Rockaway is one of the friendliest and always-changing beach towns in New York that is loaded with cool things to do. At Rockaway Beach, located on the coast of Queens, beachgoers will find some of the best tacos, laid-back outdoor bars and awesome shops selling vintage and trendy surfer apparel. Aside from that, Rockaway has a killer art and entertainment scene in addition to its supportive-community vibe. Check out the area’s art galleries at Fort Tilden as well as some of the restaurants and bars which host live music every night of the week. Whether you go to hang ten, get a tan or stuff your face with grub from the boardwalk, there is undoubtedly something for everyone at "Rock-Rock, Rockaway Beach." To many, it's as close as you'll get to paradise in New York City!
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Rockaway Beach, NY
Best things to do at Rockaway Beach
This ocean-front park features a number of nature walks, as well as remnants from its military past. Its fortifications were built in 1917 to protect New York Harbor from air and sea attacks. The beach is a part of the 26,000 acre Gateway National Recreation Area that runs through Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island all the way into Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Despite the kitschy delight of eating takeaway tacos off a knee-balanced plate at Rockaway Taco, the sit-down setup at this offshoot housed inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club is a much-welcome upgrade. Like at that OG taco shack, chef Andrew Field is fueling off-duty surfers and beach-bound locals with exemplary beer-battered fish tacos and watermelon juices, but Tacoway boasts one major feature its forebear was missing: alcohol. Now you can wash down that taco feast with margaritas and a range of ice-cold canned brews (Modelo, Founders All Day IPA). Booze + tacos + beach = heaven.
A seven-minute walk from the beach, the expansive, 3,600-square-foot taproom—set inside an industrial garage space with picnic tables and metal barstools—attracts Rockaway locals and visitors who shoot the breeze over a chalkboard menu of six rotating taps and savor hyperlocal craft brews sans snobbery. There's also live music, vinyl spinning and delicious eats like—yep, you guessed it—tacos.
If you need to escape the city scene, venture to this sandy spot, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. Leave your picnic basket at home, for there are many concession stands and tasty eats to enjoy while you're soaking up some much-needed Vitamin D.
Breezy Point’s small store is jam-packed with merchandise, so it may be a bit overwhelming, but it’s worth enduring for the shop’s giant selection of Reef and Rainbow flip-flops and sandals. Also worth checking out: Their popular Locomotion boogie boards with fiberglass skin and stellar graphics cut a stylish figure in the water. While you’re there, you may as well pick up a traditional shark-tooth necklace and protective Breezy Point Surf Shop UV shirt.
Former fashion executive Abra Boero has set up the coolest surf shop in town, located on the Rockaway peninsula. The minimalist haven, complete with a backyard and seating area (where large pours of gratis sangria will be served), boasts designer apparel and fashionable accessories for trendy beachgoers.
The Rockaway boardwalk wouldn’t be the same without Rippers. Launched in 2011 by the crews behind Roberta’s and the Meat Hook, this rowdy, neon-hued snack shack immediately attracts folks fresh off the A train. Huddle under galvanized-steel shade structures for juicy, grass-fed burgers on Martin’s potato buns, snappy, all-beef Meat Hook franks with zippy kraut and cold pineapple-coconut smoothies. The patty-joint fare demands a bit of a wait—potatoes are cut right before frying—and lines regularly wind down to the sand, but a kitschy ’80s soundtrack (the Go-Go’s, the Buggles) and a communal beer funnel keep spirits sunny.
Along with shopping, sports and beach snacks, this summertime sibling to Brooklyn Bazaar offers top-notch live tunes from local bands. Highlights include live (and free) rock-and-roll concerts plus fun events like Killer Karaoke on the beach. You can also take the opportunity to join a Rockaway Beach Volleyball League and eat s’mores during the Bazaar’s Campfire Fridays.
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. In addition, Rockaway Beach is 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).
Owner Tom Sena opened this tucked-away surf shop more than 40 years ago and was building boards well before that (since 1969). The family-run business stands as New York’s oldest surf shop and one of the oldest on the East Coast. Specializing in handmade surfboards, fiberglass skimboards and boogie boards, as well as accessories like surfboard leashes and wetsuits, this will be your reliable go-to spot for all your basic surfing needs. Can’t catch a wave? Surf lessons are available.
What’s a beach day without booze? (We wouldn’t know—we’ve never tried it). Stock up on rare and low-cost bottles of vino—some of which are exclusive to the peninsula—inside this beautifully crafted wood-lined shop that is reminiscent of being on a boat. The joint is known for hosting wine tasting nights, in case you want to become an expert sommelier (or get really tipsy for the ride home).