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The best New York beaches

Summer's here! Time to put on those shades, fill the cooler and lie out on the sand at the best New York beaches.

A visit to one of the best New York beaches is a great way to cool off during the city's sticky summer. The best part: They're some of the best free things to do. Jump on the subway and visit these spots for some much needed weekend getaways. Or if you'd like to go farther out, see our list of off-the-beaten-track beaches, all an hour away or less. The city-run beaches are open for swimming from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do outside in NYC

Find the best New York beaches

1

Fort Tilden Beach

NYC’s best-kept secret and lifeguard-free three-mile stretch of clean sand, trees and grassy dunes is so isolated that even on a summer weekend you’ll get a good 50 yards of beach to yourself. Since Fort Tilden Beach is nearly inaccessible via subway or car (unless you have a fancy fishing license), we suggest biking there. Oh, and don’t forget to pack some grub—the area is pretty sparse in terms of eateries and stores.

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Rockaways
2

Jacob Riis Park Beach

After years of being eclipsed by popular-kid neighbor Rockaway Beach, this expanse is enjoying a renaissance, thanks to the folks at Riis Park Beach Bazaar, which debuted last season with a packed calendar of gigs—look for Time Out Live sets through the end of August—and the bathhouse-residing food court slinging out eats from Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue and Ample Hills Creamery. (So, yeah, feel free to skip the picnic basket.) There’s a lot to say for a beach that doesn’t involve leaving NYC but makes you feel like you did. Riis boasts a golf course, ball courts and a markedly wider beach than nearby Fort Tilden and Rockaway. And here’s a history lesson: Notorious city planner Robert Moses, who developed a lot of ocean coasts in and around NYC, dubbed it “the people’s beach” because of its access to public transit. That’s all well and good, but a festive bus will get you there in way less time, sans transfers, and with the added perks of a free Sixpoint brew and a spirited atmosphere.  

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3

Jones Beach

Go big or go home! This massive six-mile expanse on Long Island is a well-manicured sandy oasis ideal for families—there’s minigolf, ball courts and even a swimming pool—and music fiends: Nikon at Jones Beach Theater sees big names like Gwen Stefani and Dave Matthews every summer. The park has some architectural twists, too. The bathhouses are Art Deco–inspired, and the large water tower at the park’s entrance was created to resemble the campanile of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Just like being in Italy, right? 

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Long Island
4

Cherry Grove Beach

Since the ’60s, New York’s gay and lesbian crowd has ridden the ferry to cool off at this serene hamlet, which is only accessible by wooden walkways (no paved roads here). Though all of Fire Island’s spots technically share the same beachfront, this area is a bit more laid-back and affordable than the more popular Pines, but there are still plenty of clubs, bars and restaurants tucked among the cottages where you can shoot the breeze and dance with queer peeps. In the idyllic town, murals and mosaics cover the walls, reflecting the skills of artsy regulars.

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Downtown
5

Long Beach

One of Long Beach’s biggest allures is what a breeze it is to get there. Hop on the LIRR from Penn Station, and you’ll have your toes in the sand, literally, within an hour. (We really heart public transit—at least when it drops us off right at the beach.) Superstorm Sandy pummeled the seaside town in 2012, but the city rallied with a cool $42 million, and now its boardwalk boasts more than two miles of walking and biking bliss that’s better than it was back in the day. Shoregasboard (you guessed it, it’s a beachified spin on Smorgasburg) features food truck vendors selling everything from meatball heros to acai bowls, and the community hosts a summer concert series, a weekly art festival and a farmers’ market on Saturdays in Kennedy Plaza, a mere six blocks off the beach. Plus the sandy grounds—which require a $15 entrance fee—are debris-free and barefoot-friendly, and don’t just take our word for it: The National Resources Defense Council ranked Long Beach among the cleanest beaches in the U.S. (and the spiffiest in New York).

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6

Orchard Beach

Bronx’s only public beach, spanning 1.1 miles and 115 acres, is notable for its unique crescent shape and stunning views of City Island. The shore was created by Robert Moses in the 1930s and still remains one of the most popular beaches in New York to date. For what the sandy waterfront lacks in restaurants and bars, it makes up for with concession stands, two picnic areas and 26 courts for basketball, volleyball and handball.

