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12 Top-Rated Beaches in New York City & Surrounding Area

Written by Lavanya Sunkara
Jul 11, 2019

Manhattan gets so sweltering in the summer, it's easy to forget that it's surrounded by water, and that it has access to top beach within a short distance. As Memorial Day rolls around, and the humidity rises, locals and visitors head to the trains and ferries, equipped with coolers and beach chairs, to escape the heat and make the most of summer days on beaches full of fun activities and water sports.

There are a number of options for beaches in and around New York City, fit for every type of traveler, from families and couples to singles and girlfriends looking to get away from the bustle of the city. Most of these beaches offer more than just excellent sunbathing and swimming. You can enjoy thrilling roller coaster rides, go sea kayaking, explore wilderness on nature trails, take in seaside towns, and much more.

You'll find these beaches in the boroughs, in the famed Hamptons, and on the Jersey shore. Whether you are visiting for pleasure or taking a break on your business trip, a welcoming beach is never too far from the city.

Keep in mind that NYC beaches are free and only allow swimming when a lifeguard is on duty. Beaches stay open from Memorial Day Weekend at the end of May through Labor Day in early September, from 10am to 6pm. You need a car to venture out to the beaches on Long Island and New Jersey, and they have their own rules and fees.

Plan your day by the sea with our list of the the best beaches in the New York City area.

1. Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn

Coney Island Beach

As one of New York's most popular beaches, Coney Island has it all. This beach at the tip of Brooklyn is easily accessible by subway trains and has two amusement parks (Deno's Wonder Wheel and Luna Park) featuring the Cyclone roller coaster and a boardwalk, and the iconic Nathan's Famous Hot dogs. The original Nathan's Coney Island restaurant that opened in 1916 is still at the corner of Surf and Stillwell, home of the annual Hot Dog Eating Contest that takes place on July 4th weekend.

While the beach is still the main attraction, events like the famous Mermaid Parade in June draw crowds from all across the city. At the nearby New York Aquarium, you may not find mermaids, but you'll definitely get your fill of marine life. The aquarium, now part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, is the oldest aquarium in the United States and features 350 marine species, including 18 species of sharks from around the world.

2. Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach

If you continue walking east from Coney Island and the aquarium, you'll come to Brighton Beach, located in a neighborhood of the same name facing the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is a little less crowded than Coney island, and you'll find mostly locals enjoying the beach with picnics and beach volleyball. Brighton Beach area has the largest community of Eastern Europeans in the Eastern United States, which means grocery stores selling Russian and Eastern European foods, and delis and restaurants serving freshly made pierogies.

Within walking distance to Brighton Beach, you'll also find the more secluded Manhattan Beach Park on the east end of the Brooklyn Peninsula. The park offers tennis, basketball, and handball courts and two baseball fields. Free movies are shown all summer long in the parking lot.

3. Jones Beach State Park, Long Island

Jones Beach

Jones Beach is one of New York metropolitan area's most famous beaches. Spanning 6.5 miles, this well-maintained public beach in the hamlet of Wantagh features a two-mile-long boardwalk, Art Deco bathhouses, and plenty of fun activities ranging from mini-golf to shuffleboard.

You can catch summer concerts at the Northwell Health outdoor arena, which gets big names like Jimmy Buffett and Dave Matthews. Jones Beach State Park also hosts the popular Bethpage Air Show with the Blue Angels every Memorial Day weekend, a July 4th Fireworks show, softball and volleyball tournaments, and free entertainment at the bandshell.

Jones beach is only accessible by car, boat, and bicycle, and there's a fee of $10 per car. If you have a New York State Empire Passport ($80), you can go for free. Keep in mind that during peak summer season it gets extremely crowded; the best times to go are early in the morning and evenings around sunset. Swimming is only allowed when lifeguards are on duty. Stand up paddleboarding, surfing, and windsurfing are also allowed along the beachfront at certain locations.

4. Long Beach, Long Island

Long Beach, Long Island

A 50-minute train ride on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Manhattan will bring you to the soft, white sands of Long Beach, where you can sunbathe, swim, and catch some waves. Chairs and umbrellas are available to rent from several outfitters. The 2.2-mile Long Beach Boardwalk, rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, is free to access and perfect for biking or walking. It has several shops along the route, including Shoregasboard food truck market and Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt.

In the summer, there's a free concert series, an Arts on the Boardwalk festival, and a farmers market at the Kennedy Plaza on Saturdays. If you want to take up surfing, Skudin Surf Long Beach is located right on the beach.

A day pass is required to access the beach in the summer for $12 for residents and $15 for non-residents. LIRR occasionally offers One-Day Getaway deals on weekends that include a beach pass and a coupon to participating local vendors along with the train ride.

5. Cooper's Beach, Southampton

Cooper's Beach

Cooper's Beach in the Hamptons is often ranked among the top beaches in America, and rightfully so. This 500-feet-long glistening stretch on the South Shore offers a fun outing with a beautiful backdrop of historic mansions, undulating sand dunes, and expansive ocean views. The beach has a $40 parking fee, as well as facilities such as a concession stand, bathhouse, and umbrella and chair rentals.

Lifeguards are on duty during summer. Families with small children will especially enjoy the soft sand, perfect for building sandcastles, and the gentle waves found at Cooper's Beach. There are beachside shower facilities with freshwater, so you can rinse off before heading home.

