The 10 best beaches in New York City

Summer's here! Plan a beach outing with our guide to New York City's best seaside retreats.

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A visit to one of NYC's beaches is a great way to cool off during the city's sticky summer. The best part: They're totally free. Visit these spots if you need a weekend escape. Or if you'd like to go further 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: Summer in New York guide

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

1. Fort Tilden Beach

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NYC’s best-kept secret is open again after its year-and-a-half-long rehabilitation following Hurricane Sandy. This 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.

  1. Beach 169th St, (at the Atlantic Ocean)
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Coney Island boardwalk

Coney Island boardwalk

2. Coney Island Beach

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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!"

  1. Surf Ave, (between Ocean Pkwy and W 37th St)
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Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach

3. Brighton Beach

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Brighton Beach is largely Russian, as if its nickname, Little Odessa, weren’t a dead giveaway. Located next to Coney Island, the sandy strip is lined with Russian eateries.

  1. Brighton Beach Ave, (between Corbin Pl and Ocean Pkwy)
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Jacob Riis Park

Jacob Riis Park

4. Jacob Riis Park Beach

  • Free

If you need to escape the city scene, venture to this sandy spot, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. "We're a pretty laid-back beach," one lifeguard tells us. "We have a very eclectic crowd here—all shapes, sizes and ethnicities." One tip: Bring your own food, since the concession stands aren't always open and there aren't restaurants close by.

  1. Rockaway Beach Blvd, (at Channel Dr)
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Jones Beach

Jones Beach

5. Jones Beach

  • Free

Jones Beach is one of New York State’s biggest, with 6.5 miles of sand, two swimming pools, a two-mile boardwalk, miniature golf and the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center which offers educational tours. It’s also particularly good for long strolls on the boardwalk with your iPod.

  1. 1 Ocean Parkway
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Orchard Beach

Orchard Beach

6. Orchard Beach

  • Free

Orchard Beach was created by Robert Moses in the 1930s: It's the Bronx's only public beach and spans 1.1 miles and 115 acres. Dining opportunities at Orchard Beach are limited—there are practically no restaurants, just concession stands. So make a day of it and pack a picnic lunch. The beach's 26 sporting courts are also popular—once your time on the sand is up, get into a game of handball.

  1. Park Dr, (at Orchard Beach Rd)
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Rockaway Beach

Rockaway Beach

7. Rockaway Beach

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Encompassing more than 170 acres of sand, this family-friendly beach attracts New Yorkers from all five boroughs. Seven playgrounds keep kids happy while wave riders enjoy the city's only surfing areas. Fishing, skating, volleyball, sunning and, of course, swimming are also favorite activities. Rockaway Beach is also an excellent place to test your surfing prowess. If you're a novice, summer is the ideal time to start riding low waves, while more experienced boarders should savor hurricane season (September and October).

  1. Boardwalk, (between Beach 9th and Beach 149th Sts)
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Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach Photograph: Alex Strada

8. Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is within walking distance of Brighton Beach, on the east end of the same Brooklyn peninsula. Originally created in 1877 as a summer resort, it's now a popular destination for family picnics and barbecues. If you're tired of the obligatory game of beach volleyball, there are tennis, basketball and handball courts and two baseball diamonds. A quick heads up: Ditch the car and take public transportation, as parking costs $20.

  1. Oriental Ave, (at Hastings St )
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Midland Beach

Midland Beach Photograph: Jessica Lin

9. Midland Beach

In the mood for a soothing, hassle-free beach experience? Head to Staten Island's Midland Beach. Part of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach, Midland Beach is known for its popular fishing pier and bike path. It's also home to bocce courts, the Midland Beach War Memorial, the Sea Turtle Fountain and sprinklers (loved by youngsters), and a roller-hockey rink.

  1. Father Capadanno Blvd, Staten Island

Photograph: Wikimedia Commons, Markus Lasermann

10. South Beach

Adjacent to Staten Island's Midland Beach is South Beach. Recently refurbished after Hurricane Sandy, South Beach has all new fountains and playing fields. Lie on the sand and listen to the sounds of the Back to the Beach concert festival, or enjoy a meal at the South Fin Grill restaurant on the boardwalk.

  1. Father Capodanno Blvd & Sand Ln, Arrochar, Staten Island


Users say

8 comments
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).

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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

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