Amid the New York City’s din, it’s good to remember that cool breezes and refreshing waters are just a train ride away.

Four of the five of New York City’s boroughs boast excellent and highly popular beaches (sorry, Manhattan), while the glories of Long Island and the Jersey Shore are an easy day trip. Whether you’re looking for surf, sand, scene or all of the above, you’re sure to find a spot to while away those hot summer days.

These are the best beaches in and around NYC. 

The best beaches within New York City

1. Coney Island and Brighton Beach, Brooklyn

At Brooklyn’s southernmost point, Coney Island was developed as a resort in the 1800s, and by the turn of the century its amusement park attractions were drawing crowds from all five boroughs. Today, though its wide strand isn’t the cleanest, its boardwalk is hard to beat for people-watching.

Steps away from the beach, Luna Park has rides, games and more. Though it’ll shake you up a bit, don’t skip the Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster dating to 1927 that’s a New York City landmark. For a rainy-day option or a break from the sun, the nearby Coney Island Museum offers an overview of the neighborhood’s colorful history. The NY Aquarium is nearby too.

A short stroll down the beach or boardwalk is Brighton Beach, which is a bit more low-key than its neighbor, with more neighborhood locals socializing, exercising and enjoying the elements.

Planning tip: After a day in the sun, head off the Brighton Beach boardwalk for a Russian or Ukrainian feast (with some vodka) in the neighborhood, which is sometimes known as Little Odessa. We especially love the Uyghur dumplings at Kashkar Cafe.

Trail heading to Fort Tilden Beach, Queens, New York.
Fort Tilden Beach in Queens is best reached by bike © CHOONGKY / Shutterstock

2. Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden, Queens

A vast “people’s beach” on the Rockaway Peninsula (on the edge of Queens), Jacob Riis Park welcomes countless day trippers, who come to enjoy the wide boardwalk, art deco pavilions, fun food vendors and acres and acres of sand. At the far east end, you’ll find an LGBTIQ+ scene as colorful as you’ll find anywhere in the world: muscle boys, body-positive divas and drag parades, all to a soundtrack provided by boom boxes blasting pop hits.

Past the sun-bleached buildings that once comprised a military installation, Fort Tilden beach is surprisingly uncrowded (perhaps because it's a hot walk to reach the water), with trails through the scrubby dunes offering a taste of nature within the city limits. Fort Tilden benefits from the remote environs, with a relatively quiet beach unspoiled by massive crowds and complications.

A surf class at Rockaway Beach, Queens, NYC
The city’s only sanctioned surfing beaches are at Rockaway Beach in Queens © Ryan Struck / NYC & Company

3. Rockaway Beach, Queens

Wonderfully diverse, readily accessible and surprisingly beautiful, the Rockaways represent the best of New York, welcoming a staggering five million beachgoers every year. On the sand, you’ll find every type of person under the (literal and figurative) sun, with tens of thousands of New Yorkers lying out on hot days as they swap sweltering streets for ocean breezes.

A bike path will take you down the full length of the Boardwalk (beautifully reconstructed after sustaining horrendous damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012), past a beach reserved just for surfers, and along a section, closed to swimmers, where sea birds swarm among the lovely dunes.

Planning tip: You don’t need to swim to enjoy the scene along the 5.5-mile Boardwalk, with the action clustering around three concessions pavilions. There are arepas at Caracas (at Beach 105th St) and fresh fish at La Cevicheria (Beach 97th St), while revelers enjoy live music until the wee hours at Rippers (just east of Beach 90th).

Kids play in the shallow waters of Orchard Beach on a cloudy day in the Bronx, NUC
Orchard Beach is the Bronx's only beach © Byron Smith / Getty Images News

4. Orchard Beach, the Bronx

Dubbed the “Riviera of New York” when it opened in the 1930s, Orchard Beach is the only beach in the Bronx. This hot spot isn’t a place for peace and quiet – and that’s why it’s fabulous. Expect playgrounds and snack bars, groups blasting reggaeton and merengue on the promenade and thousands of sun seekers crowding its 1.1-mile length all summer long.

Planning tip: If you arrive by car (public transport is a challenge here), tack on a stop at nearby City Island for dinner. This charming fishing-centric island feels more New England than New York, and you can’t beat a pile of fried shrimp and clams at beloved joints Tony’s Pier and Johnny’s Reef.