6. Main Beach, East Hampton

Sunset at Main Beach in East Hampton

Along with Cooper's Beach, Main Beach has regularly topped the list of the nation's best beaches. This oasis in East Hampton is within walking distance to many accommodations in the area. Main Beach offers amenities like a snack bar, bathrooms, and lifeguards. Relax in the shade of the Pavilion. There are plenty of shops and restaurants on Main Street to explore, as well as local attractions like Home Sweet Home Museum and an old-fashioned windmill at Old Hook Mill.

If you are staying in the area, bike to the beach to avoid the hefty parking fee of $30. Kayak, surfboard, and paddleboard rentals are available from outfitters in town; some even offer lessons if you decide to hone your skills on the water.

7. Robert Moses State Park, Fire Island

Robert Moses State Park

Shutterstock ID: 1089854012 or 730024276

Colorful umbrellas stretch for miles on the sandy shore of Robert Moses beach on the western end of Fire Island National Seashore, a barrier island paralleling Long Island in the Atlantic Ocean. This bike-friendly haven offers a closer beach-going opportunity than the Hamptons, and it is just as beautiful. You also get the iconic 200-year-old Fire Island Lighthouse and incredible ocean views. A less-than-a-mile nature trail from Field 5 leads to the lighthouse, where you can climb the 192 steps to the top for panoramic views of the island and beyond.

On-site facilities include private outdoor showers, grills, and picnic tables. At Field 2, there's an expansive volleyball court and an 18-hole Pitch & Putt Golf Course (open from April to mid-November). Robert Moses State Park can be reached via public transportation, if you are willing to take the train to a bus.

8. Orchard Beach, Pelham Bay Park

Orchard Beach | Shannon McGee / photo modified

Orchard Beach in Pelham Bay Park is the Bronx's only public beach, and this "Riviera of New York" is a popular spot with many amenities. There are snack bars; picnic areas; playgrounds; and 26 courts of basketball, volleyball, and handball. This 1.1-mile crescent-shaped beach faces the Long Island Sound and offers a view of City Island. Showers and changing areas are also available.

Parking is $8 on weekdays and $13 on weekends during beach season. This beach can also be accessed via public transportation. Barbecuing is allowed on the North and South Picnic Areas.

9. Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk

Rockaway Beach, Queens

Rockaway Beach in Queens gets significantly less crowded than Coney Island, and that's part of the appeal. It's also the only shoreline within city limits appropriate for surfing, which means the waves are rough. Hop on the Rockaway-Parkway-bound A train subway or the ferry from Pier 11 on Wall Street to get to this six-mile-long slice of paradise.

With eight playgrounds along the beach, the most impressive at Beach 30th Street, kids will have no trouble being entertained. If you want to learn surfing, sign up for lessons at Skudin Surf or New York Surf School.

The boardwalk, after a renovation following Superstorm Sandy, is ready for prime time. Grab a few tacos at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, home to the popular food stand Tacoway Beach. Other concession stands sell burgers and hot dogs, Venezuelan arepas, and seafood rolls.

10. Jacob Riis Park Beach, Far Rockaway

Jacob Riis Park Beach

You can get more than a tan at Jacob Riis Park Beach, thanks its new Bazaar and Art Deco boathouse. Three miles from Rockaway Beach, this clean stretch of sand, nicknamed "The People's Beach" for its access to public transit, can be reached by taking the A train to Broad Channel and catching a local bus, or by ferry.

The Bazaar, now in its fifth year, is one of the top attractions at Jacob Riis beach, offering some of the best food in NYC, including the famous Ample Hills Ice Cream, Rockaway Clam Bar, and Oaxaca Tacos. In the summer, visitors can take advantage of the golf center, ball courts, and concession stands, as well as vendors selling everything from bathing suits to vintage clothes. The Bazaar also hosts a number of live shows, games, and dance events.

11. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach, Staten Island

South Beach, Staten Island

As part of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt boardwalk and beach area, South Beach and Midland Beach extend 2.5 miles from Staten Island's Fort Wadsworth to Miller Field's Gateway Recreational Area. Just a short ferry ride from Lower Manhattan, these beaches provide endless fun in the sun for people of all ages. There's even a beach for seniors containing chess tables, benches, and bocce courts. Beachgoers can take in lovely views of the Verrazano Bridge, jog along the boardwalk graced by The Fountain of The Dolphins, play tennis, go biking, and more.

At Midland Beach, the less crowded option, you can go fishing off the Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier, one of the largest in the city. The Sea Turtle Fountain and sprinklers and the playground are a big hit among youngsters.

12. Asbury Park, New Jersey

Aerial of Asbury Park

The historic shore town of Asbury Park, built in the late 1800s, features one of the best beaches in New Jersey. The mile-long revitalized boardwalk, lined with artsy shops and restaurants, ends with the main highlight-the beautifully restored Paramount Theater and Convention Hall. Here, you can catch a show, attend a festival, and even do a little shopping.

Asbury has something for everyone, including a glassblowing studio, Silverball Arcade, Asbury Splash Park with plenty of kid-friendly attractions, and the newly opened Asbury Lanes bowling. The beach costs $7 on weekends and $5 on weekdays, and it can be reached via New Jersey Transit Coast Line, with a change at Long Branch, and by grabbing an Uber or Lyft to the beach.

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