Take the Subway to NYC Beaches: Coney, Rockaway & Brighton Just a MetroCard Swipe Away
New York City beaches open for the season this Memorial Day weekend and, unlike last year, you won't see quite as much damage left over from Hurricane Sandy. (In 2014, the storm's impact was still evident on Staten Island, where two beaches were closed due to ongoing construction, and Rockaway, which was open but had many closed sections.)
Fourteen miles of sparkling sand and crashing waves can be found in four of the five boroughs (sorry river-locked Manhattan), which is good news for NYC families because—much as we enjoy hitting the Jersey Shore, Long Island beaches and Fire Island—we're not big fans of renting cars or sitting in traffic.
New York City's beaches are just a subway, bus or ferry ride away. From the "Bronx Rivera" to the iconic Coney Island to the Rockaways, these urban seasides offer everything that suburban beaches do except the out-of-town commute.
All NYC Parks Department beaches are open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day between 10am and 6pm.
Coney Island & Brighton Beach
West 37th Street to Corbin Place
D, F, N, Q to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue
Coney Island is arguably NYC's most famous beach and rightfully so. It's the perfect destination for summertime fun with three miles of Atlantic Ocean beach for swimming, sunning and sand-castle building and a slew of fantastic amusements. Stroll along the iconic boardwalk; take a spin on the lovingly restored B&B Carousell; get your adrenaline pumping on Luna Park's thrilling rides including the Cyclone or the Thunderbolt roller coaster; enjoy incredible views from Deno's Wonder Wheel; or watch the sea lion show at the partially restored NY Aquarium. And that's just a few of the attractions! Off the boardwalk, chow down on an original Nathan's hot dog, eat some of NYC's best pizza at Totonno's, satisfy your sweet tooth at Williams old-school candy shop or the slick IT'SUGAR; or catch a minor league baseball game at the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. If you're looking for less action and more beach, try the adjacent Brighton Beach, which is located further east with more of a local feel. Both beaches have been restored and are fully operational since Hurricane Sandy though portions of the Coney Island boardwalk are currently being repaired.
Oriental Boulevard from Ocean Avenue to Jaffray Street
B, Q to Brighton Beach, then take the B1 bus to Manhattan Beach
This five-block beach located on the eastern side of the Coney Island peninsula has a short concrete promenade, designated barbecuing areas, two playgrounds and, usually, fewer people than Coney.
Long Island Sound in Pelham Bay Park
6 to Pelham Bay Park, then take the Bx5 or Bx12 bus to Orchard Beach (be sure to confirm the bus is going where you want since the bus only services the beach during the summer).
Pelham Bay Park is NYC's largest green space and features lots of attractions including this mile long, crescent-shaped, man-made beach on the Long Island Sound, affectionately nicknamed the "Bronx Riviera" or "Riviera of New York City." While sound beaches aren’t as exciting as ocean ones since they don’t have crashing waves, the calmness of the water is often better for little swimmers. This popular beach has two playgrounds, a promenade and a central pavilion with a concession stand, changing rooms, showers and bathrooms. Once you tire of sun and sand, hop the Bx29 bus to City Island, which is just minutes away, for a seafood dinner and ice cream.
Beach 9th to Beach 149th Streets
A to Broad Channel, transfer to the S to Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street. Or, if you're in Brooklyn, take the weekends-only NYC Beach Bus, which leaves from Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn.
Rockaway was absolutely devastated by Sandy and the city is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to restore the area. Damage is still apparent and sections of it look like a construction zone. So expect intermittent closures of parts of the beach and boardwalk for ongoing improvements. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't visit. The local businesses certainly would love to see you and the massive beaches in Rockaway are the only place where you can catch a wave in the city. Surfing is allowed between B67-B69 Streets and B87-B92 Streets. This popular summertime destination also offers designated spots for saltwater fishing along with several playgrounds and a boardwalk right on the Atlantic.
Jacob Riis Park
Beach 149th Street to Beach 169th Street
2 to Flatbush Avenue, then take the Q35 bus to Jacob Riis Park. Or a lovely alternative is to take the weekends-only New York Beach Ferry from lower Manhattan directly to the park. NYC Beach Bus goes here, too.
Just west of Rockaway Beach, this sandy strip offers swimming; a concession stand and food trucks; and a pitch and putt golf course. Managed by the National Park Service, Jacob Riis is famous for its restored Art Deco bathhouse (which was damaged by Sandy but deemed structurally sound) that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Midland Beach & South Beach
Fort Wadsworth to Miller Field
From the St. George Ferry Terminal, take the S51 bus to Father Capodanno Boulevard and Sand Lane.
These two adjacent beaches offer a 2½-mile boardwalk on New York Bay, a playground, a sea turtle sprinkler and a popular fishing pier. And thanks to a grant from the United Way, Kayak Staten Island is back at South Beach with its FREE walk-up kayaking program.
Cedar Grove Beach
From the St. George Ferry Terminal, take the S76 to Ebbitts Street and Cedar Grove Avenue, and walk down to the beach.
NYC's newest beach is considered a secret gem by locals and has some interesting history and controversy. Though owned by the city and open to the public, the beach was maintained for decades by the folks at Cedar Grove Beach Club, a community of families who had been vacationing there for generations. But in 2010, the city took the land back to turn it into the destination beach and playground it is today. It's generally considered the cleanest and calmest of Staten Island's four beaches.
Wolfe's Pond Beach
Wolfe’s Pond Park
From the St. George Ferry Terminal, take the S78 to Seguine Ave, then walk along Hylan Boulevard to the beach.
This mellow beachfront is located on Raritan Bay, part of the Atlantic Gulf, and is good for younger children since it doesn’t sport a very rough surf. Once you're over the sand, explore Wolfe's Pond Park, a nature-lover’s paradise with wetlands and trails.
NYC Beach Tips
Keep your feet covered. Our shores aren't as pristine as most suburban beaches, so wear flip-flops at all times.
Arrive in your bathing suit. With the exception of Orchard Beach which has changing rooms, it's against the rules to change in the beaches' bathroom stalls. If the beach staff catch you (or even your kids) doing it, they will scream at you!
Leave your pooch at home. NYC beaches don't allow dogs.
No smoking. Smoking is banned at all NYC beaches.
Travel lightly. Technically, flotation devices aren't allowed in the water and temporary shelters, like tents, aren't permitted on the sand, though we've certainly seen people with both. Umbrellas and chairs are allowed.
Stay safe. There have been issues with riptides in the Atlantic Ocean the past few years. Find out how to keep your family safe.
Fill your season with fun from our Summer Guide.
This post was originally published in May 2011.