more likely to find in the Carribean, but Rockaway Jet Ski offers rentals and tours all summer. You can rent a jet ski and zip around Jamaica Bay or take one of their guided tours around the Statue of Liberty. They also offer kayak and paddleboard lessons.
Photo by Sarah Long, courtesy of Zingara Vintage
If shopping for vintage clothing is more your speed than surfing or jet skiing, Zingara Vintage, which got its start on the boardwalk in 2012, is perfect. The adorable boutique is open year-round and offers vintage beach clothing, handmade jewelry, organic beauty products, vinyl records, and more. During the summer, you can shop vintage finds at the store’s boardwalk location at Beach 97th Street.
Very few beaches in the city allow surfboarding, and even fewer have dedicated surf schools willing to teach even total novices. Lessons can be a little pricey, but there are packages for groups taking lessons together, and you’re provided with a wetsuit and surfboard.
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