Even though New York is known for its fast-paced city and the Adirondack Mountains in the north, many people need to remember that the Empire State has some great beach real estate. Thousands of locals and tourists flock to these highly-rated beach towns every summer for a classic American experience on the Atlantic Coast.
Most of the state’s 127 miles (2,625 miles by NOAA) of shorelines are within the New York City area, so planning for a trip to the Big Apple that covers Central Park and time at the beach is easily accomplished. People hoping to relocate to a place with access to the metro area and the beach may find their perfect new home in Long Island, Brooklyn, or Staten Island.
Some visitors enjoy the sophisticated atmosphere of the Hamptons, while others like the nostalgic charm of Coney Island. Keep in mind that many New York beaches are seasonal and only have lifeguards for a part of the year. Some locations don’t allow swimmers in the off-season either.
Here’s a look at the top beach towns in New York to live and visit, in no particular order:
Rockaway Beach, NY
Rockaway Beach, a municipality of 13,449 people (2010 Census) on a peninsula in southeast Queens, is a great spot to spend a summer day. The neighborhood is a year-round amenity for the people of the Rockaway Peninsula, but it comes most alive with millions of tourists from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Restoration efforts have started in this coastal region that Hurricane Sandy severely damaged in 2012. Most people in Rockaway Beach now live in rented apartments, which adds to the urban feel of the area. Many people move to Rockaway Beach because of the quality of its public schools.
In the summer, the beach’s expansive sandy shore and 5.5-mile boardwalk are swarmed by families looking to swim, sunbathe, and play beach sports like volleyball. During the summer, street vendors set up shop and offer cold treats, pizza, and casual fare, while bar patios become buzzing social hubs.
In most places along the shore, surfers may ride the waves at any time of the year. Apart from the beach and surf, there are wonderful stores (ranging from antiques to watersports gear, etc.), outdoor pubs, and even some of the city’s greatest food trucks.
Montauk, a seaside jewel with plenty to offer both tourists and locals, is often considered by some to be one of New York’s best-kept secrets. Although it’s near the extreme tip of Long Island, the town has many beaches.
According to its proponents, George Washington’s Second Congress approved the construction of the Montauk Point Lighthouse in 1792, making it the oldest lighthouse in New York State. Montauk now boasts six state parks and is a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
As of the 2020 census, 4,318 people lived in the town. Long-term residents enjoy having access to the rest of the island and fantastic fishing spots.
Most of Montauk’s beaches, which are bordered by water on three sides, lack trained lifeguards, and parking may need to be improved. Visitors can go in the water at their own risk. The beaches are open to the public up to the high tide line, so beachgoers have a wide variety of places to stroll. Ditch Plains Beach, Gin Beach, Navy Beach, Gurney’s Beach, and Kirk Park Beach are some of the public beaches in town.
Coney Island, NY
Coney Island is a community and tourist destination on a peninsula in the southwest borough of Brooklyn, New York City. Known as an iconic all-American beach town, the population of 24,711 (as of the 2010 Census) has had its share of media attention and has become a desirable place to live in its own right.
Coney Island hosted millions of tourists every year between 1880 and World War II, making it one of the most popular amusement parks in the USA. Over the years, the area’s attractions went up and down like a roller coaster.
It also became the site of many events that still happen today, like the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Visit the New York Aquarium, the Coney Island Museum, or the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island for more fun things to do.
It should come as no surprise that the beaches of Coney Island are among the most popular attractions in the neighborhood. Swimming at the beach is only permissible if lifeguards are present, and they’re only around from Memorial Day to September 11th. These beaches are well-kept and have an excellent boardwalk, restrooms, volleyball courts, and lots of open space, perfect for a morning jog or an evening stroll to take in the sunset.
Staten Island, NY
Staten Island is full of outstanding options if you want to see beautiful sandy beaches without the enormous crowds that can be found at some other popular summer spots in New York City. The North Shore, including Clifton, St. George, Tompkinsville, and Stapleton, is the island’s most urban portion, making this New York island a great homestead or getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Initially inhabited by the Lenape people, the island was colonized by Dutch settlers in the 1600s and became one of New York’s founding counties. Staten Island, with 475,747 residents (according to the 2020 Census), is the borough of New York City with the smallest population.
