Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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From NYC to upstate, there’s plenty to see in New York, but did you know the state’s beaches also deserve a spot on your travel bucket list? With miles of coastline and a plethora of inland lakes to its name, there’s no shortage of shores to visit in this corner of the East Coast.
However, between choosing where in the state you should plan your trip and what beaches to head to once you’re there, planning a getaway can be stressful. To take some of the travel-prep weight off your shoulders, we did the hard work for you. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to learn about New York’s 15 best beaches.
Map of the 15 Best Beaches in New York State
The 5 Best Beaches on Long Island
1. Cooper’s Beach
Cooper’s Beach is a quiet coastal place where you can enjoy the water in peace. Though there’s an on-site parking lot, the sand is a short walk away. However, if you or someone you’re traveling with have mobility concerns, getting to the shore shouldn’t be too difficult, thanks to the walkway that takes you directly to the sand.
You won’t find much natural shade on this beach, but there are umbrella rentals available if you plan to spend the whole day here and want some extra sun protection. There are also refreshment options nearby if you don’t want to worry about packing a picnic.
Once in the water, you can swim stress-free because you’ll be under the watchful eye of trained lifeguards. The beach is open to both locals and out-of-towners, but if you’re not from Southampton, you’ll need to purchase a pass before you are allowed on the sand.
2. Ditch Plains Beach
If you’re on the hunt for a place to head out with your surf or paddleboard, Ditch Plains in Montauk is the place for you.
This wide-open beach has plenty of space to spread out, so surfers don’t have to worry about running into each other while catching the large and consistent waves that can be found near this shore. If you’re not much of a thrill-seeker, you can relax on the sand and watch the waves in the distance. Alternatively, you can go for a nature hike to take full advantage of the bluffs’ scenery.
Unlike many of the other beaches on Long Island, Ditch Plains is free while still being manned by lifeguards between Memorial and Labor Day. However, if you bring a car, you’ll have to pay to park in the shore’s lot.
3. East Hampton Main Beach
East Hampton’s main beach is one of the most popular on Long Island and for a good reason. With long stretches of soft sand and an unobstructed view of the horizon, it’s an idyllic place to spend some time by the water.
The beach doesn’t just offer natural beauty, though. It also has plenty of amenities to make your visit comfortable and fun. The beach is manned by lifeguards between Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September. During that time, the area’s snack bars are also open, and there’s year-round access to on-site restrooms.
You can even bring your dogs with you during the off-season, just as long as you have a leash and you clean up after them.Hot Tip:
If you don’t live in the area, you’ll need to purchase a day pass to visit, though, and if you’re coming by train, it’s a few miles walk.
4. Fire Island National Seashore
Fire Island is a barrier island just off Long Island’s coast. Though the entire island is worth visiting, the 26-mile-long portion that’s protected as a national seashore is particularly beloved.
The island is an eclectic getaway spot where travelers of all kinds can come to enjoy the beach. Nature lovers can explore the island’s forests which are hundreds of years old. People looking for a place to relax can unwind thanks to the slow and laid-back ambiance of the island’s community.
Some portions of the beach are private property, so make sure to keep an eye out for signs before you lay out a towel. Lifeguards are on duty here as well, so you can swim safely. Remember that from Memorial Day through June, they’re posted on weekends. July through Labor Day, however, the beaches are manned daily.
5. Jones Beach State Park
Located on Jones Beach Island, this state park offers visitors the chance to explore New York’s coast in a variety of ways. The on-site nature center lets you learn about the wildlife that calls the area home, and there are numerous trails you can go for a stroll on.
If you’d prefer to spend your entire visit on the beach, you can head into the water no matter what your swimming skill level is. The water is quite shallow near the shore and gradually gets deeper, so you don’t have to worry about any sudden drop-offs.
If you’re up for trying something new while you’re at Jones Beach, you can even try out crabbing since all the equipment you’ll need can be rented. If you need it, there is also public transportation available that can bring you from the Long Island peninsula.
