Outdoors & Recreation
Surf City: NYC's Best Beach Spots
by Heather Liang, 05/14/2014 [Updated 05/13/2015]
Rockaway Beach. Photo: Marley White
Though Queens can claim to have only two public beach areas, what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. Likely the most-referenced NYC beach in pop culture (the Ramones song "Rockaway Beach," in which it's "not hard, not far to reach"; Seinfeld's "The Marine Biologist" episode), Rockaway Beach is the largest urban stretch of beach in the United States and houses the only two surf beaches in the five boroughs. In addition to places for soaking in the sun and taking a dip in the water, there are areas to fish and play sports, and a long stretch of boardwalk as well as a section of shops and restaurants along Beach 116th Street. (Work continues on the boardwalk and shoreline, which were heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012; updates can be found here, or by calling 311.) Continue out west to the far end of the Rockaways inlet and you'll encounter Jacob Riis Park, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which was designed in the 1930s as a refuge for poor immigrants who could only access a beach via public transportation that was in close proximity to Manhattan. In 1972 the National Park Service took ownership, and today Jacob Riis Park offers landscaped walkways, boardwalks, ball courts, a pitch-and-putt golf course and concession stands. The large sand beaches here are backed by an art deco bathhouse that was built in 1932—now housing historical exhibitions and serving as the base for ranger-led programs.