New York borders two Great Lakes and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. On top of these large bodies of water, there are hundreds of beautiful rivers and lakes in New York ranging in size and popularity. Visiting the beaches in New York State is easy because there are so many options. Within New York City, there are several choices just a bus or train ride away. And, there are tons of options throughout the rest of our NY state, from Long Island to Western New York to the Thousand Islands region. Each beach has a different vibe. Some are best for relaxing and swimming. Others are beaches where you go to party. This list will help you pick which beach best suits your wants.
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Best Beaches in New York State to Visit
We are dividing this list by New York State regions. Starting with New York City, then the best beaches on Long Island, and finally the lakeside beaches in Upstate New York!
Beaches in New York City
People are often so used to New York City being an urban metropolis that we often forget that we’re literally on a coast! The East Coast! Which is on the shores of the world’s second-largest ocean: The Atlantic Ocean. So if you’re living in NYC, consider one of these cool NY beaches just an easy train ride away. Consider visiting beaches in NYC in June. This is the perfect time because the weather is nice and the crowds are not too bad yet! But July and August are the most popular months to swim in our warmer ocean waters! If you’re looking for Long Island or Upstate New York beaches, scroll further below to your section.
1. Brighton Beach
For many New Yorkers like myself, Brighton Beach is our number one beach choice. That’s mostly due to transportation convenience. I just take one the Q or the B to Brighton Beach subway station in Brooklyn. Walk maybe two blocks, and voila, I take off my clothes and jump into the water. However, this easy accessibility via NYC subway, also means it can get crowded on the weekends after 10:00 AM. So plan your visit accordingly.
Brighton is also a great beach because of the unique Russian and Eastern European diasporas’ significant presence in the neighborhood (Little Odessa). You’ll feel transported to Eastern Europe here. So when you’re ready for lunch, wander inland to try one of the Eastern European restaurants. Don’t forget to order some pelmeni dumplings. Yum!
There are lifeguards during the summer season, restaurants, and even nightclubs along the boardwalk. Brighton Beach is the perfect mix of New York beach + city life.
2. Coney Island
If you don’t mind some crowds, then Coney Island is the perfect place to spend the day. Coney Island is relatively famous outside of New York City. It’s known for its amusement parks, one of which has the first rollercoaster, a Ferris Wheel, and an extensive boardwalk with Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand. More local New Yorkers head next door to Brighton Beach because Coney Island is historically more touristy. Don’t let that deter you though.
Coney Island beachfront is long, so walk to the beach and then just keep walking as far west as you can go if it’s feeling a little much. The crowds thin out the further you walk. When you want a beer, visit Coney Island Brewery and when you want some culture, walk through Coney Art Walls with ice cream. The first time you visit Coney Island will be because of curiosity, but then you’ll just keep coming back because it’s so damn charming.
Train: Just like Brighton Beach, Coney Island can be reached by subway. There is the Coney Island Stillwell Avenue subway station, and the D, F, N, and Q all stop there. An exciting development is that the NYC Ferry will soon have a stop on Coney Island that you can get to from Wall Street or Bay Ridge. Keep an eye on the NYC Ferry website and maybe your day at the beach can start on top of a ferry with a breeze in your face.
3. Jacob Riis Park
Jacob Riis Park is on the Rockaway peninsula. There is no subway on the western part of the peninsula, so you need a car/Uber ride or a bus to get here. During the summer season, it costs $5 to park your car. There are also lifeguards present during the summer. Jacob Riis Park has a gorgeous art deco boathouse that should feature in a couple of your summer selfies.
Jacob Riis Park sees a lot less foot traffic, especially from non-New Yorkers, and is a really great place to spend the day. It is a part of the United States National Park Service so there are restrooms, outdoor showers, and even some food options during the summer. Parts of the eastern portion of the beach are clothing-optional if you want to venture that way.
4. Fort Tilden
Fort Tilden is one of those places that was a secret to everybody for a long time, including New Yorkers unless they were really in the know. Then the movie, Fort Tilden, came out in 2014 about two New York City Millennial women making their way to Fort Tilden and being confronted with a series of obstacles. Now many New Yorkers may know about it, but nobody visits. It’s still quiet and unassuming. It’s the perfect day trip in NYC.