The 5 Best Beaches Near NYC
1. Coney Island Beach
Coney Island Beach is a sort of time capsule when it comes to New York City. This 3-mile-long coastline is best associated with its boardwalk, featuring famous rides and games that can be enjoyed during the spring and summer seasons.
However, because it’s such a beloved place, it’s also one of the busiest beaches in NYC. If you plan to spend your day on the sand, plan to go during the week and early in the morning to ensure you find a good spot for your towel.
If you visit after Labor Day, the beach will be much calmer, but since that’s the off-season, there won’t be any lifeguards on duty. The water will also start getting colder, so you’ll likely want to stick to dry land. Remember, Coney Island Beach isn’t open 24 hours, and you’ll have to leave the sand after 8 p.m.
2. Fort Tilden Beach
Fort Tilden Beach is a hidden gem in the Queens borough. The beach gets its name from the military site nearby that once protected the city’s harbor. In fact, on the beach, you’ll notice long-abandoned hidden bunkers and gun batteries along the sand.
Swimming is forbidden at Fort Tilden. The tide can be rough once you start delving into the deeper water, and as there are no lifeguards, it’s best not to take any risks.
The fact that this beach is less swimmable also means it’s a little less popular, so it’s rarely crowded except for holiday weekends during the summer months. You can even try out fishing directly from the sand, especially during the warmer months when the fish are more active.
3. Jacob Riis Park
Jacob Riis Park is one of New York City’s oldest and most historic parks. First designed in 1912, the area later took advantage of its coastline by building a bathhouse that sits right on the sand. The park is now a national recreation area, so it’s largely protected from development which keeps the area pristine for visitors.
If you forget refreshments or any other necessities, you don’t have to worry. There are multiple vendors within walking distance to accommodate the steady flow of tourists that come during the spring and summer. Some of these establishments do close for the fall and winter, though.
The water here is calm, but it can be loud and crowded if you come in the middle of the day. If you’re looking for some peace, aim for a morning visit, especially during the week or in May or September.
4. Orchard Beach
Orchard Beach might be the only beach option in the Bronx, but it has everything you need. Measuring 115 acres, the park has a picnic area, playgrounds, and a beachfront promenade where you can go for a nice relaxing walk.
Having so much space that’s not on the sand helps disperse crowds, so even during the busy summer months, it doesn’t feel too packed with people. The beach accommodates a wide variety of guests, so you’ll notice the ambiance starts to change a bit depending on the time of day.
More families tend to congregate during the day, and things are a little quieter. On the other hand, at night, the beach sees more lively parties and cookouts. The beach is free to access, but if you’re bringing a car, you’ll have to pay to park between Memorial and Labor Day.
5. Rockaway Beach
Rockaway Beach is a huge 5-mile stretch of shoreline in Queens. The area is one of the most family-friendly and versatile because it offers so many amenities for people of all ages.
Along the boardwalk, you’ll be able to find food vendors, basketball and volleyball courts, and more. There are even skateboard areas. While some of the businesses tend to close after Labor Day in September, the free attractions stay open all year.
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012 left the beach in disarray, the city put in a lot of effort to remodel and clean up, so much of the area is still quite new and pristine. The water here is great for swimming, but surfers also flock to the area because it has some of the most consistent waves in the continental US. If you’ve ever been curious to try surfing for yourself, Rockaway is the place.Hot Tip:
Check out the best beaches in New Jersey as well!
The 5 Best Beaches in Upstate New York
1. Gallagher Beach, Buffalo Harbor State Park
Gallagher Beach is a family-friendly and quaint shore on Lake Erie. Though it’s popular all year for walks on the sand, swimming is only allowed between May and October when the lifeguards are on duty. In recent years, the beach has undergone a number of renovations, including a new boardwalk and even a pier for fishing.
