It’s not far, not hard to reach, The Ramones sang of Rockaway Beach, and indeed at the southernmost end of the A-line is the former summer resort and amusement park space that was acquired by the Parks Department in 1938. With over 4 million visitors per year (and second only to Coney Island), the beach runs along the Atlantic side of the sliver-shaped Rockaway peninsula; its wide boardwalk extending long enough to traverse several distinct Rockaways. The area immediately east of Jacob Riis Park is populated by well-off local residents, who access the broad, breezy stretch of sand via private entries at the end of their cul de sacs. Off of the A train’s Rockaway Park stop, the beach becomes more of a scene: Young men perch in front of the Sands food court (and its full bar) and blast reggae from boom boxes while hitting on clusters of bikini-clad girls. Older men in high-tucked shorts and black socks wander over from the nursing homes nearby. The next phase—from 103rd St. to 73rd St. —feels more airy and civilized, partially thanks to the heavy hand of Robert Moses who ensured that the high-rise housing developments were well removed from the beach. A strip of green on the northern side of the boardwalk incorporates a street hockey rink, a seemingly infinite number of handball courts (the Inner City Handball Association’s citywide championships are held here every year), a modest skateboarding park and several playgrounds, including one with ship-shaped jungle gyms. After 73rd St., the beach becomes more remote as the packed sand eventually gives way to a duned conservation area. Here, from April to May, endangered piping plovers and least terns migrate to make nests and raise young before returning south. In May and June, horseshoe crabs have also been known to join volleyballers and canoodlers on the sand.In Memorium
At Beach 91st St. the boardwalk is designated Richie Allen’s Way after a fire fighter who was also a life guard, avid surfer and filmmaker at Rockaway before losing his life on September 11.
Whale of a Photo-Op
Kids love getting their picture taken with Whalemena, a large whale sculpture imported from the Central Park Zoo that now resides at the Beach 95th St. entrance.
Lifeguards are on duty daily from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The boardwalk and promenade are open daily during the summer from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. during summer.