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. While sections of the Rockaway boardwalk have been newly built—including locations where there are an array of food vendor concessions at Beach 86th, Beach 97th and Beach 106 Streets—others are still under construction (the ongoing work, necessary after Superstorm Sandy, continues through 2017).
To get there by public transporations, take the A train to the S shuttle train on the Rockaway peninsula. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (July 4 and Labor Day), the Rockaway Beach Ferry departs from Wall Street's Pier 11 in the morning for Riis Landing in the Rockaways, with a return trip in the afternoon. Riders can also hop aboard the East River Ferry in Brooklyn or Queens and transfer to the Rockaway Beach Ferry at a discounted rate. For schedules and pricing, visit newyorkbeachferry.com. Another option is the NYC Beach Bus, which picks up at two locations in Brooklyn—Williamsburg and downtown, near Barclays Center—and drives folks out to stops at Jacob Riis Park and Beach 95th Street; it's $14 round-trip. So grab a camera and hop on your bike or in your car, or get on the subway, bus or ferry, and begin discovering the ways to experience this waterfront escape.