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Beach

8 Best Beaches Near New York City

People forget that New York City—with all its glossy skyscrapers and urban delights—is actually a beach town (the Empire State Building is just 19 miles from Brighton Beach's spraying surf). Here are our favorite shores near Manhattan—BYO Beach Chair.

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Rockaway Beach, Queens

A $2.75, 59-minute frothy ferry ride from Wall Street deposits you in the crux of Hipsterville: Rockaway Beach. The beach itself (and its 5.5-mile boardwalk) is a veritable parade of vintage swimsuits, but that’s not why you came; you’re there to eat. Rockaway Beach Bakery makes blueberry oat crumble pie (and has La Colombe coffee on tap), Caracas Arepa Barbrings the Venezuelan-turned-East Village mainstay out into the sun, and Sayra’s Wine Bar offers a pebbled backyard respite—with throwback films (Jaws, Dirty Dancing) playing al fresco.

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Brighton Beach, Brooklyn

Eastern Europe is hours (days?) away. Brighton Beach? Just a notch before Coney Island, yet almost as far-flung—they call it Little Odessa. Before you hit the sand, stop by Cafe At Your Mother-in-Law (don’t worry, they won’t judge you mercilessly) for Uzbek-Korean food, or Skovorodka, for Russian classics: blintzes with farmer cheese, escargot, or housemade lox. The beach itself is nearly as crowded as Coney, but tricked out: there’s a mobile charging stand and you can surf there.

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Coney Island, Brooklyn

Yes, it more than borders on seedy. Yes, it's a trek on the Q train (at least an hour from midtown Manhattan). But Coney Island is a bucket list New York destination for Americana obsessives for good reasons: Brooklyn Cyclone's baseball complete with sea mist, a 1927 wooden roller coaster (the original Cyclone) that’s more energizing than a triple cappuccino, and The New York Aquarium, home to penguins and sea otters. Walk out to the end of the wood pier to gawk at the suntanning hordes; if you squint, it could be 1976.

RELATED: 11 Things to Do In DUMBO

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Ditch Plains, Montauk, Long Island

Montauk isn’t the end of the earth—but it feels like it. Especially from the top of the 1796 Montauk Point Lighthouse, which was commissioned by none other than George Washington himself. Climb up to get a lay of the land (and rollicking sea) before hitting nearby Ditch Plains beach, where surfers collect from around the globe to take the waters. After: hit The Gigshack for blackened just-caught fish and mango tacos and live music.

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Fort Tilden, Queens

(Not) far from the madding crowds at The Rockaways, Fort Tilden is a must for history buffs: a former military fort built in 1917, and decommissioned in more than six decades later to become part of the National Parks Service. What’s left: hiking trails, fishing and a former gun storage turned panoramic viewing deck over Jamaica Bay (and resident hawks). Also stop by the Rockaway Artist Alliance, in onetime forts, to take classes in everything from screen-printing to cyanotypes (i.e. blue and white prints made in the sun).

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Speakeatery images courtesy of Rob Warhurst

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Asbury Park, New Jersey

If Asbury Park sounds like a Springsteen album, that’s because it is: The Boss’s very first studio record, released in 1973, was Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. But it’s also up-and-came, with the new Asbury Hotel luring New Yorkers (it’s just over an hour away) with DJ’s spinning poolside and modernist guest rooms stocked with black-and-white images of Asbury Park’s rock heyday. In town, don’t tell anybody about the top-secret Speakeatery (kidding!), where sandwiches include The Bootlegger (buttermilk soaked and fried pork chops with gravy on a biscuit). Now, aren’t you ready to hit the sand? Mini golf on the boardwalk awaits.

RELATED: 10 Best Day Trips from NYC

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Pier 4 Beach, Brooklyn

Before you scoff and click elsewhere: yes, we’re recommending you go to a soft sand beach within New York City. For one thing, the commute to Pier 4 can’t be beat. For another, where else can you explore tidal pools within full view of both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty? It helps that Ample Hills Creamery has a part-time outpost at neighboring Pier 5; order The Munchies flavor, which contains potato chips, pretzels and Ritz crackers.

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Cooper’s Beach, Southampton, Long Island

If your version of a perfect beach day involves Ina Garten and lobster rolls, you’re going to have to hit the Hamptons (doable in a day trip, if hotels are booked). The $40 parking permit for Cooper’s Beach in Southampton is worth it for the scene alone; Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are there somewhere, fanning off in the white quartz sand. Don’t leave the area without stopping by Sip’n Soda for an extra thick malted milkshake; the family-owned diner was established in 1958 and the ice cream’s made on-site.

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