Fort Tilden is another beach on the Rockaway peninsula, and it’s west of Jacob Riis Park. Parking at Fort Tilden requires a permit though, so you must park at Jacob Riis and walk or bike a little over .5 miles to Fort Tilden. This alone deters people from visiting. I took the train and then a bus here.
Please note – There are no lifeguards and no amenities. It is perfect for some solace if you want to visit a beach in New York that’s close to NYC, but you also abhor crowds.
ALSO – I think this is partially a nude beach. Because when I got to the very end of it, everyone was naked. Do with that what you will.
5. Rockaway Beach
Rockaway Beach is a surfer’s paradise. It’s a gorgeous strip of beach that’s busy in both the summer and winter months because surfers enjoy it year-round. It’s accessible by both subway and ferry. It’s the eastern beach along the Rockaway peninsula and is a neighborhood with residences, restaurants, and cafes. It’s got everything so that you can relax, wind down, and not worry about transportation, food, or anything.
It can get crowded in the summer, but generally, it’s less busy than Coney Island and Brighton Beach. If you want more privacy, head further west to Jacob Riis Park or Fort Tilden. In the summer, there are usually seasonal vendors who set up shop and sell arepas and ice cream, and other items along the boardwalk. It’s one of the many beaches that New Yorkers can visit as a full day of activities and adventure.
By the way, you can also learn how to surf here! Check out the Local Surf School for lessons.
6. Breezy Point
Breezy Point is a private gated community on the western tip of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens (bordering Brooklyn). It’s only accessible to the residents and their private guests. It’s also a little enclave of conservative New Yorkers, so you’ll be greeted with a lot of pro-Trump flags. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the private beachfront is one of the prettiest in New York City.
If you ever get the chance to visit with a resident (and feel safe doing so), then check it out. However, don’t worry if you can’t or don’t want to visit, as Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis are right next door, and they aren’t guarded by literal security.
Best Long Island Beaches
Ahhh, we love Long Island. This is home to some of the best summer vacation spots in the USA. There are so many outdoors things to do here. From exploring these Long Island hiking trails to our favorite Long Island kayaking spots — it’s paradise for outdoor lovers. And most of these places are just an LIRR train ride away!
7. Long Beach
Long Beach is one of only two New York cities on Long Island. It also has a thriving beach scene. It’s located on Long Beach Barrier Island, so it saw some heavy destruction during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. But Long Beach rebuilt its beautiful boardwalk and is back to normal with a bustling summer season.
Long Beach has lifeguards, tons of amenities, and loads of food options along the boardwalk and in the city.
Conviniently, the LIRR train has a station on Long Beach, so it is easy to visit just for the day. There is a fee that you must pay at the beach entrances. It costs $15 per person. Usually, there is an LIRR Beach Getaway Package for $26.75 that includes admission to the beach and a round trip ride from Penn Station*.
*Check with a ticket agent at Penn Station, or wherever you are boarding the LIRR train, about the getaway package availability that year. It looks like it was just available as recently as 2021, but the MTA website is a bit confusing.
8. Pirate’s Cove in McAllister Park ★
Port Jefferson is one of our favorite towns on Long Island. And Pirate’s Cove is just a 5-ish-minute-drive outside of Port Jefferson in a gated village called Belle Terre. This little cove is one of the more unique Long Island beaches. It feels closer to a Mediterranean beach vibe than to the New York Lake beach or crowded NYC vibe.
The beach is in a picturesque cove with high sand dunes so it’s perfect for a swim, some great pictures, and sunbathing. It’s difficult to park here as the parking lot is so small (like 5 parking spots) and there is a cop that frequently monitors the parking lot to give out tickets.
However, you can either take an Uber from Port Jefferson or you can bike there. Another option is to hike here along the sand from the Port Jefferson shoreline. This is not a public beach so there are no amenities or lifeguards.
9. Crescent/Sunset Beach & Shell Beach on Shelter Island
Shelter Island is a beautiful island between the North Fork and the South Fork on Long Island. It’s very small but has several beaches that you can visit.
Shelter Island is effortlessly charming. It’s the kind of town that embodies a laidback, beach lifestyle. It’s what the Hamptons wishes it could be. Crescent Beach, also known as Sunset Beach, is in the northern part of the island and is the busiest beach for a reason. It has all the amenities, and several resorts and hotels are right there. Shell Beach is the opposite. The road is partially unpaved to Shell Beach and it’s on the southern tail of Shelter Island. It’s remote and feels like it’s just you and the waves in all directions.
