Rockaways with Kids: 25 Things To Do at Rockaway Beach and Beyond

The sandy shores at Rockaway Beach span more than 5 1/2 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Photo courtesy of NYCGo
The sandy shores at Rockaway Beach span more than 5 1/2 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Photo courtesy of NYCGo
5/18/23 - By Diana Kim

Rockaway Beach is home to soft sand and formidable Atlantic Ocean waves—it's the only shore in NYC where you're allowed to surf. Although this area was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, the boardwalk and Rockaway Park have been renovated with amazing playgrounds and water play areas. It's a perfect spot for a beachy daycation and much closer to home for locals than The Hamptons.

Read on for all you need to know about spending a day at Rockaway Beach with kids. Beyond the basics—sand! surf!—we've outlined need-to-know info like how to get to Rockaway Beach and the best things to do when you arrive at this NYC summer favorite. Find more local beaches to explore in our Guide to NYC Beaches, Pools, and Water Parks.


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Rockaway Beach is a unique urban-meets-suburban scene, and if you're up for exploring, there's a lot more to experience beyond the beach, including wildlife watching, awesome eats, and NYC history.

Is Rockaway Beach Open?

Rockaway Beach is staffed with lifeguards and open for swimming beginning Memorial Day weekend through at least Labor Day weekend. While the majority of the oceanfront is open to swimming, work on the Atlantic Shorefront Resilience Project continues and visitors can expect to encounter temporary beach closures for 10-15 blocks from Beach 116th Street to Beach 143rd Street. Fortunately, the entirety of the boardwalk remains open.

How to Get to Rockaway Beach

To reach the Rockaways, you can take the NYC Ferry service from Lower Manhattan or Sunset Park, Brooklyn, or hop on the A train to Broad Channel and then transfer to the S to Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street. The sand is just a short walk away.

RELATED: Best Outdoor Water Parks near NYC for Family Fun

Rockaway Beach with Kids: Small child with bucket on the beach
Kids of all ages dig the vibe at Rockaway Beach. Photo by author

Best Things To Do with Kids in the Rockaways

1. Hit Rockaway Beach

While away the day at Rockaway Beach; enjoy swimming, sunning, building sand castles, and strolling on the boardwalk.

2. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Explore the massive Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in nearby Broad Channel, which is home to hundreds of bird species and offers frequent FREE family programs, including kayaking and tours led by National Park Rangers.

RELATED: How to Get to Beaches in NYC by Ferry or Train

Rockaway Beach with Kids: Surfing at Rockaway Beach
Take a surf lesson with Skudin Surf School at Rockaway Beach.

3. Go Surfing

Amp up your beach day by going surfing; lots of local shops rent boards and some even offer surfing lessons for all ages. Note: the official surfing spots are Beach 68th to 71st Streets, Beach 87th to 91st Streets, and Beach 110th to 111th Streets.

4. Shop Local

For funky beach browsing, hit the Lola Star Rockaway Beach Shop, which is chock-full of tchotchkes, accessories, and clothes, all handpicked by the local personality.

5. Ride Bikes

Rockaway Beach is a great place to cycle. Although bicycling is not allowed on the boardwalk on weekends, there is a greenway and bike paths. Bring your own wheels or rent locally.

RELATED: 25 Top Sprinkler Parks and Splash Pads in NYC for Kids

Rockaways with Kids: Rockaway Beach Surf Club
Rockaway Beach Surf Club offers tasty tacos and a fun surfer-hang vibe.

6. Rockaway Beach Surf Club

If your kids are as into surf culture as mine, check out the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. The tacos are cheap and it hosts terrific and often tween-friendly live music and art events.

7. Go Fishing

Cast a line and wait for a bite. Our go-to neighborhood fishing nook is on Bayfield Avenue just east of the Brant Point Wildlife Sanctuary, but there are lots of other designated fishing spots in the area. Remember, individuals ages 16 and up need a fishing license!

RELATED: 10 Waterfront Playgrounds in NYC

Rockaway Beach with Kids: Beach Channel Playground
See the cool circus-inspired playscape at Beach Channel Playground.

8. Romp in a Rockaway Beach Playground

While there are lots of options, the play areas in Rockaway Park are the highlight. At Beach 30th Street, my kids had a blast trying out the water features, slides, and climbing structures. We also love the Beach Channel playground in Far Rockaway at 79th Street with its circus theme.

9. Whale-Watching Cruise

Keep your eyes peeled for cool ocean creatures on a whale- and dolphin-watching adventure cruise.

