During the Summer, the beach is my favorite place to be. It’s no secret I’ve visited many of the city’s beaches and scoped out some of the healthiest places to eat and drink. Here are a few of my favorite NYC Beaches and my expert tips for a healthy beach-going experience.
Rockaway Beach: The Rockaways, Queens
What I love: Hands-down this is my favorite beach. It has a laid back vibe, plenty to do and see and is easy enough to get to using public transportation.
How to get there: I prefer driving, because parking is fairly easy to find, but you can take the A train and there’s a ferry that leaves from Pier 11 on Wall Street for the same price as the subway. However you decide to travel, it takes just shy of an hour.
What’s not so great: Crowded is an understatement.
Healthy eats: The concessions are one of the best things at The Rockaways. The two biggest can be found at The Riis Park Beach Bazaar and the other is at Beach 97th Street. You’ll find healthier options like Young Thai coconuts, dark chocolate-dipped frozen fruit on a stick, yucca fries, tacos and gluten-free arepas among the usual beach fare like burgers and fries and lobster rolls.
Don’t miss it: Take a short jaunt inland to Rockaway Beach Surf Club for tacos, guac and cocktails – or fresh coconut water and cukes – thick slices of cucumber, mango and jicama smothered in chili and lime. THE BEST!!
Long Beach: Long Beach, NY
What I love: For the longest time, as far as I was concerned, this was the only beach worth going to. Over time, other area beaches have become more appealing and easier to access, but Long Beach is certainly one of the cleanest.
How to get there: The LIRR is the fastest and most direct. During the Summer, the beach package will get you to and from Penn Station and onto the beach for around $27. It takes about 1 hour each way.
What’s not so great: No drinking on the beach and this is strictly enforced by the police who will ticket you. During peak hours, you may be hard-pressed to find a seat on the train.
Healthy eats: There are many restaurants in Long Beach, but not all are within walking distance to the beach. Beach-goers can peruse the unimpressive row of fast food-like restaurants that lie between the beach and the train station, many of which deliver to the beach. However, the better option may be to bring your own food or check out the new Shoregasboard, a food truck parking lot where you can pick up sandwiches, tacos and hot dogs among which the healthiest may be NY Acai which serves up smoothies and acai bowls.
Don’t miss it: Stop by Hotel Allegria, a “luxury” beach-front hotel on the boardwalk, for a sunset cocktail. Chances are you’ll catch a glimpse of a wedding party taking pre-ceremony photos.
Sandy Hook: Sandy Hook, NJ
What I love: Just a short ferry-ride away, you’ll find the Gateway National Recreation Area of Sandy Hook. I only know about this beach because I did a triathlon here several years ago. If vast, open space and thinner crowds are what you’re looking for, Sandy Hook is your beach.
How to get there: The ferry is the best bet from Manhattan, unless you’re driving. If so, parking in Sandy Hook is plentiful, but not free at $15 per car. The beach itself, however, is free. The $45 round-trip ferry leaves from your choice of East 35th or Wall Street in Manhattan and just under an hour later you’ll arrive in Sandy Hook where free shuttle buses will drop you at the beach of your choice.
What’s not so great: If you like people-watching and a fun atmosphere, you won’t get it here. When we went, the shuttles were unable to handle the ferry-load so we ended up walking to the closest beach which was a hike.
Healthy eats: There are a few food trucks in the parking lot selling hot dogs, pizza and burgers, but healthy options are few and far between. If you want healthy food, bring your own.
Don’t miss it: If you get the chance to do so, roam around the park grounds, home to batteries and historic Army buildings. Check out the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest surviving lighthouse, which currently serves as the Visitor’s Center.
Long Branch: Long Branch, NJ
What I love: Quite possibly the liveliest beach with plentiful restaurants and shopping on site at Pier Village, Long Branch is such a cute beach town that you may be tempted to stay all weekend.
How to get there: Though you can take a New Jersey Transit bus, the best way is by car. Expect a 90-minute drive from the city with some traffic. Valet parking is available on arrival and daily beach passes cost $7 on weekends.
What’s not so great: The restaurants tend to be expensive and the beach gets crowded.
Healthy eats: There are plenty of healthy options at the nearby restaurants and beach cafes. We ate lunch outside at the beachfront Avenue Restuarant which had plenty of salads. Playa Bowls has an incredible selection of superfood smoothies, Acai bowls, juices and more for a more casual, beachy option. I would need an entire summer to work my way through their menu of refreshing bowls.
Don’t miss it: Spring for a beach rental. Chairs and umbrellas are available for $10/day each, which is so much better than hauling your own chairs or laying your towel down on the sand.
With all this talk about NYC beaches, it’s imperative to make sure your beach excursions are as healthy as possible. Follow these tips to have a healthy beach experience:
One // Sunscreen: Wear sunscreen with at least a 15 sun protection factor (spf), but more is better. Choose sunscreen that is free of phthalates, parabens and other harmful chemicals. Look for UVA protection.
Two // Pack your own snacks: While there may be some healthier options at these beaches, it’s best to be prepared with your own healthy snacks. Things like fruit, nuts, hummus and crudite. Use a cooler bag to keep things fresh.
Three // Hydrate: Being in the heat requires lots of water. Be sure to stay hydrated with water and coconut water.