15 Beaches You Can Get to From NYC Without a Car
From Coney Island to lesser-known gems on Long Island.
It’s finally time to hit the beach, and after a year of social distancing and staying inside, we’re more than ready. The concrete jungle can be stifling in the summer, but another 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 get to 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.
An easy 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.
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.
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, 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.
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 (participate at your own risk) and the Mermaid Parade—each coinciding with some of the beach’s busiest days. The usual boardwalk concessions (funnel cake, 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.
Home to a large population of Russian transplants, this Brooklyn enclave welcomes throngs of NYC residents looking to beat the summertime heat. Neighbor to Coney Island, this popular beach offers plenty to do beyond crisping in the sun. Grab some borscht and vodka at an authentic nearby supper club, then make your way to the surrounding neighborhood—known as Little Odessa—for an even more immersive cultural experience.
How to get there: Take the Q or B train to the Brighton Beach stop.
As an alternative to playing Frogger in the crowded Hamptons, hit up Fire Island—home to 26 miles of eclectic coastline. Fair Harbor is family-oriented, the Ocean Beach is sceney, and the Pines has historically hosted a large gay community. And bonus—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. 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.
How to get there: Jump on the LIRR to Bay Shore, then catch a 20-minute ferry ride to the island.
Less crowded than the Hamptons (so long as you avoid the sceney restaurants and bars), Shelter Island remains a great escape for kayaking, paddleboarding, or hiking Mashomack Nature Preserve. The activity-averse can hit a craft beer gem, or just luxuriate in the sand and water.
How to get there: Take the LIRR to Greenport, then take a $2, 10-minute ferry ride.
From Downtown, 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.
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.
This modest Long Island town is home to a five-mile stretch of sand that’s ideal for volleyball and frisbee, as well as a pretty great local music scene. It's also just an hour from the city on the LIRR, and transportation packages include a round-trip train ticket and discounted beach admission. Throw in a chilled-out boardwalk scene 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.
Since the 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.
There's one simple rule to live by here: Go for the beaches and boardwalk; stay for the top-notch hooligan watching. 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.
How to get there: The New Jersey Transit bus will get you all over the shore, including Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, Cape May, and Atlantic City no problem. But you can keep a glimmer of hope that the Garden State isn’t all about GTL by making your way to Long Branch—which has packages available for around $36 (beach pass included). There, you’ll stumble across high-end shops and tons of waterfront eateries that lure both families and singles in search of a bustling nightlife scene.
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 some beach volleyball and a picnic.
How to get there: Take the B or Q to Brighton Beach, then hop on the B1 bus for a five-minute ride to Oriental Boulevard.
If you’re ready for some deep-cut New York weekending (or just great pizza), head to Staten Island for views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, kayaking, fishing, or a jog along the 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.
Famous for celebrity sightings, beautiful homes, and buzzing clubs and bars, the Hamptons appeals to a well-heeled, if obvious crowd. Take note: There are plenty of Long Island towns that are less expensive (and offer more) than the ritzy Hamptons. 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.
Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard
This quaint, if slightly touristy, town is full of adorable, Candy Land-esque "gingerbread" cottages for your ogling pleasure, plus numerous public beaches perfect for fishing, boating, or lounging. The best spots to visit include tasty seafood restaurants, inviting watering holes, and shops peddling preppy duds. Fudge shops and bakeries only sweeten the deal.
How to get there: Hop aboard the Seastreak catamaran to MV for panoramic views of Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, Queensboro Bridge, the Long Island Sound, and Block Island. Ferries operate every Friday from May 25 through Labor Day. Prices are hefty, at $310 round-trip.