5. South Beach, Staten Island

Expect a tableau of New York eccentricity at this stretch of beach south of Staten Island’s Verrazzano Bridge. Deeply tanned seniors in beach chairs don’t seem to mind the frolicking kids and Jehovah’s Witnesses passing out pamphlets at this 2.5-mile-long stretch of sand, which might just be New York City’s best. Take a dip with a view – or walk or bike along the boardwalk, made from real, wonderfully creaky planks. 

Planning tip: Cycling to South Beach from Manhattan is a breeze, via the Staten Island Ferry  and a new bike path from the North Shore via Fort Wadsworth. Bypass the busy on-ramps to the massive Verrazzano Bridge by pedaling under it.

The best beaches near New York City

6. Long Beach, Long Island

On the South Shore of Long Island, Long Beach is a straight-shot, hour-long Long Island Rail Road ride from Manhattan. Yet the town’s Ocean Beach Park (admission fee required) could be half a world away, with only the crowds to hint otherwise.

The 3.5-mile beach is one of the Long Island’s best, and it’s tailor-made for families, with multiple playgrounds for the little ones and lots of activities like surf lessons, bike rentals and a 2.25-mile boardwalk to explore.

7. Asbury Park, New Jersey

Easily reachable by train from Penn Station, this resort town has seen a boom in recent years, with a renovated seafront promenade, new hotels and condos, and sense of fun that makes it a unique beach destination in the region. Wide sand and nice waves draw sunbathers and surfers alike to the beach (admission fee required), while vendors along the Boardwalk offer salt-water taffy, fried dough, ice cream, frozen cocktails and other treats.

Planning tip: Asbury Park is also heavy on cultural appeal. Stay late for a show at the legendary Stone Pony, where famous New Jersey son Bruce Springsteen got his start.

Early morning clouds light up in pink and magenta against a blue sky at the Fire Island Lighthouse, Kismet, Long Island, as seen from the Lighthouse beach.
There are no cars allowed on Fire Island, making for a throwback vacation experience © Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty Images

8. Fire Island, Long Island

Hop on a ferry to car-free, 32-mile-long Fire Island for a welcome change of pace. If it’s your first visit, take the boat from Bay Shore to Ocean Beach, a quaint village with postcard-ready storefronts and restaurants. Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines draw a vibrant LGBTIQ+ crowd. For house shares, bars and a thriving pickup scene, head to Kismet; Saltaire offers a slower, family vibe. 

Sunrise over the Atlantic, as seen from Sagg Main Beach at Sagaponack
 Sagg Main Beach is one of the stretches of sand in the Hamptons © Dan Hallman / Lonely Planet

9. The Hamptons, Long Island

Long Island’s East End is famous around the world for its generally sceney summer crowd, with fashionable restaurants and fancy boutiques. Yet sometimes it’s hard to forget that the beaches by the villages known as the Hamptons – with their pristine dunes and glorious waves – are what made this such an in-demand region in the first place.

The beautiful beaches of Southampton (we love Coopers Beach) attract a tony crowd. In ultra-exclusive Sagaponack, Sagg Main has a clean, wide shoreline with lifeguards, concessions, bathrooms and shower facilities. Among East Hampton beaches, Main Beach is the most popular, while things are more relaxed at Two Mile Hollow, a longtime gay beach. Amangansett’s Atlantic Avenue Beach has an atmosphere that’s rowdy but not necessarily over the top, while the beach at Indian Wells can draw a crowd. Seek tranquility at the Atlantic Double Dunes Preserve and the Amagansett National Wildlife Refuge.

Planning tip: Parking at Hamptons beaches is limited and generally restricted to those with annual town passes. (Don’t try to park without one; you’ll be towed.) For less stress, take your bike on the LIRR, then pedal to the beach from the station.

10. Montauk, Long Island

At the easternmost point of Long Island (and New York State), Montauk can be a party scene during the peak summer months, though it remains charmingly low-key in the off season. 

Family-oriented Kirk Park Beach has public restrooms and lifeguards on duty. To mingle with the surf crowd, stake out some space on the sand at Ditch Plains, just east of the village proper. One of New York’s top-10 state parks for biodiversity, Hither Hills is less populated than the beaches in town, and you can book a campsite and stay overnight if you’re so inclined. For an even more remote oceanfront experience, strap on your walking shoes and head for the Amsterdam Beach Preserve, where a gentle, wooded loop leads up to bluffs with ocean views and down to a rocky beach far away from the masses. (Watch out for ticks, though.)

This article was first published May 26, 2021 and updated Aug 15, 2023.

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