Hacking the Rockaways

rockaway umbrellas

You are dying for a day at the beach, and you’ve heard of the Rockaways*, but you’ve never been. Do it right. Here’s how to kill it your first time out.

1. Check the beach forecast. Sure, it looks sunny out the window of your 4th floor walkup, but the Rockaways are nearly 20 miles from Midtown Manhattan. Coastal weather can be very local, so be sure to check the conditions for zip code 11694. If it’s not going to be hot and sunny, just pivot to brunch and save the beach for another day.

2. Get up early. You work hard all week: we get it. Setting an alarm for a lazy beach day may seem counterintuitive, but the chance to lay claim to the best bit of beach before the crowds has its own rewards. You can always nap while you work on that cocoa butter tan. Plus, there’s a great Rockaway breakfast option (Thurs-Sun) you can only get before 11 am (see #5).

3. Obey your subway app. Estimated travel time via the A train from Midtown is about 1.5 hours. Now before you let that get you down, keep in mind that that is less than the wait for brunch at Clinton Street Baking Company. Here’s a little trick that may save you a few minutes. Sometimes it is faster to take the A to Broad Channel and switch to the S train that goes along the shore, however, depending on the whims of the MTA, it may be faster to take the A to Rockaway Boulevard and then switch to the Q53 Limited bus, which follows nearly the same route. Only your subway app will know for sure (try HopStop). Check it as you are pulling into the Rockaway Boulevard stop. If you take the bus, note that the Q53 stop is under the (elevated) subway stop. Take the bus to the 97th Street stop (across from Rockaway Taco, see #5 yet again). If you take the S train, get off at the Beach 98th Street stop.

4. Bring cash. Nearly every place you want to eat or shop is cash only. Don’t be the sucker paying outrageous ATM surcharges. Bring the green stuff.

Rockaway Taco taco

5. Eat well. The grim concession stands at Jones Beach are no match for the creative and tasty options at Rockaway. The mother ship of comestible goodness is Rockaway Taco. Set back a few blocks from the beach proper, the crowds of knowing hipsters lining up for lunch at 11:30 look more like tan LA transplants than the pale Brooklyn species we are more accustomed to seeing around the city. These city surfer types know what’s good because the tacos and fresh juices are on point. If you follow #2 and arrive early, Rockaway Taco serves chilaquiles (tortilla chips smothered with sausage and egg) for breakfast. Good stuff. Save some room because just a few blocks away right on the beach is the 97th Street Concession providing more delicious and unusual dining options from the kind of purveyors you would expect to see at Smorgasburg. We are fans of Bolivian Llama Party, and you will be too once you’ve tried one of their Triple Pulled Pork Chola sandwiches. If that’s not to your fancy are plenty of other options including La Cevicheria,  Breezy’s BBQ, and the Lobster Joint.  

6. Slather, rinse, repeat. It’s easy to be distracted by the good food from the actual point: enjoying the sand and the surf, but don’t forget to apply a generous dollop of sunscreen before you sit back relax and enjoy your urban beach day


*Never heard of the Rockaways? What are you, new to town?

The Rockaway Peninsula, usually called “the Rockaways” faces the Atlantic Ocean and happens to be in the borough of Queens. The beaches are wide and some of the shoreline has surfable waves.  In the neighborhoods along the shore you may find a set of row houses next to a surfer bungalow down the street from both a boarded up store and a rather fancy looking high rise. It’s a mix of decrepit buildings and new post-Sandy construction. The Hamptons it is not, but that is part of the charm.