New York City is the only place in the world where you can take the subway to an ocean beach, including to go surfing, and it’s FREE to use NYC beaches. There’s no access fee.
NYC beaches are open Memorial Day Weekend to the weekend after Labor Day Weekend (through Sept. 8, 2019) with lifeguards and other services, including pop-up food vendors.
These are the best Atlantic Ocean beaches you can get to via the subway, and walk five minutes or less to the boardwalk and the beach, one hour or less from Midtown:
World-famous Coney Island was the place New Yorkers went to cool off and have fun before Las Vegas or Disneyland existed, and it’s still great fun.
Kick the sand, eat hot dogs at Nathan’s, ride the Cyclone for thrills, ride the Wonder Wheel for great views of the ocean and the Manhattan skyline.
And test your wheel skills in the bumper cars, which taught so many of us how to drive (or not) before our feet were old enough to reach the pedals of daddy’s 1949 Mercury, 1959 Pontiac, 1969 Plymouth or 1979 Saturn.
Attend a concert at the recently-opened Ford Ampitheater, see Coney Island history at the Coney Island Museum, and the history of the world’s sea life at the New York Aquarium, rebuilt and fabulous again after being drowned – literally – by Hurricane Sandy, as was the Coney Island Boardwalk.
How to get there:
Take the D, F, N or Q to the last stop.
Or, take the F or Q to the stop before, West 8th St./Coney Island Aquarium, where you’ll be away from the crowds and the honkey tonk.
- By bike, ride to the end of the Ocean Parkway bike path.
A few stops before Coney Island on the B or Q, where you’ll be tempted by the restaurants, grocery stores and fresh fruit markets of the Russian enclave called Little Odessa before or after the beach.
If you want an even less-crowded street scene and beach, get off Ocean Parkway.
Surfers look for the waves between Beach 67th and Beach 92nd Street. If you want to learn how to hang ten, sign up with Surf Lessons New York.
Rockaway Beach is closed between Beach 38th Street and Beach 57th Street to accommodate the nesting areas of several endangered and threatened shorebird species. To learn more, please visit the NYC Parks Dept.Rockaway Beach Endangered Species Nesting Area page.
Recommended eats are at Rockaway Beach Surf Club, for inventive tacos, and at Rippers. There’s also live music on weekends at Caracas Arepa Bar.
How to get there:
Take the A train to Rockaway Park/Beach 116th St. This is the commerial hub for the neighborhood, where you’ll find restaurants and other services. If you walk to the higher numbered Beach Streets, after the boardwalk ends, you’ll be in the quiet residential neighborhoods of Belle Harbor and Nepoonsit, where there are no public services.
Or, take the A train to Far Rockaway, and stop at either Beach 67th Street or Beach 90th Street, to watch surfers in New York City’s two designated surf spots, open year-round, between Beach 67th and Beach 69th Streets, and between Beach 87th and Beach 92nd Streets.
- By bus, take the J/Z to the Q52.
- By ferry, take the NYC Ferry from lower Manhattan and from Sunset Park, Queens, to 108th St.
Okay, we’re stretching it a bit here. Take the subway to the Staten Island Ferry, then add on an SI bus to the beach.
South Beach and Midland Beach
From the Ferry Terminal, transfer to the S81 or S51 bus, either of which will deposit you across the street from the entrance to South Beach.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Beach and Boardwalk
From the Ferry Terminal, take the S51 bus line to this 2.5 mile beach and boardwalk, with food and restroom services.
Cedar Grove Beach
Cleaner, quieter and more secluded than Staten Island’s more popular beaches, with a smaller designated swimming area.
From the Ferry Terminal, take the SB86 bus directly to the sand and surf.
There are more public beaches in NYC, open Memorial Day to Labor Day
Here’s the full list of NYC public beaches.
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Photo courtesy NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation
This article was posted originally in 2015 and updated annually.