recommended by experts

The Best Beach Umbrella Is (Still) a World War II–Era Beach Umbrella

Photo: Frankford Umbrellas

UPDATE: It’s been a couple of years since we discovered the (essentially indestructible) Frankford umbrella, and the decades-old style is still the favorite of beachgoing experts. While your summer plans might look a little different this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, beaches are reopening around the country, and those of us who have been stuck inside for months are itching to get outside — while maintaining proper social distancing, of course. Fortunately, this generously sized umbrella (it’s over seven-feet wide) will help you carve out your space on the sand. Read on for more on why it’s our top choice, along with a few other notable options. 

Frankford Umbrella 7.5 ft. Steel Commercial Grade Beach Umbrella
The problem with most beach umbrellas is that they don’t last. You might remember to buy one for, say, $30 as you pass a boardwalk store on your way to the beach, but it’ll blow away and nearly impale your neighbor, or the cheap flimsy pole will snap in half, or it’ll rust. Actually, you’ll probably be annoyed enough that you’ll just throw it out on your way home, before it even gets to that point. “If an umbrella lasts more than two summers, you’re getting the most out of it,” says Eytan Benzeno, who founded one of the first online beach outlets back in 1999. “It usually doesn’t.”

But there is one unusual case. It’s called the Frankford and it has become the go-to umbrella for shade-loving beachgoers. Let’s take a look at its bona fides: It’s the official umbrella for the cities of North Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach and Chicago. They use a version of the Frankford when you rent an umbrella at the Ritz Carlton in Miami as well as the Delano, the Fontainebleau, and the Eden Roc. It’s also the umbrella of choice at Breakers Montauk, where Leyla Marchetto, a partner at the motel, calls it “elegant, classic, and sturdy.” The umbrella was first made for beach concessionaires after World War II and then redesigned a few years ago for public use. Its eight-foot pole is fashioned out of flexible long-grain ashwood, the same wood used for making baseball bats, so it won’t snap or rust; the skeleton is a bendable fiberglass, so it won’t break off in the wind; and the nine-ounce marine-grade fabric, which comes in solid bright colors or in soothing stripes, is the same material used in most awnings, so it won’t fade. Plus, it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

You can buy it with a carry bag, and you definitely should, because all that durability makes it a hefty 12-ish pounds (about the weight of your average pug). And while the price might scare you away, it really shouldn’t. If you’re looking for the best in long-lasting beach umbrellas, this is the only one, and you won’t have to think about buying another for the next ten years.

Best (less expensive) beach umbrella

If you just can’t bring yourself to spend that much, here’s another very good option. To be honest, nothing about this umbrella is sexy. Not only is it made by Tommy Bahama, but it’s branded with a giant Tommy Bahama logo (even if the online picture doesn’t have the logo, be warned, it will arrive with the logo). But you’ll soon get over all this when you realize this umbrella will never fly away. That’s thanks to the built-in sand anchor, which is like a corkscrew that helps you crank down the pole and secure the umbrella deep into the sand. Mike Reinhardt, co-founder of Locals Surf School at Rockaway Beach, loves that the anchor ensures that the umbrella “stays in place on windy days.” There’s also a hinge in the middle of the pole so you can tilt just the top of the umbrella to meet the sun without having to dig it out and adjust entire base. Meanwhile, an aluminum undercoating helps block the dangerous rays, while also keeping you cool. And in some places, you won’t even have to worry about that tacky logo. According to Liz Gumbinner of Cool Mom Picks, everyone at Long Beach Island has one.

Best beach umbrella and tent combo

One of the newest features in beach-umbrella technology is the telescoping pole, which stands at about a 45-degree angle, much like a telescope pointing towards the stars. The result is a hybrid tent-umbrella with two side flaps that also anchor into the sand, creating a mini-cabana. The most effective of these is the Sport-Brella, which can comfortably fit three adults and comes with a side window, a flap for ventilation, and a pocket to hold your keys and phone. Peter Shaw, head instructor at Surfs Up NY surf school, likes that this “half-tent, half-umbrella” is “semi-private, since the back half is covered, and that’s pretty cool for hanging out with friends.” He says it stays put in 15 mph wind, the point at which many weaker umbrellas blow away. Most impressively, the Sport-Brella has over 4,700 Amazon reviews and still averages a 4.5 rating. It’s the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

Best stylish beach umbrella

If you’re looking for a unique umbrella, this fringe-trimmed style can be customized in any of fabric designer Kerry Cassill’s bohemian prints — like an indigo block print or terra-cotta paisley. It’s a favorite of Erin O’Neill, founder of luxury beach-towel brand Ruby Mint, who appreciates the combination of UV protection and style. She likes the striped fabrics because, as she says, “stripes scream classic summer style and go with most other beach accessories.” In addition to earning you style points, O’Neill says the umbrella can stand up to the wind.

Best beach tent

While it’s not technically an umbrella, this tent will certainly protect you and your beach crew from the sun. It comes recommended by avid beachgoer Bianca Buchanan, who’s been visiting local beaches from Staten Island to the Bronx weekly for the past 17 years. “It’s great in the wind, and keeps you cool underneath,” she says. Unlike an umbrella, the tent doesn’t have to be dug into the ground — simply fill the bags in each corner with sand to weigh them down. And compared to our bulky top pick, it’s much easier to tote around. Buchanan says, “When the sandbags are empty, each tent weighs just four pounds.”

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The Best Beach Umbrella Is (Still) a WWII–Era Beach Umbrella