The biggest landfill in the world was originally located in this municipality, but now more than 9,300 acres of parks have been created there. On this New York City island, people can now enjoy beautiful gardens, picnics, playgrounds, scenic waterfront parks, and recreation centers.
In addition to the abundance of parks and other open green areas, there are plenty of easily accessible public beaches. The summer season isn’t here until you and your friends pack up your bathing suits, towels, and umbrellas and go to Staten Island’s amazing beaches for the day.
South Beach and Midland Beach are the most visited beaches on Staten Island, with South Beach being the more visited option owing to its cleaner facilities, better views, and a long wooden boardwalk (2.5 miles). The sands are great for beach activities like constructing sandcastles and sunbathing and are even warm enough to swim in at certain times of the year.
The Hamptons, NY
Relocating to the Hamptons could be the start of an adventure that lasts a lifetime since the area is full of cultural landmarks, historical sites, and beautiful landscapes. Outdoor sports, cultural events, as well as high-end shopping and eating have made the town of 28,385 (2020 Census) a year-round tourist hotspot, although the summer months see the most visitors.
The Hamptons first became a famous seaside resort in the late 1800s, when the area transformed from an agricultural hamlet known for its excellent potato fields. However, not everyone who comes to the Hamptons is affluent, which makes this area of Long Island more accessible to families and retirees.
Sagaponack and Water Mill, both well-known for their high prices, attract residents and tourists of all ages. The golf courses, museums, and exclusive clubs are nice, but the stunning Atlantic coastline is what really draws the crowds to this vacation town.
New Yorkers often go to the Hamptons for weekend getaways and summer enjoyment, and the beaches there are well-known for their welcoming atmosphere. Long expanses of powdery sandy beaches, backed by rolling dunes and sprinkled with properties, are only short distances away from bustling urban areas where you can eat excellent meals, visit farm stalls, and stay in quaint B&Bs or fancy hotels.
Orient, the most eastern hamlet on Long Island, is a small, unassuming beach community that many people don’t know about. This village stands out from other popular locations on the island because of its breathtaking scenery, fewer crowds, intimate beaches, and picturesque sights.
A few families in the area can still trace their roots back to the first five families who moved to the hamlet in the 17th century after King Charles II of England gave them land. Originally called Poquatuck after the Native American tribe that lived along the streams, the area was also called Oyster Ponds at one time because of the abundance of oysters in the area.
Currently home to 999 people (as of the 2020 census), this quiet community is ideal for a weekend rendezvous, raising a family, or retiring to peace and quiet. All of the coastlines of Orient Harbor provide lovely beaches. These coastlines are home to stunning scenery, including the port and all its passing boats.
The gorgeous Orient Beach State Park occupies a 350-acre peninsula on the southern Orient Harbor coastline and has 10 miles of beaches and abundant flora and fauna. Vineyards and farmers’ kiosks abound in Orient, and the area also has several excellent eateries where you can sample fresh seafood and regional specialties.
The Orient hamlet is considered to be part of the Town of Southold, which had a 2020 population of 5,946. In addition to the incorporated village of Greenport, Southold, NY contains the following unincorporated hamlets, including a hamlet by the same name settled in 1640—all make lovely places to live and visit:
- East Marion
- Fishers Island
- New Suffolk
If you’re looking for a low-key place to go boating, fishing, swimming, or simply relaxing on the sand, go no farther than Brookhaven Town on Long Island. The town is the biggest in New York State by land area (excluding water), and it has made a stellar name for itself as a prime location for raising a family.
Native Americans of the Setauket and Unkechaug tribes are the first documented residents in the area. As early as 1640, English colonists began arriving in the region that would become Brookhaven; many had bought property from the local tribes to establish farm communities.
Over the years, the town has developed into a well-rounded place to reside and visit to escape the big city life. These days, the 485,773 people that call Brookhaven home as of the 2020 Census participate in several exciting yearly and seasonal celebrations.
The Town of Brookhaven has several gorgeous beaches in every direction. They’re ideally positioned along the north and south sides, so you never have to drive far to enjoy a day of fun in the sun. Cedar Beach, Corey Beach, and Shirley Beach are the most popular options, as well as Fire Island connected by Smith Point Bridge. Some of the finest features are picnic locations, fishing sites, and concession kiosks.
If you find yourself in New York State and are in the mood for beach time, make sure to stop by one of these beautiful beach towns. You’ll love your time on these New York islands and coastal communities.