The only way to get to Shelter Island is by ferry from north or south fork. And yes, you can bring your car on the ferry. If you don’t have a car, you can also take the LIRR to Greenport train station. And the ferry is right next to the station! Greenport is also one of our favorite small towns on Long Island so consider a stroll through the town.
10. Jones Beach
Jones Beach State Park has been a destination for New Yorkers for decades. It’s another beach on one of Long Island’s barrier islands. As it’s a New York State Park, there are lifeguards, amenities, and bathrooms during the summer. There’s also miniature golf, shuffleboard, corn hole, and more. Jones Beach is a great NYC weekend getaway for holidays like Memorial Day weekend because there are tons of things to do.
In the summer, there is a parking fee of $8. You can also get to Jones Beach by a combination of train and bus. Take the LIRR to Freeport station and then get on the n88 bus to Jones Beach. During the summer, the bus runs frequently. Jones Beach is the place to go if you want the beach, but you also want activities and that bustling holiday beach town vibe.
11. Montauk ★
There are so many gorgeous beaches in Montauk that you can visit. We have a full guide here for you to see all your options. My number one recommendation is Hither Hills State Park. It is one of our favorite New York State Parks and there is parking for your car! (A lot of beaches in Montauk are difficult to park at and/or require permits during the summer season.)
When you’re at Hither Hills State Park, you understand why the beaches of Montauk are so beloved. It also has lifeguards and amenities like bathrooms. Remember that you can also go for a hike on some of Long Island’s best hiking trails here. If you can afford to stay in Montauk for the weekend, it’s the perfect NYC weekend getaway.
12. Fire Island Beaches ★
I spent my summers on Fire Island when I was growing up. My grandmother owned a home there, so I have a soft spot in my heart for this dynamic, revolutionary little barrier island. Fire Island is most famous for its gay beaches. It is the site of one of the oldest gay and lesbian communities in the United States. The island is skinny and long and segmented into smaller communities. Not all the communities are gay havens though. Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines are the two main ones. Cherry Grove has restaurants and clubs and a busy beach scene. The Pines is where people rent huge houses for the summer and then lay on the beach all day.
In addition to Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines, there are several other neighborhoods, each with its own beach. Most of Fire Island is not accessible by car during the summer months. You must get there by ferry. You can access the Fire Island Lighthouse and the Lighthouse Beach by car via the Robert Moses Causeway. Everywhere else on the island, you must take a ferry from either Sayville or Bay Shore on the mainland.
You can take the ferry back and forth for just the day. During the summer months, the ferries run very late into the evening and it’s usually expensive to stay on the barrier island. In fact, the majority of lodgings on the island are week-long rental houses and there are very few hotels so this is your best option for budget travel. If you want to spend the full week, then look at Ocean Beach and the surrounding neighborhoods if you want to be close to the action. Ocean Beach has restaurants, bars, etc. If you want some quiet, look further afield.
All the neighborhood beaches on Fire Island are wonderful. It can be a busy place in the middle of summer, but it’s worth the visit to see this little corner of New York that pulses with life and joy everywhere you look. Every New Yorker should visit at least once.
Upstate New York Beaches
Upstate New York has both Great Lakes and small lakes, with tons of beaches around both. Lake beaches are soothing. People bring coolers and beach chairs and laze in the sun for hours. There are so many beaches in Upstate New York that we have a full list here for you to look at. Keep in mind that you will need to drive to visit all of these beaches. Also, don’t miss our guide to the best lake vacations in Upstate New York.
13. Fair Haven Beach State Park
Fair Haven Beach State Park is one of many great beaches on Lake Ontario. It’s only 15 minutes west of Oswego so if you’re heading up to Central New York, stop at Fair Haven for a relaxing afternoon. One of the coolest parts of Fair Haven is the fiving boards. There are two beaches connected by a little channel with two diving boards on them.
It costs $9 to park here in the summer. There are also campgrounds, picnic areas, and lifeguards during the summer. Rentals include boats, kayaks, canoes, etc. If you want to check out a Lake Ontario beach during the summer months, Fair Haven is the first place to stop.
14. Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park is dramatic and gorgeous. It’s not exactly the beach that you go to for swimming and sunbathing. In fact, it’s FORBIDDEN to swim here. But you can come for other outdoors activities or to just admire the beautiful views.
