Coney Island, we love you. You’re loud and exciting and you have funnel cake. But sometimes we want to spend a day at the beach without sandwiching our towel between a gang of hipsters and a family of nine.
That’s a when we go to one of these clean, (kinda) empty beaches instead. See you at Jacob Riis Park.
Jacob Riis Park, New York
This slice of summer paradise is south of Coney Island, and it’s far enough off the beaten path that it’s rarely crowded. It’s managed by the National Park Service, so it’s well maintained and pristinely clean. Best of all, it’s accessible by public transportation, so you can go with just your beach bag and MetroCard. (And mayyybe sneak in a bottle of rosé.)
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Also managed by the National Park Service (keep up the great work, guys), this seven-mile stretch of sand is a 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Manhattan. Side note: Sandy Hook is also home to Gunnison Beach, one of the biggest clothing-optional beaches in the country, if you’re into that.
Long Beach, New York
Hop on the LIRR and in about an hour, you’ll be basking in the sun at this popular Long Island spot. (It definitely draws a crowd on weekends, but compared with Coney Island, it’s a ghost town.)
Manhattan Beach, New York
Don’t want to face the swarms of sweaty beachgoers at Coney Island and Brighton Beach? Check out this lower-key, neighboring spot, featuring tennis and volleyball courts, barbecues and tons of trees.
Spring Lake, New Jersey
Rent a car and take a 90-minute drive to the Jersey Shore–and no, you won’t run into Snooki and JWoww. Hang out by the boardwalk on the North End, then stroll over to Essex Avenue Beach for a more secluded sunbathing spot.
Orient Beach State Park, New York
This Long Island shoreline has been a National Natural Landmark since 1980, and it has the wildlife (what’s up, great blue herons?) and cool plants (oh hellooo, prickly-pear cactus) to prove it. Rent a car and you’ll be there in two hours, tops.