When you think of New York, I bet you think of big city life…the Statue of Liberty…Yacht cruises…Central Park…museums…shopping…dining…cocktails…Wall Street. I can’t imagine that you think of New York as a prime beach destination.
Guess what? It can be! Rockaway Beach boasts almost six miles of white, sandy beachfront property. You don’t even have to leave the city, because Rockaway Beach is in Queens, very near JFK airport.
So, why don’t we think of Rockaway Beach like we think of South Beach? Is it glamorous? Is it filled with young bodies surrounded by expansive coastline and expensive cars, housing and elite clubs? Not at all….
Rockaway Beach, originally dubbed “The Irish Riviera,” was home to many Irish immigrants in the early days of New York City. So, it certainly wasn’t the most “popular” place to be…
During the time of Robert Moses, many beach-goers were lured to other parts of the city, and the area went into complete economic despair.
In the 1960s, the city attempted an “urban renewal” by building dozens of blocks worth of housing projects, which the city called “Hammel Houses” to honor the one of the original owners of the beach strip, Louis Hammel.
Another housing development (not considered a project) called the Dayton Beach Park Cooperative was built around the same time. These 13-story buildings flank the entire northwest side of the boardwalk.
As New York City continued to grow and develop, the Rockaways became a day-trip for Lower East Side punk enthusiasts (like the Ramones) and a beach-paradise for those who were a little rough around the edges.
In the early 2000s, it grew a new nickname of “Williamsburg on the Rockaways” because of the influx of hipsters, millennials, and urbanites who call Brooklyn home, but enjoyed the surf and the sun in this community.
Although the people who visit this area have gentrified through the years, the area itself is still old-school, rough and rowdy, and unapologetically New York. Look east and see a beautiful beach, then look west and see poverty hustling daily to make ends meet without real assistance from anyone.
Side note, it is still the second-most Irish populated location in the country…2nd only to Boston. (I think the Irish know that if they keep the area just “rough enough” they can keep it for themselves – ha!).
What to do in Rockaway Beach?
- When the surf is up, enjoy heading out with your board or watching the boarders! They are located between Beach 68 and Beach 71 on most days.
- Find the New York City snack shack outposts in three areas of the beach serving up beach favorites like frozen drinks, burgers, tacos, and hot dogs.
- Take an umbrella and blanket and soak up the sun! I soaked up a bit too much (ouch!), so don’t forget your sunscreen.
- Walk the boardwalk and see pick-up games of basketball and tennis next to beach volleyball and cycling.
- Head over to Rockaway Brewing for some laid-back patio vibes.
- Walk across the peninsula to the wharf side for kayaking, jet-skiing, city views, and waterfront restaurants.
- Take the one hour ferry ride back to the city to enjoy the sunset and pass by the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island, Coney Island, Red Hook, and Battery Park!
Who Belongs in Rockaway Beach?
Everyone would be fine at Rockaway Beach. But, I don’t think the traditional beach-lover is going to appreciate it.
I think Rockaway Beach feels like home to those who typically make fun of beach holidays. Those who might be considered cynical. Those who might say, “IDGAF about my reputation.” Those who have more vinyl and leather than rompers and flowers. Those who have escaped their Caribbean roots. Those who value a pint over a mojito. I think this is the Rockaway crowd. They’ll let you have South Beach, just leave them and their beach alone.
Should I Come to New York in 2020?
If you are living outside the Northeast, the answer is still, sadly, no. For more on this, check out our other posts on “Wandering and Wondering in NYC,” and “New York: Awakening from COVID-19 Slumber.” The quarantine mandates for most US states are getting stricter and stricter. New York seems to be under control (at this point). The government is doing their best to make sure it stays that way. With so many people living in such a close proximity, pandemics are especially lethal here.
Wait this one out…New York will still be here when the dust settles.
As always, don’t forget to Toast The Moon to all of your international travels by visiting our store, and make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and the ‘gram to catch all of our latest posts and adventures!
Stay in your region this year, stay safe, stay distant, and be like the NYC statues – wear your masks! We’ll see you on the other side.
Noah and Majhon