Memorable or lovely swimming in NYC?
June 1, 2018 2:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in NYC (staying in Brooklyn) for the first half of June. I've had some memorable swims and paddles while travelling, and I'm looking for suggestions of anything really good in New York - sea/ocean, indoor pool, outdoor pool. What's good?

I don't absolutely have to swim (we will do plenty of walking), but if there's a beautiful or special swim, it's something I'd love to try.

- I don't want to leave New York City for it
- I'll swim in Irish seas so I don't expect it to be tropical - cleanish and no jellyfish, that's all
- It doesn't need to be adventurous, just something you've done and thought "this is lovely"
- My partner won't swim and will mind my bag

Thank you for any ideas!
posted by carbide to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (25 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Coney Island and Brighton Beach? I have no idea if you'd think of them as memorable, but I liked both.
posted by bunderful at 4:24 AM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Rockaway Beach is a lovely beach (Atlantic Ocean surf, wide flat sand), and like Coney Island is amazing for crowded NY people-watching.
posted by LizardBreath at 4:48 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

The in-land waters around NYC are generally not good for swimming. Coney Island / Brighton and the Rockaways are pretty good beaches, Fort Tilden (sort of the western-most end of the Rockaways) is my favorite - it's the ocean and it's not really 'allowed' but it's a fantastic stretch of beach.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:00 AM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

NYC's public outdoor pools don't open until the 21st. You might be able to get a day pass to the pool on top of the Peninsula Hotel in midtown, Or, less grand but very nice, the pool at the New York Health and Racquet Club on 23rd st and 6 ave.

The major obstacle to such a plan would be cost: day passes aren't cheap.
posted by Morpeth at 5:22 AM on June 1, 2018

I don’t think any of the beaches are particularly ‘special’. They are just beaches and tend to be overcrowded. They’re fine, but not memorable. Also not a ton of accessible pools around either. Maybe try the pool at the William Vale in a Brooklyn. It’s a pool with a skyline view where you can pay for a day pass.
posted by greta simone at 5:28 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think Rockaway or Brighton Beach are better bets for lovely than Coney Island. Coney Island is a fun experience, but the swimming is crowded and the water/sand are often dirty or littered. From Brighton Beach you can see the rides at Coney Island in the distance, but I find that beach is less crowded and the water cleaner. Brighton Beach has a bit more surf than Coney Island, but generally less than Rockaway, if that's a concern. The beaches will be crowded on the weekends but less crowded during the week in early June, since school is still in session.

If you and your partner are interested in fancy rooftop pools with a view, a number of hotels offer day passes. They aren't cheap, but some include access to other hotel facilities. These also are more likely to be crowded on the weekends than during the week.
posted by Caz721 at 5:47 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

The rooftop pool of The Parker Meridien is not cheap, but it's pretty freaking special. It overlooks Central Park, and the view is stunning in spring. You can get a day pass for $100. Definitely go during the week if you can.
posted by functionequalsform at 6:16 AM on June 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think the Room Mate Grace Hotel may still have an indoor pool with a swim up bar in midtown. Last I was there (a long time ago) it was reasonable in cost and open to the public.
posted by slateyness at 7:07 AM on June 1, 2018

Best answer: Hansborough Rec Center on 135th and Lenox!!!! Spectacular interior--like swimming inside one of the older subway stations. I am on my phone and cannot link, sorry.
posted by 8603 at 8:07 AM on June 1, 2018

Sorry--they won't sell you a day pass AFAIK, so you may have to content yourself with pictures.
posted by 8603 at 8:09 AM on June 1, 2018

Rockaway Beach is my favorite, though a bit remote (you can get there by train, but biking is also a treat if that's a possibility for you!). My favorite swimming/water/bathing-suit-wearing multi-stop experience is Coney Island to Mermaid Spa.
posted by quatsch at 8:26 AM on June 1, 2018

Best answer: Fort Tilden (sort of the western-most end of the Rockaways) is my favorite - it's the ocean and it's not really 'allowed' but it's a fantastic stretch of beach.

