16 NYC-Area Beaches You Can Get to Without a Car
From Coney Island and Rockaway Beach to lesser-known gems on Long Island.
When the concrete jungle is stifling and crowds of tourists hit the streets, there’s no better respite than a day at the beach. But the reality of city living is that many of us don’t have a set of wheels for weekend getaways or day trips to the beach.
Luckily, you don’t have to spend your summer begging to borrow a car or paying steep rental fees. New York has miles of seashore you can access by subway, bus, ferry, or bicycle, so no matter what borough you’re in, all that stands between you and a summer getaway is a little public transportation. We’ve rounded up every nearby beach and given you a road map for how to access them all from NYC. You’ll find beaches where you can nosh on iconic hot dogs, sip cocktails of dubious origin, or just relax under the sun—now all you have to do is pick one.
This popular stretch of sand was nicknamed “the people’s beach” by city planner Robert Moses because of its easy access to public transit. While nearby spots like Rockaway and Fort Tilden have somewhat eclipsed this beach’s popularity thanks to top-notch beach eats and other amenities, Jacob Riis offers a wider beach for hanging out, parks and greenspaces nearby to explore, and a famous abandoned Art Deco bathhouse that dates back to 1932.
How to get there: Take the 2 train to Flatbush Avenue and transfer to the Q35 bus or take the A or S trains to Rockaway Park then the Q35 or Q22 bus to Jacob Riis Park. Another option: hop on your bike and head across the Marine Parkway Bridge.
Home to a large population of Russian transplants, this Brooklyn enclave welcomes throngs of NYC residents looking to beat the summertime heat. The area sits adjacent to bustling Coney Island. While it’s much quieter than its neighbor, this popular beach offers plenty to do beyond crisping in the sun. After some time on the sand, grab some borscht and vodka at an authentic nearby supper club, then explore the surrounding area—known as Little Odessa—to be fully immersed in the neighborhood.
How to get there: Take the Q or B trains to the Brighton Beach stop
Coney Island is an East Coast icon replete with carnival games, amusement park rides, and a nearby aquarium. It wouldn’t quite feel like summer in New York without the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest and the Mermaid Parade—each coinciding with some of the beach’s busiest days. The usual boardwalk concessions like funnel cake and hot dogs are perfect for noshing between dips, and people-watching is prime. This is one of NYC’s most famous summer hot spots, and it gets crowded, so arrive early.
How to get there: Take the F, D, N, or Q trains to Coney Island or West Eighth Street
As an alternative to playing Frogger in the crowded Hamptons, hit up Fire Island—home to 26 miles of eclectic coastline and the inspiration behind the recent movie from Joel Kim Booster. Fair Harbor is family-oriented, the Ocean Beach is sceney, and the Pines has historically hosted a large LGBTQIA+ community. The high-energy parties here are undoubtedly popular, but the island is big enough to find a serene spot away from the booze-fueled revelers when you need a break from the scene. And as a bonus: there’s no traffic! The island is free of cars and paved roads, and the only way to get around is by foot, bike, or golf cart.
How to get there: Jump on the LIRR to Bay Shore, then catch a 20-minute ferry ride to the island
Famous for celebrity sightings, extravagant homes, and buzzing restaurants, bars, and clubs, the Hamptons appeals to a well-heeled crowd. Montauk and Sag Harbor are worth a visit, of course, but there are plenty of Long Island towns that are less expensive (and offer more) than the ritzy atmosphere associated with The Hamptons. If that sounds more like your vibe, skip the Jitney traffic and hop on the train to visit any of the excellent public beaches on the East End.
How to get there: If you aren't willing to shell out for seaplanes or helicopters (or a rental car), and don't want to deal with the Jitney, you can still get to the Hamptons by way of the LIRR’s "Cannonball." Just reserve a seat on this $53.50 train leaving from Penn Station every Friday, and you can go to Westhampton, Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, and finally Montauk.
There's one simple rule to live by here: Go for the beaches and boardwalk; stay for the top-notch hooligan watching. From boardwalks and revelry in Seaside Heights to historic homes in Cape May and excellent restaurants in Asbury Park, all that the Jersey Shore has to offer is just a quick and easy bus ride away. Plus, before the Jersey Shore was home to fist-pumping partiers, it served as the summer base for President Ulysses S. Grant, who had a home in Long Branch. If it’s good enough for USG, it’s good enough for the rest of us. The area has packages that include transportation and passes to access the beach for around $36, and Long Branch is also home to high-end shops and tons of waterfront eateries.
How to get there: The New Jersey Transit bus will get you all over The Shore
Since the shuttle bus is always so damn crowded, the trip to Jones Beach is more of a slog than the others. But all that hassle will seem worth it once you get there, thanks to mini-golf, lots of big concerts, two swimming pools, and a massive beach—ideal for families with kids to entertain. The adjacent boardwalk is perfect for long strolls before throwing down a towel or cooling off in the water.
