Walking Tour

Surf’s Up at Rockaway Beach

Queens native and What Should We Do?! experience adviser Amy Jovel walks you through one of NYC’s hottest summer destinations.

Photo by Amy Jovel

Pack your swimsuits, because for only $2.75, you can hitch a ride on the A train or the new ferry service to the only place where you can surf in the five boroughs, Rockaway Beach. Though I live in Queens, Jones or Long Beach have always been my beach escape of choice. But after a day of eating, drinking, and swimming my way through Rockaway, I’m going to switch it up this summer. Who knew that paradise was right in my backyard?

Start your day at Rockaway Beach Bakery where you can fill up on La Colombe cold brew and delicious sweet and savory treats to a classic rock soundtrack. I ordered the breakfast-forward Ham and Cheese Everything Croissant before it sold out; it was totally worth all the buttery flakes covering my lap. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try the Unicorn Croissant. This pastry (covered and stuffed with rainbow sprinkles) tastes just like a birthday cake—and I don’t know about you, but I love eating cake for breakfast.

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Photo by Carolina Ramirez

After croissants, I took a stroll on the beach. Though it was too chilly the day I went for me to swim, I enjoyed the ocean breeze on the newly rebuilt boardwalk, the perfect spot from which to admire the surfers. (Rockaway is the only beach where you can legally surf in the five boroughs; you’re allowed to catch waves between Beach 68th and 71st Streets, ​Beach 87th and 92nd Streets and Beach 110 and 111th Streets.)

When you’re ready for lunch, head to Rockaway Beach Surf Club, home of Tacoway Beach. I was definitely in vacay mode by the time my fish tacos swam over to my table—some of the best I’ve had in a while—and I was sipping out of a fresh-cracked coconut. The space pops with color and features a giant sugar skull that reads “Live, Surf, Die” on the wall. I may have taken a dozen or so selfies in front of it. 

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Photo by Carolina Ramirez

After lunch, walk north and make a left on 92nd Street to Boarders Surf Shop, a community store owned by native father-and-son duo Chris and Steven Stathis and their partner, Jimmy Dowd. This shop has everything you need for your next surfing expedition: lessons, board rentals, surf merch designed by local artists, and a thorough retelling of the sport’s history if you request.

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Photo by Carolina Ramirez

If you’re a treasure hunter like me, you’ll probably love perusing the retro art, 1920s clothing, and handmade jewelry at Zingara Vintage. Zingara—which means “gypsy” in Italian—is owned Erin Silvers, who travels the world to find the items for her bohemian collection.

Around the corner from Zingara is Uma’s, an eclectic Uzbek restaurant with easy, breezy vibes. It may not be dinnertime yet, but you have to stop this place for the most delightful squash manti (Turkish-style dumplings) topped with caramelized onions and a rich yogurt sauce—saying it hit the spot would be a gross understatement. If you’re lugging around your surfboard, no worries, dude; there’s a rack out front to park your ride.

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Photo by Carolina Ramirez

Cool off with a paleta (Mexican-style fruit Popsicle) at La NewyorkinaI ordered the coconut varietal and immediately had a flashback to the ices I’d get from street vendors while growing up in Queens. Eating this treat was like taking a spoon to coconut meat, with a touch more sweetness.   

Finally, when you’ve had enough sun and are ready to wipe the sand from your feet, walk to Caracas Arepa Bar, an outdoor summer oasis where you can listen to live music, play Jenga, and eat some increíble Venezuelan food. Sip a Michelada, a Mexican beer cocktail made with spices and Worcestershire sauce (similar to a Bloody Mary), as you munch on appetizer of La Del Gato arepa (corn cake) stacked with sweet plantains, avocado slices, and Guyanese cheese.

Save room, though, for dinner and one last drink (c’mon, it’s summer!) at Bungalow Bar before heading home. After being destroyed by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, the laid-back nightlife spot is back and better than ever, with perfect waterfront views, a tiki bar to get your drink on, and DJs and live music on the weekends. Amazingly, I still had room for an Instagram-worthy dinner of colorful seared diver scallops with bacon and pea risotto; it’s also worth noting that it perfectly paired with my summery peach sangria.

Cheers to your day at Rockaway!

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Photo by Carolina Ramirez

Let us know if you need to plan your next trip there, and you’ll be surfin’ USA in no time.