When the heat is on in the city, it’s easy to start imagining life elsewhere: maybe a Caribbean cruise, or a week in Miami. But really, most of us don’t have the time or the budget to get out of the city for more than a weekend. And thankfully, in New York City, you don’t even really need to leave the city to hit the beach, no matter if you’re searching for surfing, sunning, running or riding.
It’s easy to forget that parts of Brooklyn are actually surrounded by ocean, or that a short ferry or train ride could land you over the Jersey Shore—the good one, not the one with Snookie.
If you only have a few hours but are craving the sun and sea, take the A train to Rockaway. It’s a less-densely populated beach than the famed Coney Island (more on that later), and it’s the beach in Brooklyn that feels the least like it’s a part of the city. Once you step onto the beach, you’ll forget that you’re only a few minutes away from the hustle that normally defines your life.
If you’re a surfer at heart, Rockaway is the place to be. There are board rentals available (or just take your shortboard on the subway at off-peak hours), and the waves, while rarely epic, are ride-able more often than not.
Rockaway Beach is free to the public, and right near 92nd street. There are public restrooms as well as some options for quick eats. If you want some more substantial food in an ultra-surfy environment, the Rockaway Beach Surf Club is right down the road, located on the corner of Beach 87th and Rockaway Freeway, underneath the A train line. They serve brunch and amazing dinner, and from their funky décor to the events that they host, it’s clear just how much they love the surf scene.
It’s a great "long walks on the beach" place for a first date as well, though if you’re looking for a bit more adventure, the Coney Island Boardwalk with its games and roller coaster ride might be a more raucous option.
2. Coney Island
Want to spend a day reliving a childhood carnival? Coney Island has you covered, and the hot dogs alone are worth the trip (just make sure to pencil in a run to make up for the pig-out). From swimming to boardwalk games to a freak show for the older adventurers, plus some rickety rides, there's tons happening, and the boardwalk snacks are the best part!
If you want road running, run Surf Avenue parallel to Coney Island. If you want epic beach running, run the beach. All three miles of it! Head there early in the morning for a sunrise run with the best views and the least crowds, or people watch on a casual jog during the afternoon.
The boardwalk has gone from being a sketchy, crowded affair with an amusement park constantly threatened with closure, to a much better maintained, clean, fun-for-the-whole family atmosphere. The amusement park, I’m happy to report, is still standing. Coney Island has come full circle, from the booming weekend spot for Manhattanites looking to get away, to a seedy section of Brooklyn that should be avoided by the bourgeoisie, to that tourist trap once again. The carnival sideshow is still there, and the slightly naughty Mermaid Parade still brings in the crowds, but more runners and cyclists are co-mingled with the summer crowds.
To get there from Brooklyn, you can take the Ocean Parkway Bike Path, the first bike path ever made in the US. It runs from Prospect Park all the way to Coney Island, so toss a towel and a swimsuit in your backpack and ride on over!
Runners can take the N train straight to Coney Island as well. Either way, it’s under an hour from the city. Unlike Rockaway, you’ll know you’re still in the city, but in a funky, kitschy way.
Hop on the NJ Transit train to the Jersey Shore, and head for Belmar . The beach is about a mile from the train station, but even the walk to this beautiful stretch of beach is nice. Once you make it to the shore, the beach is great for running or swimming, and the boardwalk is nice for a leisurely ride or for runners who aren’t big fans of sand. But the real draw to Belmar is in September and October when the surf gets quite gnarly during hurricane season. It’s surf-able year-round and the swells are decent, but your best bet is to head there just when storms are rolling in. Just be careful, since the beach where surfing is allowed is ‘surf at your own risk.’
Head there early and you may be able to sneak in without a beach badge, but be aware that you may end up shelling out $10 for one if you leave the beach or try to use the public washroom. Still, it’s not a bad price for a relaxing, easy day at the beach.
The pizza you’ll find along Ocean Avenue is not to be missed, either. New York has some great pizza, but the Jersey Shore has its own brand of awesomeness when it comes to their pies.
This is definitely a more crowded beach than Rockaway or Sandy Hook (think Coney Island with a bit more of a Jersey Shore vibe) and you may see a few people who look like they’re hoping to be cast for MTV’s Jersey Shore (yep, people still think it’s cool). But for the most part, it’s a significantly less obnoxious vibe, since there isn’t much of a nightlife in Belmar compared to some of the other Shore towns. Definitely bring a book or magazine and get ready to enjoy a relaxing day (just stay aware of train schedules, especially on weekends). It’s a fun spot solo or with friends, and well worth the trip.