How to Have the Best Day Ever in the Rockaways
Your hard-won weekend is here, and you’d like nothing more than a day at the beach—but your Hamptons friends have all conveniently disappeared, and besides, you have a date with Netflix friends at 9 p.m. No problem: Stunning shoreline, primo people-watching and next-level concessions are just a ferry ride away.
What to Bring
We won’t bore you with the essentials, but we will make a few suggestions: Bring cash, because many boardwalk vendors don’t accept cards. A waterproof phone case is never a bad idea, and a waterproof Bluetooth speaker lets you play your jams (at a respectable volume, of course). But don’t fret if you forget your Coppertone—the NYC Parks Department just installed free SPF 30 dispensers at beaches all over the city, including Rockaway.
The biggest news this year is the return of breezy, glorious ferry service. Ferries run every hour, with the first one leaving Wall Street at 7:30 a.m. and the last Rockaway departure at 9:30 p.m. on weekends. (They also make a stop in Sunset Park.) There are snacks, outlets and Wi-Fi on board, and when you arrive, there’s even a free shuttle to different beaches (from Jacob Riis to Beach 35th Street). Oh, and guess what? It’s just $2.75. (Your move, MTA.)
Another worthy option is the Rockaway Beach Bus: For $15 (or $25 round-trip), hop on a bus that picks up in Union Square, the LES, Williamsburg or Bushwick, help yourself to free drinks (including booze) and hop off at the beach of your choosing. Your ticket also gets you discounts from vendors up and down the boardwalk.
Picking a Spot
The Rockaway Peninsula has multiple beaches, each with its own vibe. Looking for premium people-watching, convenience and tons of food options? Rockaway Beach is your best bet. For slightly fewer crowds but still plenty of boardwalk activities, set up camp at Jacob Riis. And if you don’t mind more of a trek (i.e., you can’t get here via the aforementioned ferry), head to Fort Tilden for a vaguely postapocalyptic feel (in a good way) and a semblance of personal space.
Where to Eat
Not gonna lie: The food is one of the main reasons we love the Rockaways. Start your day with a ham-and-cheese-everything croissant at Rockaway Beach Bakery or an açai bowl from Beach Bistro 96. For lunch, grab a lobster roll or fried clams at Rockaway Clam Bar, chicken shawarma from Samesa or wood-fired pizza at Whit’s End. Mid-afternoon, cool off with a paleta from La Newyorkina, and before you head home, grab a pint at Rockaway Brewing Company or a piña colada at Connolly’s. Oh, and you’re probably going to want to get a certain legendary fish taco. (Good thing swimsuits are stretchy, right?)
What to Do
If your ideal beach day includes swimming and sunbathing and nothing else, we’re all for it. But if you do feel like branching out, you can rent a bike, test your balance with stand-up paddleboarding (or paddleboard yoga), join a beach-volleyball game or even take surf lessons à la Hannah Horvath (actually, don’t be like Hannah). The less athletically inclined can shop for caftans and jumpsuits at Off Season or catch free concerts at Riis Park Beach Bazaar.