The Ten Best Beaches in New York State

Ditch the concrete jungle of Manhattan and hit the beach!

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

When most people think of New York State, they think of bustling cityscapes and high rises, tenement apartment blocks and sprawling parks, set to the soundtrack of constant traffic and the chatter of passing suits. But, any veteran traveller of this eastern state will be quick to note its penchant for recreation too; the city-dweller’s love for enjoyment, relaxation and mirth – particularly in the heavy and humid New York summers.

Cue the beaches. From the iconic, boardwalk-backed, amusement-heavy coastal spots south of Brooklyn, to the freshwater beaches of the inland lakes, it’s no secret that locals from the Bronx to Albany love their sands (and their tans!). So for an escape from the oppressive heat of summers in the city, here are five of the best beaches in New York State, running from the inner-city boardwalks of famous Coney Island, right up to the untrodden shores of Lake Champlain.

10. Brighton Beach: swimming on the south side

All throughout the summer locals from right across New York head to Brighton Beach for some of the city’s best swimming conditions. The waters stand apart from the ones found on the swell-heavy sands of Rockaway and nearby Coney Island because they lack the crashing waves, making them great for casual dips and family visitors. But it’s not all about swimming here, and visitors will also enjoy wandering the boardwalk, watching the locals go head-to-head in backgammon under the shade of the trees or devouring Russian dishes from the curious eateries found all around.

9. Riding, rocking and living it large on Rockaway Beach

Cool Rockaway Beach; the longest stretch of urban sand in the entire United States; immortalized by Jill Eisenstadt and eulogized by the Ramones; the home of contrarian New York subculture since the 1960s and a mecca for city-based surfers looking for Atlantic swells closer to town; it’s little wonder that this one tops the list of best beaches in the state. In the winter, head down to watch the local wave riders glide across the swells, in the summer come to soak up the sun and stroll amidst the lively clusters of locals. There’s few more happening spots in town!

8. Pearly sands and historic lighthouses at the Robert Moses State Park

This five mile stretch of glistening white sand on the Atlantic side of Fire Island has long been one of the major weekend getaways for beach-goers in New York City. It’s famed primarily for its wide and dune-backed east-coast beachfront, which comes complete with historical points of interest like the Fire Island Lighthouse and open views of the deep Atlantic blue. It’s also home to one of the most popular nude beaches on Long Island, which can be reached by following the path east through to the Island’s National Seashore.

7. On the shores of Lake Champlain at Plattsburgh City Beach

Photo via AdirondackCoast Flickr

Away from the swells of the Atlantic and nestled neatly in the verdant forests on the outskirts of the City of Plattsburgh, this freshwater beach clings to the New York end of Lake Champlain. It offers one of the longest stretches of lakeside sand on the continent, with all the water sports and recreational facilities to match. There’s outdoor barbecues, picnic spots, lifeguard stands, boating rentals and walking routes to boot, not to mention some seriously dramatic views of Vermont’s majestic Green Mountains in the distance!

6. Endless activity since the 19th century on Coney Island Beach

No summertime trip to New York City is complete without a day spent on this iconic three-mile stretch of sand. It’s been a focal point for recreation in the city since the middle of the 19h century, and today it continues to bubble with energy during the summer months. Groups twist and turn overhead on one of the many roller coasters that dot the boardwalk, while volleyball teams compete on the sands and clusters of New York locals sun themselves closer to the shore. What’s more, the winter brings ice rinks and minor league competitions to Coney Island, keeping the excitement flowing throughout the year.

5. Activities abound at the Jones Beach State Park

This all-in-one seaside destination is alive with various attractions to suit every type of visitor. Surfers and sunbathers enjoy their own designated sand stretches, while there’s also a clothing optional beach on the easternmost point of the bay. While still boasting all the natural beauty of New York’s coast, the Jones Beach State Park is no stranger to big business and commercial development and accordingly there’s plenty of eateries, concession stalls and parlours selling everything from seafood to milkshakes in the summer, along with a short 9-hole golf course and a number of swimming pools to boot.

4. Discover a hidden gem of the Long Island coast at East Hampton Main Beach

Generally regarded to be one of New York State’s best kept coastal secrets, either not many tourists know that Main Beach was rated as one North America’s best in 2013 or they’ve had a hard time finding it on the map. It’s actually perched on the far eastern tip of Long Island, in the sleepy seaside town of East Hampton. Of the many beaches accessible from town, Main is the most developed, but still promises seclusion and quietude like no other in the region. What’s more, visitors enjoy relatively gentle surf swells, along with a range of more up-market eateries within a short walk.

3. Crystal clear waters for all the family at Million Dollar Beach

North out of the state capitol at Albany and perched on the southern tip of New York’s Lake George, the family friendly Million Dollar Beach remains one of the state’s most popular freshwater sand stretches. All around the undulating foothills of the Adirondack Mountains provide the backdrop, while the super-clean waters and lively beach volleyball courts make this one perfect for both adults and kids alike. What’s more, there’s onsite parking for just $10 a car, and the spot can be easily reached on the Adirondack Northway out of Albany town.

2. Pure isolation at Gilgo Beach

Home to some of the most undeveloped and untouched beachfront terrain in all of Long Island, the Gilgo State Park boasts mile upon mile of both Atlantic and Great South Bay sands. Traditionally it’s been a mecca for intrepid surfers and sea fishermen, many looking to conquer the fabled breaks of the legendary Hemlocks Beach, where riders usually have the swells all to themselves. But Gilgo’s quietude comes at a price, and it’s also without question one of the most inaccessible beaches on the island, with access restricted to permit-holding 4X4s or those crossing the bay by boat.

1. Camp to the crash of the waves at the Hither Hills State Park

Roaring waves crash continuously onto the picture-perfect, picket-fenced beaches of Long Island at this family friendly state park. Just under 200 campsites and RV parking facilities are available, making it one of the best beach-lover’s stop offs on the Montauk Highway and a great accommodation option for those looking to explore Long Island’s coast for a little longer. What’s more, from the beach it’s possible to take the various hiking routes into the Hither Hills and Napeague Harbor area, where walkers are treated to a montage of New York’s links fauna and magnificent coastal views.

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