Although most people long for the heat of summer in the frigid depths of a NYC winter, after the first real heat wave sets in, we all long for the cool breezes of a beach. If you don’t have your house in the Hamptons (yet!), or a rental on the Jersey shore, and can’t spare a few weeks to lounge under a bright blue umbrella on Mykonos, you might be happy to know that there are several lovely beaches that you can reach without even leaving New York city limits. Last week I spent a day at one of them, Far Rockaway, and arrived via subway and left via ferry, for a total transportation cost of $5.50 ($2.75 each way). I took the A train to Beach 69th Street in Arverne (be sure to get the A to Rockaway rather than Lefferts Blvd), which took a little over an hour from midtown. Within a block of the station, I was passing Locals Surf School and could already smell the salt air.
Simply put, the beach here is gorgeous. This section of the beach is less crowded, and you can be entertained by the sight above of airplanes preparing to land at nearby JFK airport.
So where is Far Rockaway? It is in Queens, on a peninsula (Rockaway Peninsula) that adjoins Nassau County on Long Island.
Surfing is popular here, something that sometimes surprises people who do not realize that surf culture can exist on the East Coast!
There is a boardwalk with places to eat, and if you walk a block or two away from the beach you can find even more places to eat.
Returning to NYC later in the day, I took the ferry. This was as much fun as spending the day at the beach had been. Lines can be long on weekends, and earlier in the summer they had not anticipated the demand for ferry service and there were a few times that people had to wait for hours to get on a ferry. They seem to have improved that as the summer has progressed, but taking a ferry early in the day and not waiting for the last ferry out is still a good idea on the weekends. You always have the A train as a backup if you enjoy your time too much and don’t get on that last ferry of the day.
Getting on the ferry, you can see Manhattan shimmering off in the distance, tiny and improbable, like a mirage. You can also see clearly how the topography of the Manhattan schist, the bedrock for our skyscrapers, goes far below the surface in SoHo, Greenwich Village, and Chelsea – giving us tall buildings in Lower Manhattan, but then not again until Midtown.
There is almost nothing that makes me happier than being on a boat! The top of the ferry delivers wonderful views as you pass Coney Island and start to approach the Verrazzano Bridge.
Then, even more dramatically, you pass under the bridge!
After the bridge, you begin to see Brooklyn, and off in the distance, Lower Manhattan getting closer. The ferry makes one stop in Brooklyn, in Sunset Park, and then heads into the Wall Street dock, just south of South Street Seaport.
From the natural unspoiled beauty of sea and sand, to the human-made looming mountains and canyons of Lower Manhattan, in a little less than a hour! I love the action and bustle of this city, but all the more for knowing that it offers such a breadth of experiences – skyscrapers and crowds, but also Central Park and Rockaway Beach.
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