1. Fire Island, New York
This barrier beach off the southern shore of Long Island offers 32 miles of pristine Atlantic Ocean coastline, accompanied by quaint towns and villages and a characteristic lack of car traffic (beach cruiser bikes and red wagons are the only method of transport here). The island is popular with long-term summer renters from NYC and the surrounds, families and party hoppers alike – only a small group of inhabitants remains on the island year-round when most restaurants, bars and shops are shuttered. The village of Ocean Beach is a good destination for day-trippers, while spots further east like Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines are lively LGBTQ destinations.
How to get there: Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Penn Station to Bay Shore, Sayville or Patchogue, where ferries make the 20-minute crossing to various towns across Fire Island several times per hour.
New York’s Playground
Step from Coney Island’s golden sands onto its historic boardwalk and amusement parks, featuring the iconic Wonder Wheel. Don’t miss the summer firework displays on the beach every Friday (from the last weekend of June to the start of September) at 21:30.Book flights to New York
2. Montauk Point and the Hamptons, Long Island
At Long Island’s southeastern-most end, the Hamptons and Montauk Point draw beachgoers out of Manhattan by the droves. East Hampton, Southampton and Amagansett are known for their swishy crowds, shrubbery-shrouded homes and celeb-studded pool parties, while Montauk boasts more of a laid back, beach-bum charm. As far as beaches go, many in the Hamptons are private for permanent town residents (many hotels can provide passes), but Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk is known for its permanently firing surf break and West Hampton’s Cupsogue Beach County Park hosts a wind-battered snack shack with a bar and live music.
How to get there: LIRR trains head to the eastern extremes of Long Island a couple of times a day — the ride takes about three hours. Buses bound for eastern Long Island, such as the Hampton Jitney, also leave NYC frequently.
3. Coney Island, Brooklyn
The nearly three-mile beach, boardwalk and surrounding streets in this Brooklyn neighbourhood were hugely popular with holidaymakers during the early 1900s, but later in the century, things took a turn towards decay. Today, new life has been breathed into the boardwalk lined with rides, amusements and sideshows, and the wide sandy beach is crowded come summer. The original Nathan’s Famous hot dogs location is here – competitive eating and all – as is the New York Aquarium. The Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team (named after the boardwalk’s historic wooden roller coaster) even built a stadium off the beach and now calls the ‘hood home.
How to get there: Subway (D, F, N, Q) to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.
After a day of shredding the surf at Rockaway Beach, head in for a bite to eat from Tacoway Beach. Their famous fish taco with a side of guacamole is not to be missed. Open all week from 11:00 until 20:30.Book flights to New York
Rockaway Beach is the only place in the city that allows surfing, so it’s a popular spot among locals and tourists. To avoid disappointment, make sure you pre-book a lesson at one of the many surf schools dotted along the shore.Discover things to do
4. Long Branch, New Jersey
Yes, Long Branch is part of the same Jersey Shore where a certain party-hardy summer culture became a globally recognized phenomenon. And it’s a darn good part. Plotted towards the north end of the state’s famous sunny strip, this family-friendly town hosts a revived boardwalk, plenty of sand to spread out on and the Pier Village development with shopping, dining and outdoor concerts. At the top of the boardwalk lies the 38-acre Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park with lifeguards, bathrooms and a snack bar, named for all of the United States presidents that have spent time visiting Long Branch through history.
How to get there: New Jersey Transit trains from Penn Station stop in Long Branch within walking distance from the water’s edge.
5. Jones Beach State Park, Long Island
Built by Robert Moses in the 1920s, Long Island’s Jones Beach is still a place where millions go for concerts, fishing, sunbathing, mini-golfing and swimming. The park features a 6.5-mile-long beach (that feels almost just as wide from boardwalk to shore) and a two-mile boardwalk with seating, concession stands and a historic bathing house with a swimming pool. The Nikon at Jones Beach Theater hosts headline acts during a summer concert series – the outdoor amphitheatre’s Atlantic Ocean backdrop is worth shelling out for a show alone.
How to get there: LIRR to Freeport station, then catch the N88 Jones Beach Shuttle Bus to the shore.
The Hamptons and Montauk Point draw beachgoers out of Manhattan by the droves
6. Rockaway Beach, Queens
If you want to soak up rays with NYC’s trendsetting crowd, Rockaway Beach is your spot. Hurricane Sandy hit the area hard in 2012, but now a new crowd of foodies and fashionistas are descending for the beach’s diverse food options and see-and-be-seen parties. It’s also the only beach in the city that allows surfing (lessons are available) so the chilled-out vibe that comes with the sport is a constant. For a buzz-worthy lunch, look for hipster-favourite Tacoway Beach (the reincarnation of the Rockaway Taco) at the painfully cool Rockaway Beach Surf Club. If you’re not in the mood for a fish taco, no fear – a list of food trucks and stalls serving the area boasts everything else from lobster rolls and Bolivian food to green juices.
How to get there: Subway (A) to Broad Channel, then (S) to Beach 90th Street.
7. Long Beach, Long Island
Hurricane Sandy also left Long Beach with a hefty list of repairs, but the town’s renewed boardwalk is back to serving as the centrepiece of the shore, where bikers, ‘bladers and walkers can enjoy miles of board-dotted sea views. If renting a bike in the heat of the summer isn’t your idea of fun, then a cooling dip in the Atlantic followed by a lie-down on the town’s clean sands might do the trick. Away from the shore, Long Beach offers row after row of bungalows worth strolling past and plenty of restaurants and bars where sundowners are a sure thing.
How to get there: LIRR from Penn Station to Long Beach.
8. Jacob Riis Park, Queens
Rockaway Beach’s rough-and-ready neighbour is managed by the National Park Service instead of the New York Parks Department, and, as a result, there’s a markedly more relaxed enforcement of rules and regulations here than at the city’s other beaches. The far eastern end of the beach hosts a lively gay scene, while the rugged and wild western end couldn’t seem further away from the city’s urban sprawl. An Art Deco bathhouse still stands from when the park opened in 1932 and there’s sometimes a food truck or two lingering, but it’s best to pack your own provisions for a day out here.
How to get there: Subway (2,5) to Flatbush, then Q35 Bus to Newport Avenue, Beach 145th Street.