As seemingly everyone jets off to international destinations, have you thought about staying put? Nobody ever said you can’t go on vacation in your own city.

If this interests you, let me introduce you to a new take on the beloved staycation – a term coined in the ’40s that took on stardom during the COVID-19 pandemic as we tried to convince ourselves that being trapped in our house was equivalent to a fabulous getaway.  

I am not suggesting you stay home. Rather, visit a new part of your city or town (no further than 2 hours away), snag a stunning hotel room and indulge in relaxation and hotel amenities. 

This is what my boyfriend Dylan and I decided to do for our two-year anniversary. (Call it a “baecation.”) Since neither of us had time for a long getaway, we opted for the Rockaways instead. This beachy part of Queens is a staple weekend haunt for New Yorkers, though one I rarely take part in. I never really could get with hauling all my beach supplies on the subway just to get scorched under the sun – and then have to take the subway back home.

This time, we approached it differently.

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The Rockaway Hotel is a beachy oasis, steps away from the ocean

Where we stayed

An important part of a staycation? The stay! It is worth it to choose a hotel that provides comfort and amenities. The ideal hotel only requires you to go off campus if you need of a change of scenery. And that is precisely what we got at the Rockaway Hotel

We had the pleasure of being hosted by the hotel, and ended up staying in a Deluxe King room with ocean views and a terrace. The room was cozy and perfectly embodied the beachy vibe – although we spent much more time enjoying the amenities than hanging in the room.

We spent most of our time in the heated pool. (If there is one thing we love to do, it’s swim.) Dylan and I posted up in one of the hotel’s cabanas and drank frozen Aperol spritzes while hopping between the warm water of the pool and the outdoor saunas. We went to the pool a full four times during our two-day stay. 

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We had some delicious meals while dining at Margies and the Pool House, two of the Rockaway Hotel's restaurants

What we ate

Margies: We ate here twice during our stay. The first night, I had a dirty martini, and Dylan enjoyed an old-fashioned. The meal was fantastic. We can’t seem to skip burrata if it's on the menu, so that's what we started with. We also enjoyed calamari with sweet chili sauce, crisp grilled asparagus, fries (obviously) and a steak to split. For dessert, we had cheesecake with a candle in it in honor of our anniversary. The second time around, we went a bit more casual and split the burger and the Little Gem Caesar salad. It was arguably the perfect meal. 

The Pool House: This outdoor restaurant next to the hotel pool is an airy, relaxing place to start the day; we did so on our second day. There was a bit of a wait for our breakfast, but it was arguably one of the most photogenic pieces of toast I’ve ever received. Totally worth it. 

Supply Shop: As we were leaving to go home, we grabbed a coffee from here, which is located off the lobby. The space also has a number of pastries and treats worth trying.

Rippers (offsite): During our bike ride, we stopped at this boardwalk restaurant, serving grass-fed burgers and some of the best fries I’ve had in a while. Located on Beach 86th St, it has an endearing retro vibe and provides the perfect lunch spot, whether you are biking like us or hanging out in the water. We chose to split some fries as a snack, and I also enjoyed a Yuzu margarita while Dylan opted for a beer. 

Happy Jack’s Burger Bar (offsite): Located across the street from the hotel, this small burger joint is a casual spot for pre-dinner drinks at a reasonable price. I had a glass of wine, and Dylan had a beer. The burgers looked delicious, but we knew we wanted to catch the sunset, so we ended up heading back to the hotel's rooftop.  

Board Walk Bagels & Delicatessen (offsite): After checking out, we stopped by this breakfast spot for a massive sausage, egg and cheese bagel to take with us on the road. 

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His-and-hers bicycles and martinis plus the sunset. Does it get better than that?

Things you shouldn’t miss: 

Spa treatment: No baecation is complete without a couple’s spa treatment – and boy, did we get the ultimate experience. We opted for the sugar body scrub, which included being rubbed down with an exfoliating scrub, sipping rosé in the sauna, taking a shower and having shea butter massaged into our skin.

Bike rides: On day two, we decided to take out the complimentary bikes the hotel has for guests, which we had been eyeing since we arrived. The beach is ridiculously close, and although it wasn’t warm enough to go in the water, we cruised along the boardwalk for 2 hours, taking in the scenery and getting a little exercise.

Pool: Embrace your inner child and take part in the joy of playing in the pool. Show off your underwater handstand, see who can hold their breath the longest, race to the other end of the pool...the options are endless. 

Sauna: The hotel has an outdoor sauna next to the pool and another in the spa. Both are fantastic, and what better way to recover than sweating out those toxins?

Beach: Whether you bike or walk, the beach is super close, and there are tons of little shops and restaurants along the boardwalk. If you're brave, dip your feet in!

Sunset: Is there anything more romantic than watching the sunset over cocktails with your significant other? On our second night, we nearly missed it and ended up running to the Rockaway Rooftop, dirty martini and old fashioned in hand, to watch. On this perfectly clear, temperate evening, we got to see the sun sink below the horizon while the entire outline of Manhattan's skyline shimmered in the distance. It was a beautiful moment. 

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You'll find us enjoying rosé post-spa treatment and lounging at the poolside cabanas.

What makes this experience so special?

Sometimes the best baecation is a staycation – a lesson I learned after my two-day getaway last week. This ended up being such a joyful getaway and a chance to enjoy each other's company. The Rockaways make for a great staycation from NYC because it’s close yet a world away from the city. We traded in our work wear for swimsuits, and commutes for relaxing rides on a beach cruiser. We forgot about everything happening in our real lives – and instead drank cocktails and played in the pool. I would have stayed a week if time had allowed.

Getting there

As you may have learned from my walk down the length of Manhattan with my colleague Ann Douglas Lott, Dylan does, in fact, have a car, which we used to get to the Rockaways. That being said, there are a few public transportation options. 

The ferry, which costs just a bit more than the subway, and allows you to experience the beauty of New York City from a different perspective, docks within walking distance of the hotel. 

For the subway, the A and S trains both get relatively close to the hotel.

If it is convenient, I’d recommend taking the ferry. It’s a glorious ride.

Chamidae Ford was a guest of the Rockaway Hotel. Lonely Planet does not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

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