Best beaches in New York City
Summer's here! Plan a beach outing with our guide to New York City's best seaside retreats.
Tue May 7 2013
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Photograph: Alex Strada
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 open for swimming on May 25—just in time for Memorial Day.
RECOMMENDED: Summer in New York guide
Many of the city's swimming spots are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. For updates, visit NYC Parks' Beach Recovery Guide.
- Price band: 1/4
Sun-deprived city slickers can pretend they're boozing oceanside at this waterfront bar. The former Water Taxi Beach location has kept the 300 pounds of sand left by its former occupant, but the rejiggered drinkery now features a menu from Buddakan alum Jason Mayer. Settle into a communal wood table with a wurst, burger or lobster roll, or hit up one of the game tables for a round of Ping-Pong, pool or foosball. Beer lovers can grab one of six drafts—such as Sixpoint Crisp Lager, Ommegang Witte Beer and Magic Hat #9—at two long driftwood bars. On Sundays, indie-rock bands take the stage for free concerts.
- north side of Pier 17, Beekman St, (at South St)
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.
- Brighton Beach Ave, (between Corbin Pl and Ocean Pkwy)
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!"
- Surf Ave, (between Ocean Pkwy and W 37th St)
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.
- Rockaway Beach Blvd, (at Channel Dr)
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.
- Park Dr, (at Orchard Beach Rd)
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). The boardwalk is in the process of being rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy—the city expects to have temporary concessions and bathrooms set up in damaged areas by May 25.
- Boardwalk, (between Beach 9th and Beach 149th Sts)
- Price band: 1/4
- Critics choice
Sprung from humble Long Island City origins, Water Taxi Beach has expanded to this 20,000-plus-square-foot Governors Island locale. Drinks are similar to those at the other locations, including draft beers and cocktails. The Beach Grill—one of three minirestaurants on the site—sells familiar fare like the Motz Burger.
- Governors Island