Best Things to Do in Rockaway Beach, NYC’s Fun Seaside Community

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Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - The boardwalk
The boardwalk is now concrete, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Judy Antell

The Ramones memorialized Rockaway Beach in their hit song, “Rockaway Beach.” Whether you come out for a day trip, spend the night for a beach getaway, or want to eat great food, you will find plenty to do in this part of Queens.

Rather than fighting traffic to the Hamptons, you can hop on a ferry from Pier 11 on Wall Street or Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and get to the Rockaways in under an hour. Or take the subway.

The Rockaway Peninsula, also known as the Rockaways, is in eastern Queens, New York, in the Atlantic Ocean. It has obvious summer beach attractions, but people come year-round to walk, run, or bike along the 5.5-mile boardwalk. Or surf! The Rockaways have the only legal surfing beaches in New York City.

As a lifelong New Yorker and frequent visitor to the Rockaways, these are my top recommendations for the best things to do in Rockaway Beach, NY.

Read More: Best Beaches Near NYC

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - Abandoned building at Fort Tilden
In the past, abandoned buildings at Fort Tilden in Rockaway Beach have been painted by artists. This building no longer stands, but you can find other art along the shore. Photo credit: Judy Antell
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People Watch

The Boardwalk is great for strolling, running, and watching New Yorkers enjoy a day at the beach. Although there are designated biking areas, New Yorkers are known to walk wherever they please, so watch out for interlopers.

The concrete boardwalk, which replaced the wooden boardwalk destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, is technically NOT a boardwalk. For a true NYC boardwalk, you have to head to Coney Island, in Brooklyn.

Water Sports: Surfs Up

Surf beaches are located between Beach 68 to Beach 71 Street; Beach 87 to Beach 91 Street; and Beach 110 to Beach 111 Street.

Surfs UP NY

For a first-time surfer, Surfs UP NY has the Weekend Surf & Yoga Camp. This combines an hour-long yoga class on Rockaway Beach, followed by a 90-minute Beginner Surfing class. Surfs Up NY also has surfboard rentals, paddleboard rentals, and wetsuits.

Locals Surf School

Locals Surf School has lessons that start on the beach at Beach 69th Street. The surf school operates year-round.

Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding areas are at Beach 32 Street and Beach 57 Street.

Rockaway Jet Ski

You can take a sunset tour with Rockaway Jet Ski. The tours leave from Thai Rock Restaurant on Jamaica Bay. If you prefer to go out on your own, there are also jet ski rentals. Rockaway Jet Ski also offers banana boat tours and wetsuit rentals.

Station RBNY

If you’re shopping for bathing suits or surfboards, head to Station RBNY. The store, on Rockaway Beach Blvd, between 91st and 92nd Street, also has surfboard and wetsuit rentals and surfing lessons.

If you prefer to stay on dry land, Station RBNY also sells “surf skates.” These are skateboards that feel like surfing without the water. No wetsuit is needed.

Charter a Boat

Sail on a boat in Jamaica Bay. Yacht Rock Charters has sunset and day cruises for up to six people.

Swim

Although the Rockaways are prone to rip currents, there are many days when the Atlantic Ocean is calm. And clean. Walking down the garbage-strewn streets of Manhattan, you might not expect such pristine water in NYC, but you will find it here. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Rockaway Brewing Company

You’re in NYC, so of course there is craft beer. Rockaway Brewing Company, at Beach 72nd Street, has live music on weekends and delicious beer on tap at all times.

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - Tribute Park
Tribute Park, a 9/11 memorial in The Rockaways. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Tribute Park

This small waterfront park on Jamaica Bay honors the locals who lost their lives on 9/11. It includes a twisted piece of steel recovered from the remains of the World Trade Center and bricks inscribed with the names of the Rockaways residents who died during the terrorist attack.

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - The beachfront memorial, Flight 587 Memorial Park
The beachfront memorial, Flight 587 Memorial Park. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Flight 587 Memorial Park

This memorial, at Beach 116th and the Boardwalk, commemorates the victims of an American Airlines flight that crashed near here on November 12, 2001. The flight, headed to the Dominican Republic, had just taken off from JFK Airport.

We Can Hitch a Ride to Rockaway Beach

This is what the Ramones sang. You can ride the subway, a bus, a ferry, or a bicycle to Rockaway Beach. You can drive or take an Uber to this remote part of Queens, at the end of the A train and across Broad Channel.

Live Music

The Rockaway Hotel has live music on its rooftop. Buy tickets in advance for these concerts. You can also just go to the Rockaway Hotel rooftop bar and listen to the DJ on nights without live music

There is also live music along the boardwalk. Rippers, a food stand on the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk at 86th Street, often has a band playing on the weekends.

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - Great Food and Drinks at Rockaway Beach
It’s easy to find great food and drinks at Rockaway Beach. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Explore the Rockaway Beach Food Scene

Yes, NYC has a food scene on the beach. There are food stands clustered at Beach 97th Street and Beach 86th Street. Tacoway Beach, known for its fish tacos, also has vegan tacos. Tacoway Beach is a couple of blocks off the boardwalk.

Click here for more Rockaway Beach eateries.

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - Bathrooms at Jacob Riis Park
Bathrooms at Jacob Riis Park. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Jacob Riis Park

The Riis Beach Cooperative at Jacob Riis Park has dance parties every Saturday in July and August. There is no live music, but the DJs get the mood pumping. There is also a full bar.

Other events include morning yoga and a Wednesday concert series with live music.

The historic bathhouse is undergoing a $50 million project renovation and restoration. It will one day have a pool, a rooftop restaurant, a live music venue, and more local food vendors. It will also have hotel rooms.

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - Horses and old buildings at Fort Tilden
Horses and old buildings at Fort Tilden. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Fort Tilden Beach

Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Fort Tilden Beach is likely the least crowded spot in NYC. You can’t legally park here, but you can walk or bike over from Jacob Riis Park.

Fort Tilden is on the National Register of Historic Places and the beach is great for birding, with many preservation areas for piping plovers. You can also see abandoned buildings from when this was an actual fort.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Fort Tilden Beach doesn’t have lifeguards or amenities (the bathrooms at Riis Park are a debatable amenity, but they sometimes have running water AND soap. But I’ve never hit the trifecta of running water, soap, and toilet paper. Plan accordingly.) Note that no lifeguards means no swimming.

What to do near the Rockaways

Bird Watching

If it’s not a beach day, you can go on a bird-watching walk at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Center. The intertidal salt marshes attract many species of migrating birds.

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - Fishing boat day trips leave from Sheepshead Bay
Fishing boat day trips leave from Sheepshead Bay. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Whale Watching and Fishing

In Sheepshead Bay, in Brooklyn, you can take a whale-watching cruise or a fishing boat day trip.

Getting to Rockaway Beach

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - The Rockaway Park station on the A train
The Rockaway Park station on the A train. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Take the A Train

Duke Ellington’s classic song, “Take the A Train” precedes the extension of the A train to the Rockaways.

Fun Things to do in Rockaway Beach - Ferry from Manhattan and Brooklyn to the Rockaways
Ferry from Manhattan and Brooklyn to the Rockaways. Photo credit: Judy Antell

No matter. You can take the A train to the Rockaways, ride your bicycle, or drive over the ​​Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge from Broad Channel to the Rockaway Peninsula. The Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge also connects the Rockaway Peninsula to Brooklyn. Both of these bridges have tolls. And you can take the ferry from Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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