On the contrary, I think Fort Tilden is frequently suggested in places like TIME OUT NEW YORK as a less-crowded alternative to the Rockaways. There's also a residents' private beach club on a portion of the beach there (you may not be able to access those facilities, but that's just one part of the beach, the rest of it is fair game).


So: for the OP, I have a bit of a "review" of what the "beach experience" is you're likely to find at some spots.

* Coney Island is going to be croooooooowded. It'll be tremendously fun, but crowded - it's a tourist destination, and it's fairly easy to get to by subway (that was by design when they built the place), so there will be a ton of people there. The up side is that there will also be plenty of options for people watching, souvenirs and food; imagine a beach next to a fun fair and you've got Coney Island. (Although, here's a tip - if you want to escape the crowds you just have to do a bit of walking down the boardwalk, since the crowds REALLY thin out after about ten minutes' walk west, and you hit the more residential section of Coney Island.) The beach is facing open-ish ocean so it'll be pretty heavy waves.

* Brighton Beach is just a little bit further east on the same land mass as Coney Island. The crowds will be a little thinner, because most people gravitate to where all the fun fair stuff is. The boardwalk on Coney Island actually stretches down to Brighton Beach, so you could even hit up both on the same day; check out Coney Island, and if you don't like it there, just hit the boardwalk and keep walking east (instead of west, like I suggest above) until you like what you see. The area around Brighton Beach is also more residential; mostly it is home to Russian immigrants, though, so you'll have access to some really interesting restaurants that way.

* The Rockaways are also going to be crowded, but the crowd is a bit more "hipster". There will be some surf here too; surfing is popular on Rockaway Beach. There's no funfair here, but there are a lot of food stands and stalls that have cropped up; the area has been trying to rebuild since Hurricane Sandy, and one thing that's cropped up is a lot of brand new food options that swooped in, alongside multiple transporation options (it used to be that the only way you could get to the Rockaways was on a lengthy subway ride, but there are now two ferry services that also get you there).

* Fort Tilden Beach is on the same land mass as the Rockaways, and is MUUUUUUUCH less crowded. To get there you would need to use a combination of city subway and city bus, but it's reasonable. There's also a ferry that goes to Jacob Riis Park (see below); Fort Tilden's beach is just west of Jacob Riis (which is itself just west of the Rockaways). There's little here in the way of food/amusements, so this would be a choice if all you want to do is swim and that's it.

* Jacob Riis Park may not be a bad idea. It's going to be popular, but not as much of a "scene" as the Rockaways. There's some food there, and a couple simple on-land amusements, but not like Coney Island. It's also a historic landmark so there's some Federal Park Service services. It's right between Fort Tilden and the Rockaways in terms of what land mass it's on, so if you're up for some walking or a ride on a local city bus you could hop from one beach to another.

* If you're looking for something that may not have as heavy waves, you may want to consider Orchard Beach in the Bronx. It's got the same kind of "some services but not totally overrun" kind of setup as Jacob Riis, and it's set further north in an inlet that offers some protection from the open ocean surf.

....there are some public beaches on Staten Island as well, but getting there would take a bit of time. On the other hand, this would also mean they'd be a little less crowded, too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 AM on June 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh - just realized that there are portions of Rockaway Beach which have been closed for this season, because heavy storms have caused erosion on the beach and it's too rocky. It's not the whole beach, just an 11-block portion of it; part of the boardwalk will be open so people can access the food and comfort station there. But this is a bit of a sore spot with the locals so it may be something to bear in mind.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Rockaway Beach. Take the ferry, absolutely beautiful ride there, its the best part of going out there. $2.75 for a sea cruise, can't beat the price. Don't take the subway - so so long.

Brighton Beach is okay, and Manhattan is good too - though not sure how you get there without a car? Maybe a bus or bike.

