The author under her Neso tent at the Rockaways.
Photo: Bianca Buchanan
In last week’s issue of New York, Bianca Buchanan, a dental hygienist who has been visiting different New York beaches weekly every summer for the past 16 years, shared her recommendations on the city’s best — from the best beach for swimming if you’re afraid of waves (it’s in Staten Island, apparently) to the quietest stretch of the Rockaways (the low 60s, where, if you go during the week, you may see only five other people). In all her years of beachgoing, Buchanan has not only discovered the best local stretches of sand, but also the best things to bring with you when you’re planning on spending a day in the sun — including an extremely light tent and a brightly colored flag (so your friends can find you when there’s no cell phone service). Below, she shares her 11 beach essentials.
I have a whole bunch of these waterproof mats that fold up and have a little handle. They’re super easy to tote around. Plus, they’re thick and comfortable to lay on, so you don’t really need to bring a towel if you’re just going to catch some rays.
I’ve also heard about, but haven’t yet used, these blankets that are apparently totally sand-repellent. I am very interested in trying one this summer. It seems like a good way to make sure the backseat of your car never gets gross and sandy.
Everyone has a Sport-Brella for a tent, but I prefer portable canopies from a brand called Neso. They look like a tarp held down at the corners by sandbags (which you fill with sand when you get to the beach). It’s great in the wind, and keeps you cool underneath. And when the sandbags are empty, each tent weighs just four pounds.
If you have sensitive feet, aqua socks like these are really life-changing. They’re just shoes to wear in the water, but they make your feet invincible. So if the beach is shelly or muddy or rocky, you’re all good in these.
I don’t have a chair, but having one is a pro move. My friend has this awesome one that folds up really well, despite the fact that it’s very large. It also has a hole for your head like one you’d see on a massage table, so you can lay on your stomach and tan. And it has a strap so you can carry it around.
I must admit: I love to use tanning oil. My favorite is Maui Island Secret. People like Maui Babe, but I used that for a while and I do not like it. It’s brown and stains everything. Maui Island’s “secret formula” is clear, and it smells like candy.
A flag is a very smart thing to have, so your friends can find you even if there’s no cell service. You can just say, “Come find me, I’m at the purple flag.” Senior beachgoers always have flags. This one comes in several other colors (some of which are less expensive) if purple’s not your thing.
Another tip: Get a radio, because a lot of beaches — like Fort Tilden, in the Rockaways — have no cell service. Mine is by Magno, and it’s very consistent and reliable, as well as cute and vintage-looking. And it can be used as a speaker, too.