The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect Rockaway Beach Day

Here’s how to do it right this summer.

This summer, for a quick trip from the stuffy confines of the city, head for the sandy shores of Rockaway Beach in Queens. Nestled between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, this narrow stretch of peninsula touts an impressive 14 miles of public beaches, not to mention ample surfing, skating, boardwalk cruising, and solid eating and drinking options. Oh, and did we mention it's totally free to enjoy this seaside oasis in NYC?

Thanks to a vibrant community, visitors will find a decidedly unique mix of professionals, cool kids, hang-ten surfers, and families taking in the water at Rockaway. And along with sweet ocean breezes and baller views of Manhattan from places like The Rockaway Hotel rooftop, beachgoers can also enjoy tacos, pizza, frozen drinks, and other top notch food. That's right, your best summer day is ahead, and this is how to do it right.

How to Get There

subway rockaway
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

By Subway

With just the swipe of a MetroCard or tap via OMNY, take the A train to the Broad Channel subway station to board the Rockaway Park Shuttle to the stations Beach 90 Street, Beach 98 Street, Beach 105 Street, or Rockaway Park Beach 116th Street. Or for a less-crowded beach day, stay on the A train and get off at the Beach 67 Street station instead.

By Bus

If you’d rather hop on a party bus, book a ride on the Rockaway Beach Bus ($29.95 one-way, $39.95 round trip), an air-conditioned coach bus that has various pick-up spots in Lower Manhattan and North Brooklyn and offers cold drinks (and bathrooms!) while you travel.

By Ferry

For a more relaxed ocean voyage, hop on the Rockaway Ferry ($2.75 each way), which leaves from Wall Street in Lower Manhattan or Sunset Park at the Brooklyn Army Terminal and lets you catch some beachy breezes before you even get to shore.

By Car

If you’ve got access to a car, free street parking and parking lots get you right to the beach and you can come and go as you please.

What You’ll Need

rockaway beach
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Beach Supplies

For sunscreen, towels, and other beach items, head to CVS (near Beach 90 St station), Walgreens (near Beach 105 St station), or Duane Reade (near Rockaway Park Beach 116th St station) for sunny day necessities.

For Booze

Didn’t bring enough booze? Head to Ship to Shore Wine Shop (near Beach 90 St station) or Station Liquor (near 116th St station) and maybe even sneak in a free tasting before heading to the sand.

Where to Eat Breakfast

Bernadette’s
Bernadette’s

95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd
With its easy-to-spot turquoise exterior, Bernadette’s is a rustic breakfast and lunch joint serving southern classics with a Korean twist. Choose from a variety of breakfast sandwiches or a dedicated menu section of benedicts like the Korean Short Rib, Eggs Florentine, Duck Confit, or Eggs Benedict made with house-smoked pork belly and a generous dousing of hollandaise. There’s also signatures like the Belgian Waffles with citrus-brined chicken and kumquat-honey butter; and Mushroom, Bacon, & Cheddar Omelette. And the glossy Fruity Pebble donuts don’t disappoint, nor do the robust cups of Joe.
How to order: Grubhub

106-01 Shore Front Pkwy
If your beach style is more Venice than NYC municipal public park, head to Brothers Rockaway, a California-style juice and smoothie kiosk doling out seasonal breakfast items, homemade granola with yogurt, various types of avocado-less toast, and more.

Greenhouse Cafe RBNY
Greenhouse Cafe RBNY

108-10 Rockaway Beach Dr
When hopping off the ferry, make a beeline for Greenhouse Cafe, a hip spot serving caffeinated sips, compliments of Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters founded by Queens native Rich Nieto, plus a must-try drink on-tap called the Rocket Fuel, a sweet Cafe Du Monde-esque concoction resembling an iced cafe au lait. For breakfast, there are açaí bowls, airy Sourdough Waffles (from James Beard winning baker Sarah Owens), and a trio of toasts (avocado and pesto; whipped ricotta and radish; sunflower seed butter and local honey). Stay cool with the Greenhouse Soda made with chlorophyll, mint, and agave; or opt for a chilled can of Rockaway, a refreshing, healthyish plant-powered soda with adaptogens.

87-10 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Start your morning with a sugary kick at Rockaway Beach Bakery from former North End Grill pastry chef Tracy Obolsky. Croissants, muffins, Salted Honey Buns, and plenty of colorful and creative specials are all baked fresh each morning for a grab-and-go breakfast to scarf down as you scout out your beach spot for the day.

Where to Eat  Lunch or Dinner

68-20 Rockaway Beach Blvd
There’s no disputing that NYC is a bonafide pizza town, and it’s no different at the beach. At Boardwalk Pizza, order a slice of classics like Neapolitan and Margherita, along with options like Grandma Alla Vodka, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Vegetarian, and more. For a bigger crew, a large selection of specialty pies include Chicken Parmigiana, Piazza Bianca, and the signature Boardwalk. Along with pizza, from Calamari to Chicken Marsala, this spot has something for any craving, whether it’s heros and pasta or seafood and calzones. Real eating adventure lies in the Chicken Cutlet with fresh mozz and roasted peppers (served on a housemade panini), and be sure to get a side of ranch to dip the perfectly golden brown Garlic Knots.

Caracas Arepa Bar
Caracas Arepa Bar

106-01 Shore Front Pkwy
Fans of the East Village original won’t be disappointed by this beloved Venezuelan restaurant’s beachside outpost. Serving a roster of popular arepas like La Del Gato (cheese, plantains, avocado) all contained in hot corn-cakes, Caracas offers up the perfect handheld beach food. To cool off, go for the Frozen Sangria slushies, available in red or white or as a twist. And be sure to check their IG for special weekly events that include disco parties, local bands, and more.

