Must-See Jamaica Bay: At a Glance
Outdoors & Recreation
by Alyssa Grossman, 05/15/2012
Covering a far-reaching expanse of beaches and trails, and offering an abundance of wide-open spaces and outdoor activities on and near the water, Jamaica Bay feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the City. Accessible by public transportation, car, bike and ferry, this area of parks, interconnected points of interest and neighborhoods situated in southeast Brooklyn and Queens offers locals and visitors the perfect place to relax, unwind and connect with nature. On any given summer day, you'll find bikers pedaling along the greenway and trails, kayakers paddling around piers and inlets, kids enjoying the playgrounds and families spreading blankets on serene sandy beaches.
Jamaica Bay is also a place where past and present intertwine. Surf festivals, movie screenings under the stars and a state-of-the-art visitor center blend seamlessly with former US Army bunkers and batteries along the shoreline and historic aircraft at the City's first municipal airport. And if you're looking for stunning views and perfect photo opportunities (hello, Instagram!), Jamaica Bay will not disappoint. You'll find picturesque waterfront sites, plus some of the best places to see airplanes take off and land at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Before you go, check the Department of Parks & Recreation, Urban Park Rangers, National Park Service, New York State and New York City websites for the latest information on things to do in the area, plus information on places to eat and stay and how to best get to your destination. The User's Guide to the Jamaica Bay Greenway [PDF] also contains an overview of the area and its history, attractions and businesses, along with a handy map. Keep in mind that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, some beaches, park areas and recreational facilities still remain closed because of damage caused by the storm. The Departments of Parks & Recreation and the National Park Service have been working to restore these areas as quickly as possible. Thanks to these repair efforts, sections of the beloved Rockaway boardwalk will be in place for the summer beach season, as will temporary facilities for lifeguards and restrooms.
Jamaica Bay is accessible by car, subway, bus and bike. During weekdays, a ferry service travels from departure points at East 34th Street and South Street Seaport's Pier 11 to a Rockaways ferry landing located at Beach 108th Street and Beach Boulevard. On weekends and holidays, options include a ferry that leaves from Pier 11 three times a day; and Rockabus, a school bus that hearkens back to schooldays gone by and departs from Williamsburg, Grand Army Plaza and the Lower East Side, complete with curated music soundtracks from local DJs. And you can take the A train to the Howard Beach stop, where a free shuttle bus departs for the Rockaways and shuttle train service at Far Rockaway–Mott Avenue (on May 30, the A train resumes its regular service all the way to the S shuttle train on the Rockaway peninsula). Grab a camera and hop on your bike or in your car, or get on the subway, bus or ferry, and begin discovering the endless ways to experience this waterfront escape.