Written by Julia O’Brien
Living in the magnificent city that is New York certainly has its upsides. As an Australian, however, there probably comes a time when all you want to do is take a dip in the ocean, and you start to miss the pristine beaches of home that were always right on your doorstep.
A trip to the beach for New Yorkers is essentially an all-day adventure, and it’s not something you want to get wrong, so planning is a must.
So if you’re hankering for a trip to the beach, but not sure which place is best for you, here’s a quick guide on what New York – and a bit further afield – has to offer. We’ve tried to give you a sense of which Australian beach is most similar to those listed below. You might have a better comparison, in which case by all means let us know in the comments!
Far Rockaway, Queens, New York
Devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Far Rockaway has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the years following the clean-up and rebuild. If you’re the type that likes things shiny and new, then this is probably your beach, with modern bathrooms and changing facilities a-plenty. There are also heaps of sporting facilities and playgrounds.
Best for: Sun baking, beach sports swimming, surfing, boardwalk strolls, brand-new facilities.
Worst for: there’s a reason it’s called Far Rockaway: be prepared for a long ride on the subway.
Getting there: A direct ferry runs weekends and holidays from Pier 11 near Wall Street and will set you back $20 each way. Or, take the A train; even though it’s a long ride, it’s quite scenic crossing the water as you approach.
Tips: Allow plenty of time to get there. If you want to make a day of it, schedule an early departure. When you’re hungry, grab a taco from the trendy taqueria, Tacoway Beach (beware, the line can get very long) or if you’re in the mood for Thai, check out Thai Rock. You can eat outside and it’s beautiful at sunset when you can watch the sun dip behind the Manhattan skyline.
Comparable to: Burleigh Beach, Brisbane.
Photo credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Belmar Beach, New Jersey
Voted the #1 beach in Central Jersey in 2014, Belmar Beach is small, spanning just 1.3 miles. But what the beach lacks in size, it makes up for in atmosphere and activities. There is a jam-packed calendar of events, including the Belmar Beach Music Festival, the annual 5km fun run, and Belmar Octoberfest.
Best For: Partying, posing and being seen.
Worst For: Avoiding crowds and parking.
Getting there: If driving, take the Garden State parkway from Manhattan or use New Jersey Transit.
Tips: This is part of a very long stretch of beaches, all with their own distinct personalities. If you want to avoid the crowds drive 10 minutes south to Spring Lake Beach.
Comparable to: Manly, Sydney.
Photo credit: Carrie Calzaretta
Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
If you’re craving some thrills, as well as catching some rays, Coney Island is the answer. Whether you plan on riding one of the more than 50 rides, catching a minor league baseball game or just soaking up the atmosphere, Coney Island promises a fun day out.
Best for: Entertainment, food, and fun.
Worst for: Avoiding crowds, especially on the weekend, and it can become littered so watch out for glass.
Getting there: Take the D, Q, N or F train to Stillwell Avenue. This takes about 45 – 60 minutes from midtown Manhattan.
Tips: A visit to Coney Island isn’t complete without tasting a Nathan’s hotdog. You can also take a ride on the Cyclone. Built in 1927, this wooden roller coaster is a National Landmark. Perhaps do this before your hotdog…
Comparable to: St Kilda Beach, Melbourne.
Photo Credit: Lisa Valinsky
Ditch Plains, Montauk, New York
Renowned among surfers as one of the best spots to catch waves, this East Hampton beach also boasts a relaxed atmosphere, with a famous lighthouse built in 1796 to boot.
Best For: Weekend escapes, surfing, snacks from the famous Ditch Witch food truck.
Worst For: Travel time from Manhattan – it’s a bit of a trek.
Getting there: Rent a car and drive yourself, or take the train from Penn Station to Montauk. You can also jump on the Hampton Jitney, but with multiple stops and summer traffic, be prepared for a few delays.
Tips: Signage is unclear but parking at the beach requires a beach parking pass, which is free for residents but costs anyone from out of town $375 per year. If you’re driving, the best bet is to park in town and get a cab down to the beach.
Comparable to: Torquay, Victoria.
Photo Credit: Gordon M Grant
Long Beach, New York
By far one of the most accessible beaches from Manhattan, Long Beach has something for everyone. Whether you want to surf the Atlantic Ocean waves, rent a bike to check out the neighborhood, or keep the kids busy on the various playgrounds, you’ll find what you need at Long Beach.
Best For: Beach Volleyball, swimming, learning to surf, white-sand, cruising the boardwalk.
Worst For: Parking and traffic. Take the train!
Getting there: The Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station takes approximately 40 minutes and then it’s a 15 minute walk to the welcoming waves.
Tips: Get there early so you don’t need to pay for access. From 9am during the summer it costs $15 per day for beachgoers aged 13 and up. That said, if you do take the Long Island Rail Road, then your access pass is built into the cost of your trip. Thank you LIRR!
Comparable to: Bondi, Sydney.
Photo Credit: 3Scribbles
Shelter Island, New York
Shelter Island is actually home to six beautiful beaches. Nestled between the north and south forks of Long Island, Shelter Island is often referred to as the Un-Hamptons: just as beautiful, but way less of a scene.
Best for: Peace and tranquillity, pristine sand, swimming, kayaking, bike riding, seclusion.
Worst for: Parking, distance from the city, access.
Tips: Crescent Beach – also known as Sunset Beach – comes equipped with change areas, a lifeguard and some food spots. Unsurprisingly, it also comes with a great sunset. If you’re taking the kids, try Wade Beach, which has an impressive rock pool home to hundreds of crabs.
Comparable to: Mackerel Beach, Sydney.
Photo Credit: Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce
Indian Wells Beach, Amagansett, New York
When you want to fly under the Hamptons radar, this low-key beach is your best bet. After a period of time when the beach became over-run with frat boys drinking on the shore, an alcohol ban at this beach has returned it to its family-friendly glory days.
Best for: Long stretches of white sand, sunsets, low-key vibe, small crowds, night time bonfires on the beach.
Worst for: Access, parking, partying.
Comparable to: City Beach, Perth.
Photo Credit: Alex Eggerking
San Onofre Beach, San Diego County, California
If you’re making a trip out west, this beach is nestled in the State Beach National Park and attracts millions of visitors every year thanks to its beauty, great surf and versatility. If you’re missing Australian wildlife, whales, dolphins and sea lions can also be spotted offshore during certain months.
Best For: Surfing, camping, swimming, and beach picnics.
Worst For: Ease of access. This is part of a state park and you need to park your car and walk through the park tracks to the beach.
Getting there: The car park is a short drive south of San Clemente, walking to the beach can take up to 30 minutes, but it’s beautiful and totally worth it.
Tips: Go prepared with your own food and drink.
Comparable to: Great Ocean Road, Victoria.
Photo Credit: Barry Berg