143 Beach 116th St and 190 Beach 69th St
Similar to fast casual lunch spots that are popular for easy ordering and vibrant menu items, healthy eaters flock to this seasonal off-boardwalk restaurant. At Cuisine by Claudette, create your own bowl with a choice of base, veggies, and protein selections like Cauliflower Wings, Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken, Dijon Baked Salmon, and more. There’s also juices, smoothie bowls, Bread & Dip, pitas, salads, and an array of clean-eating menu items that can easily be taken back to your waterside homebase of the day.

The Rockaway Hotel + Spa
Margie's | The Rockaway Hotel + Spa

108-10 Rockaway Beach Dr
All roads lead to Margie's, the always-fun, always-happening eatery inside The Rockaway Hotel. Nab a bar seat and sip on the Jamaican Bay, a sure-tastes-like-summer mix of coconut rum, cucumber, and lime. Or pair The Cousteau seafood tower (oysters, cherrystone clams, shrimp and crab claws) with a glass of Chablis. Dinner is about staples: Branzino, Rib Eye Steak Frites, and a Sweet Pea Ravioli. For dessert, the just-out-of-the-oven Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie is aces. Later, head to the rooftop where DJ’s spin behind legit bananas views of Manhattan, because in true Rockaway fashion: go big or go home.

Rockaway Beach Surf Club
Rockaway Beach Surf Club

302 Beach 87th Street
Despite the name, the Rockaway Beach Surf Club isn’t a club at all, but rather an open-to-all indoor-outdoor restaurant, bar, and events venue hosting movie nights, local artwork viewings, and more. Open for the season until October, be sure to order the signature Fish Tacos, served fried to a delicate crisp with plenty of slaw tossed on top for extra crunch. Pair it with a Passionfruit Margarita or Piña Colada and be prepared for an awesome time out at this popular spot.

Super Burrito
Super Burrito

190 Beach 69th St
Started in 2017 by two besties from San Francisco, Super Burrito specializes in Mission-style burritos known for their large size and steamed, doughy tortilla. The namesake menu item is available in Al Pastor, Carne Asada, Chicken, Shrimp, or the signature Beef Supreme. Plant-forward eaters can opt for the Poblano Pepper, Vegetarian, or Vegan—but all diners should add a heavy dose of homemade red and green salsas. There’s also plenty of additional offerings like tacos, quesadillas, Chips & Queso, and specials like Beefy Nachos or the La Hamberguesa, a burger with Pat Lafrieda beef patties.
How to order: Doordash, Grubhub

Thai Rock
Thai Rock

375 Beach 92nd St
For an air-conditioned respite on a super-hot day, look no further than this curry, noodle, and fried rice-slinging Thai restaurant, complete with ocean views so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on precious beach time. If the water has you in a seafood mood, at Thai Rock, go all in for the $50 deep-fried snapper (or a slightly healthier version grilled in a banana leaf).
How to book: Resy

92-07 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Open since 2013, this central Asian restaurant opened was one of the early newcomers to post-Sandy Rockaway, quickly becoming a favorite for midsummer carb-loading. Uzbek, Russian, and other Silk Road staples are all on the Uma’s menu, including various iterations of dumplings, kebabs and, of course, borscht.

97-02 Rockaway Beach Blvd
You’ve arrived at Whit’s End, a BYOB, rock ‘n’ roll stop known for its wood-fired pies, fresh-as-all-fresh seafood, large cuts of meat, and rotating daily specials. Commence your meal with the Smoked Bluefish Dip, a tasty recipe that chef Whitney Aycock’s father used to make. Onto the pizza; the Alba has shrooms galore with taleggio and truffle; while the Fly Eagle is made with aged beef and Velveta. Shareables include Linguini and Clams, “Big Ass” Shrimp (with calabrian chili), and a 4-pound steak. Want the action? Bar seats are perfect for open kitchen theater. You’ll also find live bands, burlesque shows, and on Sundays, sweet tunes by crooner Phil Kadet.

Where to Go for Drinks and a Beachy Night Out

Bungalow Bar
Bungalow Bar

377 Beach 92nd St
Bungalow Bar is a popular beachside jaunt and a laid-back spot that’s good all day, from a boozy brunch to nighttime tide-side cocktails. Satisfy your saltwater cravings with seafood like East Coast oysters, Little Neck Clams, Mussels, Shrimp Cocktail, and Tuna Poke before filling up on a Lobster Roll or Grilled Wild Salmon. With alcohol served until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, go for wine, beer on tap, and signature cocktails.

Connollys
Connollys

155 Beach 95th St
It’s baaack! After closing for a few years, this institution has been purchased by locals who are keeping all the legendary trappings. That’s a good thing, because leaving this dive with a frozen piña colada-filled cup is a Rockaway rite of passage. Before you head back out to catch the sunset, chat with regulars at the neighborhood mainstay. Be sure to order the Empanadas and, if it’s a Tuesday, check out the open mic. Last call at Connolly's is shortly before 4am.

91-11 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Unwind after a day of sunbathing in this trendy wine bar’s spacious backyard. More than a dozen well-curated wines are available by the glass for under $10, along with tapas-style bar bites like cheese plates, olives, and charcuterie.

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Kate Donnelly is a NYC-based writer who covers food, booze and travel. Follow her on Instagram.
Melissa Kravitz is a writer based in NYC who spends a significant part of her summers reading glossy magazines on Rockaway Beach. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.