Too bad you won't be here by the end of June because Queens pool (and Red Hook, too) are incredible public swimming spaces... just massive pools full of thousands of people. They are fun.
posted by RajahKing at 10:11 AM on June 1, 2018

Taking the ferry from Manhattan to visit Sandy Hook National Recreational Area, NJ could be fun. Swimming, walking, historical sites.
posted by BeHereNow at 10:28 AM on June 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Robert Moses State Park on Fire Island is spectacular. Outside of NYC, but definitely worth the effort. Clean, not too busy, rustic but still has amenities, and 100% pure ocean. Easily accessible by LIRR with a reasonable ride.

Otherwise, Coney Island is pretty great as an experience. Orchard Beach in the Bronx is not too crowded, with shallow-and-warm water that goes on for a long time (which may or may not be your thing).
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:56 AM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Orchard Beach in the Bronx has a much more beautiful view, in my opinion than any other city or Jersey beach and is a truly unique urban experience with impromptu salsa parties, basketball recruitment games, mango sellers, and boom boxes. It’s also adjacent to Pelham Bay Park where you can do a little hike and City Island where you can explore a unique community and get dinner.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 3:23 PM on June 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I really like taking the American Princess ferry from Manhattan to Jacob Riis Park Beach, it's more expensive than the public ferry that goes to the rockaways but the crew are really nice, there's a bar and it's usually less crowded and you end up across the street from the beach. You'd be leaving NYC (and state) but the ferry that goes to Sandy Hook is fun too and you can rent a bike and go to multiple beaches in Sandy Hook before going back.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2018

In terms of hotel pools the pickings are slim. Even when it is a fine, but short outdoor pool there's a lot more lounging than laps happening, and they often have very short hours because it's also a bar. But I love the Downtown Brooklyn Marriott's indoor pool. Is it a remarkable pool? No. Is it a great pool for NYC, yes. It's 24 hours and very empty and long lap lanes yay.
posted by jennybento at 9:29 PM on June 1, 2018

Brighton beach!! Very quick to get to from lots of brooklyn and if memory serves there used to occasionally be parking if you drove straight down coney island avenue. But memory might not serve , maybe it was ocean ave .. It wasnt completely effortless parking .. But usually possible if it wasnt a weekend and you were committed to a 15 minute stake out.

Also, these are not nature-y, but they are very unique experiences: the brooklyn banya , and spa castle in queens. It really is like a castle in there get ready .. But also avoid spa castle on weekends.
posted by elgee at 9:53 PM on June 1, 2018

Best answer: Some good suggestions here, but I'd be careful with others if you're looking to actually get more than 10 minutes of consistent exercise -- like the crowded city pools. is a good source for memorable swims if you're open to doing race events. Swimming around Governor's Island in New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty from outside of a boat, floating in the water, that's hard to forget!
posted by Borborygmus at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2018

Response by poster: Thank you all, this is so exciting. I think Rockaway Beach and maybe Orchard Beach are most likely, but if we have extra time or bad weather so that I’ll use it more than once, the rec centre option would be tempting.
posted by carbide at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2018

This is a great ask! Coincidently I’m here in New York for a month from Ireland where I swim almost every day and so have done similar research. This past weekend I went out to Coney Island and had a really lovely time - the water was fantastic, lots of lifeguards (which I appreciate when swimming in unfamiliar places) and the crowds weren’t crazy. It was fun to get a hotdog afterwards and check out the boardwalk. It’s very kitschy and noisy but fun!
posted by unbearablylight at 11:05 PM on June 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just in case anyone's curious, I ended up paddling at Rockaway Beach (such a beautiful place) but not fully swimming, as time sort of filled itself and paddling made more sense than swimming/washing/dressing by myself while my partner sat on the beach. It was a very pleasant paddle, and I appreciated the context about beach closures before seeing them in action.

I did also visit Coney Island in the rain, with basically nobody there, which was interesting but not a super tempting day to get in the water!

Like everything we planned and saw, this is all going on my "next time" list for when I eventually get to visit again. Thank you!
posted by carbide at 12:58 AM on June 19, 2018

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