The first time I went to Rockaway was in September of 2012 (read here). Little did I know that in less than two months later, Hurricane Sandy would virtually wipe out the Rockaways. That first trip back in 2012 was prompted by my gluttony. I desperately wanted to try this new taco shop that was getting a lot of buzz called Rockaway Taco. It was really the only draw there at the time and of course the beach. I didn’t know anybody who went to Rockaway for a beach getaway. Now, I can safely say that 3 years later post Sandy, Rockaway is the place to be. I guess it was only a matter of time after they rebuilt Rockaway beach that New Yorkers would flock there. It’s closer than the Hamptons or the Jersey shore from Manhattan, you can take the subway (hello A train!), and it has a cool relaxed surfer beach vibe.
I’ve gone two weekends in a row and I’m completely in love with Rockaway. So much in love in fact that I’ve considered living there for the Summer. Yes, that’s right a Summer home in Rockaway. Two weeks ago, I took the A train to Far Rockaway on a Saturday morning to take a surfing lesson with Locals Surf School. Google maps said it would take me 1 hour and 10 minutes so I gave myself extra time. I would say give yourself 2 hours to be safe because the weekend service on the A train is not always reliable. I was a little late but they didn’t seemed fazed by this since most of their clientele take the A train. When I finally got to the beach, I could immediately see why this is a haven for surfers. There are actually waves you can surf. While I was surfing, I looked around and I had to remind myself that I was in New York City. All the instructors at Locals are super encouraging and they all cheer you on to ride the wave. At one point, I had to pee so bad I went away from the others and one guy kept saying, “get back out there girl!” “don’t be scared!” Little did he know I was actually taking a bio break. I felt so bad ass because the waves were huge that day and I stood up on almost all of them. No shark sightings either.
After my surf lesson, I was starving. No wonder why surfers are ripped it’s a crazy good workout! For lunch, my girlfriend recommended that I check out Playland Motel on 97th Street. I decided to walk from 67th street to check out the scene. I noticed these brown rectangular structures that looked like they were from the future. I think they were lifeguard stations because they had white crosses on them. The boardwalk has been rebuilt to be wider and well just better. During my walk, I noticed that there were a lot of new ocean front condominium buildings being built. I got the sense that the building will continue. From the outside, Playland Motel looks like a sketchy motel with carnival-like signage. I walked in and there were not many people there since it was 2pm on a gorgeous day. Since my phone died and was charging and I had nothing to read, I sat at the bar ordered fish tacos and talked to the bartender. It was one of those situations where it shouldn’t have felt weird just sitting there without reading material and sober no less but it wasn’t. I felt right at home. I learned that the bartender and most of the employees at the Playland Motel live on Rockaway year round. With all the new developments and jobs it seems like there has been an influx of residents to the Rockaways.
I went back to Rockaway last Sunday to take a SUP yoga with A Team Paddleboarding. My sister Sarah also came along. Amy and Andrew who opened their business just this past April also live on the Rockaways year round. They took us to the bayside which has views of the airplanes departing and landing in JFK. the A train crossing the causeway and distant views of the Manhattan skyline. Again, if you were to close your eyes you wouldn’t think you were in the city. The yoga class was relaxing and challenging at the same time. I was even able to do a head stand on the board! After class, Sarah and I went to Rockaway Beach Surf Club which was opened by the owners of Rockaway Taco. Here, they have a bigger space for post beach drinks and tacos. We went during lunch time when it wasn’t as crowded. We both had the fish tacos which are the best in the city and plantain chips fresh outta the fryer. I love this place. For some reason, it reminds me of Tulum and Costa Rica mashed up. After lunch we went to the beach and laid out. On the A train back to Manhattan with sand in my toes, I couldn’t help but smile because I’ve finally figured out how to live in my beloved city and have the beach life.
ROCKAWAY BEACH GUIDE
-SUBWAY: Take the A train to Far Rockaway. If you are going to 96th street and higher you have to get off at the Broad Channel stop and transfer to the shuttle.
-BUS: Take the NYC Beach Bus from either Manhattan or Brooklyn to Rockaway. You can even rent beach chairs from them. You can also take the Bushwick Beach Bus. The coach buses are equipped with bathrooms, AC, free refreshments and entertainment. Check out the websites for schedules and pricing.
-CAR: It took my sister only 30 minutes to drive from the Bronx with no traffic. I hear UBER takes you there as well but that can get pricey.
EATS & DRINKS:
-Beach 97th Street Concessions: For easy access food right off the beach and if you happen to be around 97th Street, this is the place to get a quick bite. There’s La Cevicheria which is a Peruvian place, Breezy’s BBQ, Bolivian food, ice cream and more.
-Playland Motel: It’s a great place to get a drink after the beach but I actually like to go during lunch when it’s not as crowded. There’s a huge outdoor area in the back.
-Rockaway Beach Surf Club: The best fish tacos in NYC. They have an amazing outdoor area which is perfect for drinks and hanging out with friends. Check the events section on their website there is always something going on.
-SURFING: Locals Surf School has the best instructors who give you the basics that you need to know and also motivate you to catch those waves! Two hour group lesson is $80.
-SUP Yoga: Take a class with Amy from A Team Paddleboarding. During your paddle out, you get to see the bayside of the Rockaways. 75 minute class is $40 sign up online.