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NYC beaches: A guide to the best shores to soak in the sun

From the popular Coney Island to the quieter Jacob Riis, there’s a beach for you.

NYC's beaches, from Coney Island to Orchard Beach

NYC's beaches, from Coney Island to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, are the perfect way to beat the heat this summer. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Grab your bathing suit, it's time to hit the beach.

There are 14 miles of shoreline within the city, so there’s plenty of beaches to choose from when you want to get some sun and sand.

But let’s be honest, if it’s not Rockaway Beach, some of us are clueless about where to get in the ocean. 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.

Pros: It’s clean, 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: It’s secluded, so getting there isn’t easy if you don’t have a car, but there are buses and ferries that drop passengers off near the shore. And while it is less crowded, people are catching on. Also, warning: there are no lifeguards on duty so swim at your own risk. If you want to eat, there are no concession stands, so bring your own lunch.

Rockaway Beach (Queens)

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, according to the parks department. It’s also the city’s only legal surfing beach.

Pros: It’s convenient. You don’t need to look far to get a cold beverage or some chow, including tacos, barbecue, pizza, lobster rolls and more. It’s easily accessible with free parking lots. It’s also for all types of beachgoers, including surfers or paddleboarders.

Cons: It can be crowded and when it is, parking can be difficult. You’ll also notice planes come in and out of JFK Airport. 

Brighton Beach (Coney Island, Brooklyn)

Just next door to Coney Island Beach, Brighton offers the convenience of Coney Island with the advantages of being farther away from the hubbub. It’s also near “Little Odessa,” an Eastern European and Russian enclave where you can explore shops and restaurants.

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 and it has Russian and Eastern European shopping and cuisine that may not be easily found elsewhere.

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

Coney Island Beach (Brooklyn)

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.

Pros: You have everything you need. You can hit up Luna Park 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, too.

Cons: It can be very crowded, and swimming in the ocean isn’t usually the first priority for people. Parking is metered as well. It’s not for the peaceful beach seeker.

Orchard Beach (Pelham Bay Park, The Bronx)

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.

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: It can get crowded and some visitors have said it can get dirty.

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

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

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.

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.

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,” as it was dubbed, 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.

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, water fountains, and it’s kept clean. It’s quieter than some other beaches, too. It’s also easily accessible thanks to the New York Beach Ferry or other bus services.

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

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