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The Bronx
7

Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk

The Ramones-approved sprawl may have gained some hipster cache over the past few years, but the draws to Rockaway remain pretty constant: You can’t beat the few-blocks-off proximity to the subway—it’s about an hour trek from downtown to the sand—and the expansive, nearly six-mile-long beach means it’s a little easier to move your blanket away from boom-box guy. (You know the one.) Plus, there’s Rockaway 2.0 favorites like the boardwalk’s rockin’, sceney burger and booze joint Rippers. And the waves here are actually ridable. Hang ten and sign up for surf lessons at the New York Surf School (192 Beach 92nd; 718-496-3371), which has a daylong camp option for $100. The star of the show, though, is the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, a mural-lined bohemian joint home to the popular food stand Tacoway Beach. (Get the fish tacos. Trust us.)

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Rockaways
8

Robert Moses State Park

This gem ticks off all the criteria for a jealousy-inducing beach day: Its five-mile beachfront is quiet (radios aren’t permitted on Fields 3 and 4) and crowd-free in comparison to its neighbor-to-the-west Jones Beach, and its facilities—private outdoor showers, first aid, grills and picnic tables—are in superb shape. If you’re looking for even more solitude, head farther east to Field 5 for access to the rest of the scenic Fire Island coast, including the nearly 200-year-old Fire Island Lighthouse, where you can climb 192 steps for the best views outside the city. Or don’t—it’s the weekend after all.

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Long Island
9

Coney Island Beach

Coney Island is one Brooklyn standby that perfectly juxtaposes old and new. While some might say its peak has come and gone, others would disagree, particularly Dick Zigun, the founder of Coney Island USA, the nonprofit responsible for organizing Coney Island's famed events, including the Mermaid Parade. "The beach is still the main attraction," says Zigun of the shore's three miles of southern exposure. "Some people might prefer the Riviera or Montauk, and maybe our sand isn't as pristine, but we've got half-naked New Yorkers here!" Not to mention you've got a full theme park, delicious Nathan's Hot Dogs and all the people-watching you could want a few steps away.

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Brooklyn
10

Gunnison Beach

Shed your clothes and inhibitions at one of the biggest and most popular nude bathing spots on the Eastern Seaboard. This sparkly clean two-mile stretch of sand was once the site of a military base; soldiers frequently went skinny-dipping in the nearby surf until the facility was decommissioned in the early ’70s. Today, the beach continues to attract naturists—so much so that parking is frequently maxed out on weekends. Avoiding tan lines isn’t the only draw, as this pristine coastal destination also offers dramatic views of lower Manhattan, hiking and bird-watching.

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Comments

9 comments
Michelle H
Michelle H

jones. orchard and long beaches are not free just fyi. 

Sarah S
Sarah S

Plum Beach,NY .This one is just beautiful!!!

Lisa W
Lisa W

Coney Island Beach? Really? Trashiest place on earth. How about the lovely Long Beach? A simple train ride from Penn. Grocery store and small shops to stop at on your walk over from the train station. Or Long Branch in Jersey. Another easy train ride, with nice place to get lunch and a sno-cone establishment. Oh yes, jones Beach is beautiful, until you get stranded there when the buses decide they don't want to come and pick up the beachgoers to take them back to the train station (common story).

Robert Bass
Robert Bass

I have been going to New York City's Beaches since I was a child. I am now just short of being officially a senior. I also frequent Long Island beaches, Florida beaches and Caribbean beaches. I mention this to say I notice the differences. Since the Bloomberg era going to the beach in New York( especially Rockaway) has become a less than pleasant experience. First when you finally get down to the sand with all of what you bring ,the first thing that you may find is that there is no life guard there-only Park Department employees( usually unpleasant) telling you that you can not even stick your toes in the water because there is no life guard. You may have to drag all of your belongings about a 1\4 mile to the nearest life guard. When you finally do get there you will be hearded into a small area of ocean. If any one strays out side of the small flagged area the Parks Department or the life guards will be happy to remind you of your transgressions by blowing their whistles which occurs about every three minutes. In short The City is so afraid of getting sued or that some one will drown in ankle deep water that a peaceful day at a New York City Beach is a thing of the past

Milagro
Milagro

whoah this blog is excellent i love reading your articles. Keep up the great work! You realize, a lot of people are searching round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

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