The Beaches at Far Rockaway—Far and Away the Best
August 29, 2013

The Beaches at Far Rockaway—Far and Away the Best

With only a week and a half left till New York City’s beaches and pools close for the season, and two weeks before school begins, we were blessed with a stunningly beautiful Saturday and the children, like us, were desperate to log more hours at the beach. So we went to the only beach that we hadn’t yet explored: Far Rockaway, and what an undiscovered (to us) gem it was!

We were hardly the only ones to be so inspired. We had thought that the subway would be near empty by the time we reached Broad Channel, but it remained quite full and most everyone had a beach bag and towel in hand. And it was a good thing.

Prior to leaving home, we had checked the MTA site for subway interruptions (once burned…) but we hadn’t thought to research exactly which beach we should aim for, or how to get there. It being the weekend, we also left our devices at home so without any way to quickly check on the Internet, we had to rely on other subway riders for information. As it would turn out, most of our fellow passengers were first-timers to Far Rockaway themselves, and several were heading to the surf-only beaches that we wouldn’t be able to swim at. So once we got off the subway at B 90 Street, we followed the steady stream of beachgoers to Beach 86, which was the first open area.

A Beach Town Idyll

It was a gloriously cloudless day and the beach filled up quickly, but there was still room to move. Even better, we were allowed to use flotation devices in the water, so Halina took to Riley’s body board and basically didn’t let go, despite the very chilly water. Riley, meanwhile, tried to throw the inflatable pink inner tube as high as he could—fortunately not hitting anyone! 

We were delighted to find the surf and sand very clean, both in terms of human litter and (at least on the day we went) marine matter such as seaweed, jellyfish, and crab appendages. (This is lesser so the case in Brighton Beach and Coney Island, both of which are much cleaner than they were last year.)

Looking out across the Atlantic Ocean, you could be on any beautiful beach with soft white sand, anywhere in the world. Looking back across the sand, you know you are in an urban area. Hulking brick apartment complexes make up most of the view behind the boardwalk, all except for a two-steepled church on the street beyond the lifeguard stand.

Air traffic consisted of a skywriting plane, a few small crafts pulling advertising signs, and a steady stream of jumbo jets bound for JFK airport just a few miles to the northeast. Near the surf spots (between Beach 67 and Beach 69 Streets and between Beach 87 and Beach 92 Streets), the planes fly quite low, casting eerie shadows across the sand as they slow down for a landing.

The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy is still present, with several blocks of beach and boardwalk closed for massive restoration projects. Elevated rest stations are being installed as in Brighton Beach and Coney Island several miles to the west. There are few concessions and carts on the boardwalk, and along Beach Channel Drive many restaurants are still shuttered after disaster. The pub at Beach 86 was doing a brisk business, with classic rock numbers like “Born to be Wild” playing at an acceptable volume for a boardwalk.

Getting There

Take the Far Rockaway-bound A train to Broad Channel and transfer to the shuttle (gray S line) to B 90 Street/Holland. (If you get on the Lefferts-bound A, transfer at Rockaway Boulevard for the Far Rockaway line.)  Or, better yet, stay on the Far Rockaway-bound A train and get off at 67 Street, which is the surf-only area, and take the boardwalk a few blocks east to the less crowded stretches of swimming beach.

 

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