Earthen spires project out of the ground on the shore and on top of the cliffs are forests with trails. There are picnic areas and restrooms, which is nice especially if you plan on walking the trails for a few hours. This beach might not be your typical beach experience, but it’s worth it for the views.
15. Southwick Beach State Park
Southwick Beach State Park is also on Lake Ontario. It’s got the best of both worlds for a Lake Ontario beach. There is a sandy beach area with lifeguards during the summer and there’s a grassy wooded area for hiking. It’s $8 per car during the summer and there are amenities including picnic tables.
Southwick Beach State Park is a perfect stop on your road trip to visit all the beaches in New York state. Spend the day here on your way to the Thousand Islands region. It can get crowded during the summer, but it’s big enough that you shouldn’t feel too crowded.
16. Sodus Point Beach Park
Sodus Point Beach Park is also about halfway between Oswego and Rochester on the shores of Lake Ontario. It has a beautiful little lighthouse that you should visit. There’s a nice breakwater that you can walk to get to the lighthouse. It’s a small beach, but it’s a perfect little place to relax, swim, and hit up the playground if you have small children with you. You don’t have to pay to park and there are lifeguards during the summer season.
Related: 30+ Fun & Unique Things to do in Oswego, New York (where we studied!)
17. Canandaigua Lake
Canandaigua Lake is one of the Finger Lakes. It’s known for being one of the most picturesque of the Finger Lakes, which is saying something considering all the Finger Lakes are stunning. There are endless amazing things to do in the Finger Lakes, and visiting a lake-side beach is one of them!
Kershaw Park is a beach on the northern end of the lake. This is the beach you visit for a picnic, to check out the boats on the Finger Lakes, and to have a relaxing afternoon sipping on some Finger Lakes wine. There isn’t any swimming here. Onanda Park is on the western side of Lake Canandaigua. Visit Onanda Park and wade into the water with some water shoes because there is a lot of shale. Deep Run Beach on the eastern side of the lake is where you can spend a whole day. There are lifeguards, grills, picnic areas, restrooms, etc.
18. Seneca Lake State Park
Seneca Lake State Park is on the shores of Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake is always worth a visit to check out the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, go on a Finger Lakes wine tour, and/or stop by some of the top-rated wineries in the Finger Lakes. Seneca Lake State Park is worth the visit specifically because it’s always fun. There is a Sprayground and multiple playgrounds. The playgrounds might be for the kids but the Sprayground is for all. It’s $8 to park in the summer. There are lifeguards, restrooms, and a couple of marinas.
Geneva, one of our favorite small towns in Upstate New York, is right next to the park, so it’s also close to lots of lodging and restaurants. Any of the beaches in the Finger Lakes are worth a visit on your New York State beaches road trip, but make sure you stop at Seneca Lake State Park to soak in some perfect summer lake vibes.
19. Wilmington Town Beach
Wilmington is one of our favorite towns in the Adirondacks to visit. Wilmington Town Beach is a cute tiny beach where you can go swimming or kayaking with views of the majestic Adirondack Mountains. So if you are visiting Lake Placid this summer, make sure to stop here at least once. The lakes in the Adirondacks are gorgeous as they’re glacial lakes filled with pristine, but chilly(!) water.
While you’re in the area don’t miss out on the breweries in the Adirondacks, visiting Saranac Lake, and of course, the beautiful Lake Placid. We just came back from a road trip around the area and were in love.
Wilmington Town Beach has two parking lots, lifeguards in the summer, restrooms, and picnic areas. Rent a kayak in town or get a coffee and go for a walk and watch others kayak. All you need to focus on is relaxing and living the lake beach life in Upstate New York.
About the Author: LEAH WERSEBE
Leah is a TV aficionado and a recovering 9-5 office worker. Her permanent home is in New York, but she has traveled to over 25 countries in search of the perfect latte. In 2022, she’s temporarily living in Galicia, Spain. Leah loves being in debt so has degrees from universities in international politics, film, and wildlife conservation. Follow her on Twitter at @LDWersebe.
Founder/Editor: GERRY ISABELLE
Gerry was born and raised in New York City. She is the founder of Dominican Abroad – a culture and travel blog. Her curiosity and passion for culture, history, and the outdoors have taken her around the globe. You can follow her New York State + world travels on her Instagram. Fun fact: She studied in Upstate NY with Leah!