8 of the best NYC beaches and how to get there

NYC's beaches, from Coney Island to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, are the perfect way to beat the heat this summer.
NYC’s beaches, from Coney Island to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, are the perfect way to beat the heat this summer. Photo Credit: Jane Kratochvil

Starting Saturday, May 25, the city’s beaches officially open for the summer.

With 14 miles of shoreline inside city limits, there are plenty of beaches to choose from when you want to get some sun and sand between the lifeguarded hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

But let’s be honest, if it’s not Rockaway Beach, some of us are clueless about where to get into the ocean. NYC Parks even has a personality quiz you can take to find out which beach most fits you.

That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best beaches to hit up this summer.

Fort Tilden (Breezy Point, Queens) 

This national park, which was originally a U.S. Army Coast Artillery Post during World War I, has an expansive white sandy beach.

How to get there without a car: Take the 2 or 5 train to the Flatbush Avenue – Brooklyn College station and get on a Q35 bus at Avenue H and Flatbush Avenue. Make sure to get off at Rockaway Point Boulevard/Beach 169th Street. Cross the Gil Hodges bridge and walk a few minutes to the beach. There are a couple of shuttles that run there from multiple neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the OvR Rockaway Beach Bus and Alexis Van Lines.

Pros: It’s clean, tends to be less crowded and secluded. It’s also known for being where you can sunbathe topless. If you want to, you can also explore Fort Tilden at your leisure.

Cons: Being secluded means, besides the public transit adventure, no concession stands, so you have to pack what you want to eat and drink. Also, a warning: There are no lifeguards on duty, so swim at your own risk. 

Rockaway Beach (Queens) 

Rockaway Beach
Rockaway Beach Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

We couldn’t go through this list without mentioning Rockaway Beach — it is popular for a reason. The sandy 70-acre stretch sees millions of visitors each summer, so it’s equipped with playgrounds, concessions and a boardwalk. It’s also the city’s only legal surfing beach.

How to get there without a car: Take the A to the Broadchannel station, then switch to the shuttle train that will take you to Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street. You can also take the NYC Ferry to Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive from Sunset Park and downtown Manhattan. There are a couple of shuttles that run there, including the OvR Rockaway Beach Bus and Alexis Van Lines.

Pros: It’s convenient. You don’t need to look far to get a cold beverage or some chow, including tacos, barbecue, pizza and lobster rolls that can mostly be found between Beach 86th Street and Beach 106th Street. It’s easily accessible with free parking lots. It’s also for all types of beachgoers, including surfers and paddleboarders.

Cons: It can be crowded and when it is, parking can be difficult. You’ll also be sunning while planes make their way to and from JFK Airport. 

Brighton Beach (Coney Island, Brooklyn) 

Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Just next door to Coney Island Beach, Brighton offers the convenience of Coney Island with the advantages of being farther away from the hubbub. 

How to get there without a car: Take the B or Q to the Brighton Beach station and walk about two minutes to the shore.

Pros: Clean and well-maintained, Brighton Beach is easy to access and has concessions and comfort stations near the boardwalk. It’s less crowded than Coney Island. Nearby, you’ll find Russian and Eastern European shopping and restaurants unique to the area known as Little Odessa.

Cons: Street parking isn’t always easy to find and it’s metered.

Coney Island Beach (Brooklyn) 

Coney Island Beach
Coney Island Beach Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

This iconic beach is bustling with beachgoers walking along the boardwalk and thrillseekers taking a break from Luna Park’s roller coasters. There’s a lot going on, but it’s as Brooklyn as you can get.

How to get there without a car: Take the D, N, F or Q to the Brighton Beach station and walk about two minutes to the shore. You can take the B but you’ll have to get off in Sheepshead Bay and walk to the B36 bus station at Avenue Z and East 15th Street.

Pros: You have everything you need. You can ride the Cyclone before or after your beach time, grab a hot dog at Nathan’s, people watch and play volleyball. It’s an easy ride on the subway.

Cons: It can be very crowded, so finding a spot for you towel and sunbrella can be a challenge. Parking is metered as well. 

Orchard Beach (Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx) 

Orchard Beach
Orchard Beach Photo Credit: iStock

Dubbed “The Riviera of New York” back in the 1930s, this 1.1-mile-long beach has a promenade, a central pavilion, snack bars, souvenir carts, playgrounds, picnic areas and ball courts.

How to get there without a car: Take the 6 train to Pelham Bay Park and hop on a Bx29 bus to City Island Avenue. The beach is a quick walk from where you are dropped off.

Pros: It’s picturesque to those strolling the promenade and it has calmer waters for those who want to float. The fact that it’s surrounded by woods is nice for those who want to explore. Parking isn’t free but it’s relatively affordable at $10 on weekends and holidays.

Cons: Hey, it’s our Riviera, so it can get quite packed.

Wolfe’s Pond Park (Raritan and Prince’s bays, Staten Island) 

Wolfe's Pond Park
Wolfe’s Pond Park Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

This secluded beach is good for Staten Islanders who want to get away from the bustle.

How to get there without a car: Take the Staten Island Railway to the Huguenot Avenue station, then take the S55 bus to Hylan Blvd./Cornelia Avenue and walk through the park about 5-10 minutes.

Pros: It’s quiet, dog friendly and has tennis courts, a roller hockey rink and comfort stations. There’s also a trail that circles the park for those who like to run or walk.

Cons: It’s only easily accessible to those who live on or near Staten Island. For the rest, it’s a commitment. 

Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn) 

This smaller beach is good for a relaxing time since it tends to be calmer than its neighbors. It was originally supposed to be a private beach for the wealthy but it’s free and open to the public.

How to get there without a car: Take the B train to Sheepshead Bay and hop onto a B49 bus at East 16th Street/Sheepshead Bay Road. Get off at Oriental Boulevard/Hastings Street and walk about two minutes. You can also take the N train to the 86th Street station and catch the B1 bus there. Take it to Oriental Boulevard and the beach is a quick walk.

Pros: It feels tucked away and peaceful, and it’s clean. It’s great for grilling out, but there is a concession stand you can buy from too.

Cons: Other than sunbathing and swimming, there’s not much else to do, and parking can be expensive on the weekends when it’s more crowded. It can also be a bit of a trek.

Jacob Riis Park (Rockaway, Queens) 

Named after the influential New York City photojournalist, “the People’s Beach” still has its original Art Deco bathhouse from 1932, which now houses programs and history exhibits. The beach itself is about 1 mile long and shares a border with Fort Tilden.

How to get there without a car: Take the OvR Rockaway Beach Bus or Alexis Van Lines from Brooklyn or Manhattan or the NYC Ferry from Sunset Park or Wall Street/Pier 1. You can also take the 2 line to Flatbush Avenue followed by the Q35 bus to the park.

Pros: You won’t go hungry with several food vendors to choose from — there’s even an Ample Hills Creamery at the bazaar. It also has spray showers, restrooms and water fountains, and it’s kept clean. It’s quieter than some other beaches, too.  

Cons: The surf can be a little rough and it can get crowded.