If you live in NYC and still haven’t made it out to the Rockaways, I highly recommend it. The beaches are beautiful and there is lots of access to the ocean. Plus, it is all free. Rockaway Beach is in the outskirts of Queens so getting there can be a trek. But thankfully the MTA does have train service directly to the beach access points. And that’s all included with a swipe of the metrocard!
The beaches have gained popularity since Hurricane Sandy wiped out all of the boardwalk and almost everything there. Some growth in food pop-ups and for-pay buses that go directly to Jacob Riis State Park have helped bring new visitors to the Rockaways. Thankfully, the MTA has noticed this too and increased train service as of June 2016.
Extended Shuttle Service to Rockaway Beaches
According to the MTA, Rockaway Park Shuttle service has been extended to reach both A trains at Rockaway Blvd.
Old Way (pre-2016): Take a Far Rockaway bound A train to Broad Channel and transfer to the Rockaway Park Shuttle (S) train.
New Way (as of June 2016): Take either a Far Rockaway or Lefferts Blvd A train to Rockaway Blvd and transfer to the Rockaway Park Shuttle (S) train.
It is still a same platform transfer from the S to the A. The Shuttle extension to Rockaway Blvd is on weekends only until at least labor day. It is making regular A stops between Rockaway Blvd and Broad Channel. If you find yourself on a Far Rockaway train, you can still stay on it and transfer at Broad Channel if you’d prefer.
On their site, the MTA alluded to keeping the extra shuttle service on after Labor Day. Hopefully it will continue while all the NYC public beaches are still open. Remember, the water finally warms up in August so late summer is the perfect time for a beach trip.
Full Directions to Rockaway Beaches
Once you’re on the Shuttle, the rest of the trip is the same. From Broad Channel onwards all stops have direct beach access. You will be about two blocks away from the beach. And the ocean will be visible from the train platform. There are several different parts of the beaches here. I am mostly familiar with the beach access around Beach 105th st. I haven’t been to Riis Park Beach in several years.
Swimming/Sunbathing: The Shuttle train will take you from Beach 90th st to Beach 116th st. There is now a boardwalk for most of this. There are some food places. There are public bathrooms. The beach is nice for sunbathing, playing, generally relaxing. And the water is great for swimming.
Surfing/Hanging Out: The Far Rockaway A train will take you from Beach 67th st to Far Rockaway/Mott Ave. I have never been down this way so I do not have first-hand experience. There are more food & drink options here. And this part of the beach is great for surfing. I’ve heard good things about taking surf lessons here as well.
Riis Beach: The Riis Park Beach is accessible by bus & car only. The Q35 stops here. And there are lots of pay options now for bus services that go directly from neighborhoods in Brooklyn to this beach. There is a Beach Bazaar now too. There are definitely more food/drink options than when I was there a while back. There is also a part of the beach that is very lgbtq-friendly.