How to get there: Take the LIRR from Penn Station to Freeport, then hop on the Jones Beach shuttle bus
This modest Long Island town is home to a five-mile stretch of sand that’s ideal for beach sports that require a bit more space like volleyball and frisbee. You’ll find plenty of room to sprawl out, as it’s one of the quieter beaches on the island. It's just an hour from the city on the LIRR, and transportation packages include a round-trip train ticket, discounted beach admission, and a voucher to the City of Long Beach Trolley. Throw in a cool local music scene, chilled-out boardwalk, and plenty of nearby restaurants and bars, and you have the ingredients for an ultimate fun-in-the-sun beach day.
How to get there: Hop on the LIRR to Long Beach
If you're looking for a quiet Coney Island alternative, Manhattan Beach is your best bet. After gawking at the mansions surrounding this family-friendly Brooklyn beach, build a castle of your own from sand or enjoy a low-key picnic. The beach is located on an inlet, so you can take a dip without battling any big waves—which also makes it an ideal spot to bring little ones.
How to get there: Take the B or Q trains to Brighton Beach, then hop on the B1 bus for a five-minute ride to Oriental Boulevard
Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard
Before you even set foot on Martha’s Vineyard, the journey will deliver panoramic views of Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, Queensboro Bridge, the Long Island Sound, and Block Island to get you in the summer spirit. Upon arrival, you’ll quickly realize that this quaint, if slightly touristy, area is an idyllic beach town. Beyond the numerous public beaches, it’s full of Candy Land-esque "gingerbread" cottages for your ogling pleasure, old-school fudge stores, shops peddling preppy duds, and tasty seafood restaurants.
How to get there: Hop aboard the Seastreak catamaran to MV. Ferries operate every Friday from May 25 through Labor Day. Prices are hefty, starting at $240 round-trip
Once called the “Riviera of New York City,” this man-made Bronx beach spills over the Long Island Sound and is easily accessible from Manhattan. Commissioned by Robert Moses in the 1930s, the approximately 1.1-mile stretch is the Bronx’s only public beach. If the idea of tanning all day burns you up, there are also basketball, tennis, volleyball, and handball courts, plus picnic areas and a hexagonal boardwalk perfect for sunset strolls.
How to get there: Take the 6 train to Pelham Bay Park, then catch the Bx29 bus to City Island Avenue, which will leave you a short walk from the beach
A quick train ride followed by an even easier bus ride is all that stands between you and five miles of idyllic oceanfront, an 18-hole golf course, picnic areas, surfing, and best of all, fewer beachgoers than some other packed spots closer to the city. The especially crowd-averse can head to Field 5, where the nearly 200-year-old Fire Island Lighthouse awaits. Climb the 100-plus steps and gaze upon the sand-dwellers from a regal distance—or stay comfortable at ground level while snapping a few selfies.
How to get there: Take the LIRR to Babylon, then transfer to the S-47 Suffolk bus to Robert Moses State Park
From downtown Manhattan, you’ll need about an hour and a half to get to this surfer sanctuary, which has become increasingly popular with a young, hip crowd. Good sand, great waves, snack shacks (Rockaway Beach Surf Club for fish tacos, Rippers for cheeseburgers), and quasi-legal mystery cocktails make it worth the trek. Plus, the journey is just as great as the destination if you hop aboard the top deck of the ferry, take in the city views, and order a beer from the refreshment stand on board.
How to get there: Take the A train to Broad Channel before switching to the S train to Rockaway Park-Beach 116th, or take the ferry ($2.75 one way) from Wall Street/Pier 11 to Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive
For an action-packed day trip, this historic New Jersey beach offers seven miles of shoreline, hiking and biking trails, fishing, walking tours of Fort Hancock, and views of the oldest working lighthouse in the country. Oh, and also, Gunnison is a nude beach, so break out your birthday suit and kiss those tan lines goodbye. For something a little more PG, head to North Beach or South Beach, both popular, family-friendly picks.
How to get there: Take a 45-minute, $47 (round-trip) ride on the Seastreak Ferry, which departs from East 35th Street and Wall Street piers seven days a week
Less crowded than The Hamptons, Shelter Island remains a great escape for kayaking, paddleboarding, or hiking Mashomack Nature Preserve, which consists of 2,350 acres of tidal creeks, mature oak woodlands, fields, and freshwater marshes. The activity-averse can take a break from the sun by hitting up a craft beer gem, visiting some great local restaurants, or luxuriating under an umbrella with your toes in the sand.
How to get there: Take the LIRR to Greenport, then take a $2, 10-minute ferry ride
If you’re ready for some deep-cut New York weekending (or just great pizza), head to Staten Island. South Beach and Midland both offer views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, kayaking, fishing, and access to the 2.5-mile Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk. Calm waves make it a hot spot for families with young kids. Bonus: The Staten Island Ferry is free (and you can drink on it!).
How to get there: For South Beach, take the Staten Island Ferry to St. George Terminal, then transfer to the S51 bus to Father Capodanno Boulevard/Sand Lane. For FDR, take the Staten Island Ferry to St. George Terminal, then transfer to the S51 to Father Capodanno Boulevard/Seaview Avenue.