10. Jacob Riis Park

Keep going west and you'll hit this gorgeous beach on the Rockaway peninsula, complete with a historic Art Deco bathhouse. The Bathhouse Beach Pavilion will soon undergo a top-down renovation and once done, will boast a new hotel, pool, eateries, event spaces, and shops. For a family-friendly "glamping" experience, check out Camp Rockaway.

RELATED: Top Beaches near NYC for Toddlers

Rockaways with Kids: Fort Tilden
Fort Tilden is a time capsule that kids love to explore. Photo by Sara Marentette

11. Explore Fort Tilden

Get a glimpse of NYC's military past at Fort Tilden, where you can walk along the dunes and through the overgrown grass to spy derelict structures with amazing graffiti. Eventually, you'll make it to the beach, but be warned, there are no lifeguards, and there is rampant toplessness.

12. The Rockaway Hotel + Spa

Fancy turning your daycation into a staycation? Book a room at The Rockaway Hotel + Spa. If you don't want to stay overnight, consider booking a treatment at the spa or a day pass for the pool.

More Places To Play in Rockaway Beach

13. Rockaway Artists Alliance

The local nonprofit mounts temporary exhibitions and also offers art classes.

RELATED: Beach Clubs for NYC Families

Rockaways with Kids: Bayswater Park
The lovely Bayswater Park is off the beaten path, but a fun spot to play.

14. Bayswater Park

Mingle with the locals in a favorite neighborhood playground that's not on the beach. There's an awesome water feature, and this is where many annual community events.

15. Rockaway Theatre Company

See what's playing at this community theater, which puts on revivals of classic musicals and the occasional children's show.

16. Queens Library

Storm clouds darkening the sky? Pop into one of three Queens Library branches in the neighborhood: the Seaside location, the Far Rockaway outpost, and the Peninsula branch offer robust programming for all ages year-round.

17. Rockaway Community Park

On the other side of the peninsula, this local park is a nature lover's paradise. The birding and fishing are terrific, and it's a relaxing oasis away from the beach hustle.

RELATED: 14 Great Ice Cream Shops in NYC for a Cool Summer Treat

Rockaway Beach with Kids: Edgemere Farm
Edgemere Farm is a cool urban farm steps from the beach.

18. Edgemere Farm

See if you can swing a visit (or just take a peek) at this half-acre urban farm born from a vacant lot on Beach 45th Street.

19. Rockaway Jet Ski

Got a thrill-seeker in your family? Hit this local shop for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and jet skiing on Jamaica Bay. Do it yourself or go with a guide.

20. Floyd Bennett Field

We admit we're cheating a bit here, but just across the Marine Park Bridge from Jacob Riis Park you'll find Floyd Bennet Field. It's home to the Aviator Sports and Events Center, which offers a slew of outdoor and indoor athletic programming for kids.

RELATED: Kid-Approved Rockaway Beach Restaurants

Rockaway Beach with Kids: Uncle Louie G
Uncle Louie G is a classic NYC treat, but it tastes especially good at the beach. Photo courtesy of the shop.

Family-Friendly Restaurants in Rockaway Beach

21. Uncle Louie G

Grab an old-school Italian ice at the Rockaways location. Yes, it's a chain, but the locations are independently owned, and this one is oozing with charm.

22. Rockaway Beach Concessions

Tummy grumbling? No need to go inland, just grab a snack at one of three Rockaway Beach concessions at Beach 86th, Beach 97th, and Beach 106th Streets.

23. The Bungalow Bar

This casual eatery has one of the best waterfront views. The menu offers classic American fare with lots of seafood and a kids' menu. It's a hot spot for weekend brunch.

RELATED: Free Boat Rides: Where To Go Canoeing, Sailing, and Kayaking in NYC

Rockaway Beach with Kids: Cuisine by Claudette
Grab a pita at Cuisine by Claudette.

24. Cuisine by Claudette

There are lots of kid-friendly options at this Moroccan-inspired cafe, including smoothies, juices, pitas, grilled cheese, soups, and grain bowls. The vibe is chill and friendly.

25. Rippers

Grab a hot dog or burger and enjoy the '80s soundtrack at Ripper's, a kid-friendly burger joint and classic neon-hued beach boardwalk snack shack.

Read all of our posts about exploring Rockaway, Queens, with kids.

Originally published in 2015. Mariko Zapf contributed additional reporting.

Unless noted, all photos courtesy of the venues

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