Asbury Park beach, photo via Wikimedia
New York City has some great local beaches, like the Rockaways, Coney Island, and Brighton and Orchard Beaches. But when you need a short break from all the spots you can hit via the subway, it’s worth remembering that there are some great beaches just a quick drive, NJ Transit, or Long Island Railroad ride away. Here are some of our favorite day beach trips from the city, from up-and-comer Asbury Park and Long Branch in NJ to long-time favorites like Fire and Shelter Islands.
1. Robert Moses State Park
Fire Island, NY
The Fire Island Lighthouse via National Park Service Photo/J. Peters
This 875-acre state park, located near the western tip of Fire Island, is about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan, and unfortunately, in keeping with its namesake, it’s impossible to reach without a car. Still, it’s worth the trip: the park boasts five miles of beautiful beaches and is home to the famed Fire Island Lighthouse, which opened in 1858 and is one of Fire Island’s most visible landmarks. As a bonus, the beaches at Robert Moses are cleaner and less crowded than nearby Jones Beach, even if it’s a little harder to get to them.
2. Sandy Hook
Monmouth County, NJ
Sandy Hook, located in Monmouth County, sits right at the Shore’s northern tip and is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. It’s accessible via the high-speed Seastreak ferry, which shuttles back and forth from Manhattan for $47 roundtrip. You can also take a New Jersey Transit bus, or make the one-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan. Once you’re there, you’ll be treated to a pristine beachfront, in addition to a bike trail and a bayside with gentler water. Note that a portion of the beach is clothing-optional, and there are limited trash cans in the area, so do bring your own bag for refuse.
3. Shelter Island
Suffolk County, NY
Shelter Island, located between Long Island’s North and South Forks, offers up about 20 miles worth of shoreline, making it a pretty prime beach spot for New Yorkers on the hunt for some beach time. Shelter Island’s a bit of a hike—it’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan, or you can take the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Greenport and ride the ferry. Once you’re there, there’s a slew of beaches to peruse, running the gamut from family-friendly Wades Beach to Shell Beach to Crescent Beach, the latter of which has a couple of hotels you can hang out at when you tire of the sun.
East Hampton, NY
Popular Montauk hotel Gurney’s, via Wiki Commons
Montauk is the sceniest beach town on this list. If you like to pair your sunbathing with booze and parties, this is the spot. Montauk’s an easy (if often crowded) LIRR ride from Penn Station, a trip on the famed Hampton Jitney, or a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan. There are a bunch of beaches to check out when you get there, including surf-friendly Ditch Plains Beach, restaurant-heavy South Edison Beach, and Kirk Beach, which is the main town beach. The area is also heavy with bars and hangouts, including the famed Surf Lodge, which hosts music concerts and parties in the summer, and the local brewery Montauk Brewing Company.
5. Long Beach
Nassau County, NY
This barrier island off Long Island’s south shore boasts a beautiful 3.3-mile beach, and it’s a quick trip from the city, clocking in at just over an hour’s drive from Manhattan or an hour’s ride on the LIRR’s Long Beach line. Once you get there, you can hang out on the beach (you do have to pay $15 for a daily beach pass) and/or check out the boardwalk’s many restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries. Some spots to check out include Swingbelly’s Beachside BBQ and Taqueria and Bar, which is exactly as it sounds. You can also take surf lessons from vendors on the boardwalk, or check out neighboring Lido Beach before making your way back to the city.
6. Long Branch
Monmouth County, NJ
Long Branch beach via Wikimedia
The beachside city of Long Branch is just under two hours from Manhattan by car, but it’s also an easy 1.5-hour ride on New Jersey Transit. The city’s home to a number of beaches, including Long Branch Beach, but its best offering is Seven Presidents Park, a clean and generally quiet stretch of oceanfront named for the seven presidents (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, and Wilson) who summered at Long Branch back when it was a bustling resort town. The beach is also super surfer-friendly—it was, in fact, one of the first Jersey Shore beaches to allow surfing—and there’s a playground for small children when they get bored of making sandcastles. End the beach day with a homemade Italian Ice and soft-serve cone from Strollo’s Lighthouse, and you’ve got yourself a perfect summer afternoon.
7. Jones Beach Island
Nassau and Suffolk Counties, NY
The barrier island of Jones Beach connects to the rest of Long Island via a trip of parkways, making it about a one-and-a-half-hour trek from Manhattan by car. Once you’re there, though, you get to enjoy Jones Beach State Park, a 6.5-mile stretch of (typically crowded) beachfront, along with a boardwalk and a slew of concession stands. Jones Beach Island is also home to the Jones Beach Theater, a putting green, and recreational sports courts.
8. Asbury Park
Monmouth County, NJ
Asbury Park is probably the hippest spot on this list, thanks to recent revitalization efforts that transformed the city from a dying working-class stronghold to a summer music-and-party destination. The city’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Manhattan or a two-hour New Jersey Transit trip. Once you’re there, you can hit the beach and boardwalk, and sunbathe, surf, or swim in the lifeguard-protected water. When you’ve exhausted your beach time, you can check out drinking holes like Bond Street Bar and Wonder Bar, or feast at eateries like Talula’s Pizza and Barrio Costera before checking out a show at the legendary Stone Pony or The Saint.
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Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on May 16, 2019.