Just because this is a lake beach doesn’t mean you can’t have some excitement, too. During the summer months, Jet Ski rentals are available, and you can even try windsurfing. The sandy stretch of the beach is quite narrow, which can make finding a spot a bit difficult on summer weekends.Hot Tip:
If you plan to visit Buffalo in the summer, take advantage of the fact that Gallagher Beach opens at dawn and try to get there before the crowds come in at around 10 a.m.
2. Million Dollar Beach
Named after the cost it took to get the area up and running in 1951, Million Dollar Beach is a sandy stretch on Lake George’s shores. The beach is available to both residents and out-of-towners, and it has everything you might need to have a fun and safe day on the water. In fact, Lifeguards are on duty daily from May to September.
Whether you want to go boating, fishing, or spend your day splashing around in the water, you can do so without any worries at Million Dollar Beach. The swimming area is smaller than the other recreational areas for boats, but the water is clean and shallow enough for kids.
The beach also has on-site restrooms and showers available to the public, so you can get cleaned up before you head out at the end of your visit.
3. Ontario Beach
Ontario Beach in Rochester is considered one of the best beaches on the Great Lakes. That’s largely due to its versatility. The park and beach combined span 39 acres of land, so there is plenty of room to roam around. You can go on a romantic or relaxing stroll on the sand or on the pier, play volleyball, or go for a swim.
Swimming is permitted year-round between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. However, exert extra caution if you’re swimming during an unsupervised time since lifeguard shifts don’t start until 11 a.m. They’re also only on duty from mid-June through September.
The beach also hosts concerts, especially during the summer. So if you’re interested in attending or you want to know when the beach will be less peaceful, you can check the information on the city’s site.
4. Selkirk Shores State Park
Selkirk Shores State Park on Lake Ontario is the perfect place for people who want to mix camping and beach-going. The park stretches out over 980 acres and offers a number of different outdoor experiences, from hiking through the woods to relaxing on the shore.
If you visit in the fall or spring, you can even get in some unique birdwatching from the shore since the park falls in a highly-trafficked migration route. The park is pet-friendly, but keep in mind that dogs aren’t allowed on the beach between May and September.
The beaches in the park are rocky, which can be uncomfortable if you’re used to sand. To make swimming and walking easier, bring a pair of swim shoes or footwear so that you can get wet. Since the park is also a campground, picnic spots, showers, and cooking areas are all available for visitors.
5. Sodus Point Beach Park
Sodus Point Beach Park is a favorite spot for a day at the beach among Wayne County locals. The on-site volleyball net, picnic areas, boat launch, and long stretches of soft sand mean you can do virtually any beach-side activity.
Since the beach is on Lake Ontario, the water stretches out as far as you can see, and the shore is spacious and wide, with plenty of room to spread out. So, it almost feels like you’re at the ocean. There are even gentle waves you can listen to while on the sand.
However, since the water is pretty shallow, more experienced swimmers might get a little bored and prefer exploring the dry land portions of the park. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer months, and the lake’s water is quite shallow, so you can let kids splash around safely.
Whether you prefer to relax onshore or you love splashing around in the water, clearly, New York’s beaches deserve a spot on your must-visit list. With any luck, this list has helped you narrow down your options, so you can decide which one of these shorelines you should visit first.
Featured Image Credit: Michal Dziekonski via Pixabay
Frequently Asked Questions
New York state has numerous beaches that are well worth visiting throughout the entire state. While most of the state’s beaches are on its Atlantic Coast, there are also freshwater shores as well. Visitors can swim, fish, or surf at many of these beaches.
Though upstate New York is landlocked, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any beach destinations. The area’s numerous lakes and rivers mean there are plenty of opportunities for freshwater swimming in nature. As such, it’s home to some of the most sought-after NY shores.
New York has no shortage of safe and swimmable beaches all over the state. Often, places where swimming is forbidden are clearly marked, but if you have any doubts, you can double-check with locals or the authorities before you head out to the water.
In general, New York’s beaches are clean both regarding their shores and their waters. However, popular beaches near big cities or near ports are more prone to some litter. Rest assured, water quality is regularly checked for safety, so you can still swim peacefully.
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