New York State boasts many miles of coastline and some of the world’s best beaches. From the sprawling Jones Beach in Nassau County to the quiet little Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, New York beaches draw millions of sun worshipers, sandcastle builders, and body surfers every year. Here’s a list of the state’s most popular sandy spots for big families.
Brighton Beach/Coney Island Beach
Brighton and Coney Island beaches sit next to each other with no formal boundaries. In total, the two offer about two-and-a-half miles of clean sand and relatively calm surf. A new boardwalk (rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy) also runs the entire length of the pair. Attractions like Luna Park – a small amusement area with over 50-rides – the classic Cyclone Roller Coaster, and Nathathan’s Famous Hot Dogs bring a year-round stream of tourists and locals alike. MCU Park – the baseball home to the Met’s minor league “A” class affiliate, the Ford Amphitheater, and the New York Aquarium (the country’s oldest continually operating aquarium) also add to the area’s newfound popularity. Parking can be a challenge, but four of New York City’s subway lines stop at the Coney Island station.
- Fireworks shoot off at 9:30 pm every Friday night starting the last weekend in June and conclude the Friday before Labor Day.
- Home to the nation’s largest annual parade, The Mermaid Parade. Check their website for dates, usually the Saturday closest to the beginning of summer, if you want to avoid the crowds or participate.
In Southampton, Coopers Beach frequently pops up on various lists as one of the top ten beaches in the country. The beach features gorgeous white sand, big waves, and a backdrop of historic mansions. Amenities include a food concession, chair, and umbrella rentals, and a bathhouse. A $50 per day parking fee during the summer season keeps the crowds to a minimum, as well.
- Since the parking fee is expensive, you’ll want to plan a whole day here. Pack a lunch and plenty of water. Bring or rent umbrellas, blankets, or chairs to set up a base for the day.
Jacob Riis Park Beach
Run by the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Riis Park comes in second only to Jones Beach for size and available amenities. The beach itself boasts beautiful white sand, powerful surf, and plenty of room to stretch out or toss a frisbee. The park’s main pavilion recently added various interesting food vendors and live music on the weekends. The Park Service also operates a par-3 golf course as part of the complex. Access by public transportation can be difficult, but Riis Park does have a huge parking lot.
Initially planned by Robert Moses, the sprawling Jones Beach State Park runs for six and a half miles along New York’s Nassau County coastline. Beach facilities include a two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, several playgrounds, a swimming pool, mini-golf, numerous snack bars, and picnic areas. Also part of the park, the 14,000-seat Nikon outdoor theater attracts major acts throughout the warmer months. Open ocean water means big waves and excellent body surfing.
Just a half-mile east of Brighton Beach, the small, crescent-shaped Manhattan Beach offers a more laid-back vibe than its neighbors. Protected by the Rockaway Peninsula, it rarely sees any waves other than those made by an occasional boat passing by. Manhattan Beach is perfect for giving the little ones swimming lessons, catching a few rays, or relaxing with a good book. Amenities include a snack bar, cement boardwalk, picnic tables, a paid parking lot, and several handball and basketball courts.
Midland Beach Park
Along with gorgeous sand and calm surf, Staten Island’s Midland Beach Park offers incredible views of New York Harbor. Beachgoers get to watch as a seemingly endless stream of ocean-going cargo ships pass under the majestic Verrazano Bridge. An eight-foot-tall sculpture with a sea turtle on top doubles as a kiddie sprinkler on hot days. The beach also features a boardwalk, a large playground, and modern restrooms.
Located on New York’s Fire Island – a barrier island just south of Islip, Long Island – Ocean Beach takes on a Cape Cod feel during the summer months. Its wide beach features classic white sands, ample ocean waves, and plenty of room for a game of volleyball or building sandcastles. Ocean Beach’s location on Fire Island makes it perfect for day trips and extended vacations, as well.
Tucked away just north of City Island in New York City, the pint-sized Orchard Beach offers Bronx residents a chance to cool off and soak up some sun on those hot, humid New York summer days. The half-moon-shaped beach runs just over one mile in total. Visitors enjoy calm waters due to Its location facing Long Island Sound. Nearby City Island boasts some of the area’s best seafood restaurants.
Part of the town of Long Island’s Hampton Bays, Ponquogue Beach, rarely gets too crowded thanks to pricey parking fees for non-residents. The beach has a snack bar, chair and umbrella rentals, and clean bathrooms with showers. Big waves and quiet stretches of sand attract surfers, as well.
Robert Moses Beach
Also on Fire Island, just about six miles west of Ocean Beach, Robert Moses Beach attracts nearly 3.8 million visitors annually. As part of Robert Moses State Park, the beach features a full suite of facilities, including surf shops, concessions, comfort stations, first aid offices, and private outdoor showers. Ample parking at reasonable rates makes Robert Moses Beach one of Long Island’s most popular summer destinations.
Just a short walk east along the shoreline (or along the boardwalk) from Jacob Riis Park, Rockaway Beach offers the same sand and surf experience but far fewer crowds. Backed up to a residential neighborhood, this stretch of sand has limited parking and sees mostly local residents, especially on weekdays.
Wolfe’s Pond Park Beach
Calm waters, a large picnic area, and gorgeous views make Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park Beach popular with Staten Islanders. The beach itself weighs in on the small side at only a half-mile long and just fifty yards from the boardwalk to the water in some spots. The surrounding park has barbecues, tennis courts, and plenty of parking. An impressive Battle of the Bulge Memorial sits at the entryway to the beach.