How to Get to NYC Beaches by Ferry or Train
Fourteen miles of beautiful beaches can be found in four of NYC's five boroughs, and many are easily accessible by ferry or train. Soon, even Manhattan gets its own sandy shore. As much as we enjoy hitting the Jersey Shore, Fire Island, and other Long Island beaches, we're not big fans of renting cars and sitting in traffic. Luckily it's easy to hit the sand and surf by taking a ferry or subway to these city shores. From the "Bronx Rivera" to iconic Coney Island and the Rockaways, these urban seasides often offer just about everything suburban ones do—except the out-of-town commute.
What will beach season look like in summer 2021? Well, NYC beaches, which were delayed opening by the pandemic last season, return to their regular schedule this year, opening for the season on Saturday, May 29. For now, capacity limits are in effect, though the governor has said he hopes to lift them by the Fourth of July.
Read on for details on our favorite urban seaside destinations and find more seasonal fun in our Summer Fun Guide.
Editor's note: While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
Brooklyn Beaches by Subway and Bus
West 37th Street to Corbin Place
Getting there: D, F, N, Q to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. NYC Ferry service is slated to launch later this year, too.
Coney Island is arguably NYC's most famous beach. It's the perfect destination for summertime fun with three miles of Atlantic Ocean for swimming, sunning, 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 (new for 2021: a brand-new, circus-themed section, with plenty of high-flying, ropes-course style fun); or enjoy incredible views from Deno's Wonder Wheel, which marks its belated centennial anniversary in 2021. The park is also expected to debut a new kid-friendly coaster later this season. You can get up close to seafaring wildlife at the New York Aquarium, march in the annual Mermaid Parade, which is eyeing a late-summer return, pandemic permitting, and check out the annual sand-sculpting contest in August.
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 Candy Shop, or catch a minor-league baseball game at the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. If you're looking for less action and more sand and shore, try the adjacent Brighton Beach, located farther east and has more of a local feel.
The less crowded Manhattan Beach makes up about five blocks worth of sand and sea on the eastern side of the Coney Island peninsula.
Oriental Boulevard from Ocean Avenue to Jaffray Street
Getting there: B, Q to Brighton Beach, then take the B1 bus to Manhattan Beach
This five-block beach 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.
Low tide brings ideal swimming conditions at Orchard Beach. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Bronx Beaches by Public Transportation
Long Island Sound in Pelham Bay Park
Getting there: 6 to Pelham Bay Park, then take the Bx5 or Bx12 bus to Orchard Beach. Be sure to confirm the schedule before heading out. This bus service is typically offered Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Parking is available for $10-$13 on weekends; $8 on weekdays.
Pelham Bay Park is NYC's largest green space and features plenty of attractions, including this mile-long, crescent-shaped, man-made beach on the Long Island Sound, affectionately nicknamed the "Bronx Riviera." While the Sound doesn't offer the excitement of waves, the calmness of the water is better for little swimmers.
This popular spot has two playgrounds, a promenade, and a central pavilion with a snack bar that serves hot dogs, hamburgers, and more, 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.
Rockaway Beach, where the surf is up in NYC. Photo by Julienne Schaer for NYCGo
Queens Beaches by Ferry, Train, and Bus
Beach 9th to Beach 149th Streets
Getting there: A line to Broad Channel, transfer to the S to Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street, and the sand is just a short walk away. The citywide NYC Ferry also serves the Rockaways at Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive. It leaves from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and downtown Manhattan.
This popular summertime destination offers a great beach, of course, and several playgrounds, including an impressive splash pad, bicycling or strolling along the boardwalk, designated spots for saltwater fishing, and plenty of fun boardwalk eats, from tacos and hot dogs to sit-down casual spots.
Not only that, but the Rockaways are the only locations where you can catch a wave in the city. Surfing is allowed between Beach 67th and Beach 69th streets and between Beach 87th and Beach 92nd streets.
Jacob Riis Park Beach is spacious and filled with amenities, including a food bazaar and playground. Photo by Julienne Schaer for NYCGo
Beach 149th Street to Beach 169th Street
Getting there: 2 line to Flatbush Avenue, then take the Q35 bus to Jacob Riis Park. The NYC Ferry offers a shuttle bus from the Rockaway landing into the park, and a lovely weekends-only alternative is the New York Beach Ferry from lower Manhattan directly to the park.
Just west of Rockaway, this pretty spot offers swimming, a playground, a small boardwalk, a bustling concession stand dubbed the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, and a pitch-and-putt golf course. Managed by the National Park Service, Jacob Riis is famous for its restored Art Deco bathhouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It's harder to get to without a car because there's no subway stop, but it's been gaining popularity in recent years, especially with 20-somethings drawn to the foodie scene, including the adult beverages. Kids will likely appreciate the Hawaiian Shaved Ice and new in 2021 Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.
If you can swing a weekday visit, you'll find the crowds somewhat lighter. Or stay the night, with glamping in nearby Fort Tilden.
South Beach is one of Staten Island's popular beaches. Photo by Marley White for NYCGo
Staten Island Beaches by Public Transportation
Fort Wadsworth to Miller Field
Getting there: From the St. George Ferry Terminal, take the S51 bus to Father Capodanno Boulevard and Sand Lane.
Touted for their orange-colored sand, these adjacent beaches offer a combined 2½-mile boardwalk on New York Bay, a playground, a sea turtle sprinkler, and a popular fishing pier.
Getting there: From the St. George Ferry Terminal, take the S76 bus to Ebbitts Street and Cedar Grove Avenue and walk down to the sand. Free parking is available if you can find a spot.
NYC's newest beach is considered a secret gem by locals and has some interesting, controversial history. Though owned by the city and open to the public, it was maintained for decades by 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 sandy spot and playground it is today. It's generally considered the cleanest and calmest of Staten Island's four beaches.
Getting there: From the St. George Ferry Terminal, take the S78 bus to Seguine Avenue, then walk along Hylan Boulevard to the sand.
This mellow beachfront is located on Raritan Bay, part of the Atlantic Gulf, and is good for younger children as it doesn’t sport a very rough surf. Once you're done with the sand, explore Wolfe's Pond Park, a nature lover's paradise with wetlands and trails.
NYC Beach Tips
- When do NYC beaches open? In 2021, New York City's beaches open on Saturday, May 29. Beach season runs through Sunday, September 12, and lifeguards are on duty from 10am-6pm. Swimming is prohibited outside these hours.
- Keep your feet covered. Our shores sometimes aren't as pristine as we'd like, so wear flip-flops at all times.
- Arrive in your bathing suit. Except for Orchard Beach, which has changing rooms, it's against the rules to change in the bathroom stalls. If the staff catches you (or even your kids) doing it, you'll be reprimanded.
- 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, such as tents, aren't permitted on the sand, although we've seen people with both. Umbrellas and chairs are allowed.
- Stay safe. There have been issues with riptides over the past few years. Keep an eye on kids at all times and stay close to the little ones who can be pulled under or toppled over by the force of even a small wave or typical current.
This article was first published in May 2011, but is updated annually.
Places featured in this article:
Coney Island Beach
Jacob Riis Beach
Cedar Grove Beach
Wolfe's Pond Beach