Photos courtesy of Jimmy Dowd
Rockaway Beach, a popular surfing destination, opens for the summer season this weekend.

Queens’ most popular summer getaway may have been hit with a minor setback this week, but there is still plenty to look forward to as Rockaway Beach opens for the season this Memorial Day weekend.

The sudden announcement by the city that the stretch of sand from Beach 91st to Beach 102nd streets will remain closed this summer because of dangerous conditions from erosion came as a surprise to everyone on May 21. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz called the move “unacceptable” and said that the city’s “failure to act earlier” will cause the Rockaway community to suffer in many ways.

Senator Joseph Addabbo agreed, pointing out that the Army Corps of Engineers knew this portion of the beach needed attention and they should have fixed the problem years ago.

“The summer season is supposed to be Rockaway’s shining moment,” Addabbo said. “All we ask is that government agencies do their job so that we can maximize the potential and enjoyment value Rockaway has to offer.”

The closure means that beachgoers won’t be able to access that 11-block strip of the waterfront, but there is still plenty of beach — and plenty more enjoyment — to be had.

Good food can make anything better, and there’s no shortage of it on Rockaway Beach. The variety of eateries offer several different types of cuisine, live music, outdoor dining areas, long lists of beer and wine choices and even formal dining. Some of the local favorites include:

  • Jameson’s Pub: A laid-back bar and grille that claims to serve the best burger on the peninsula and offers many drink specials.
  • Thai Rock: Serving Thailand-inspired meals and signature drink, this waterfront venue looks over the Jamaica Bay with views of Manhattan while also offering jet ski, kayak and paddle board rentals as well as a floating jungle gym complete with diving boards, trampolines, slides and swinging ropes.
  • Liquid Bread Beer Garden: An extensive beer list is accompanied by a menu of specialty hot dogs and all-you-can-eat crabs, plus games like bocce, cornhole, ping-pong, kan jam, giant jenga and board games.
  • Bungalow Bar & Restaurant: Also overlooking the Jamaica Bay, the bar offers panoramic views of the waterfront and features an outdoor deck with a tiki bar and frozen drink specials. After Hurricane Sandy, Bungalow Bar was featured on “Bar Rescue with Jon Taffer.”
  • Rockaway Beach Surf Club: A cross between a beer garden, cultural event space and community center, the club promotes surfing, showcases local artists’ work and hosts film screenings while offering popular specialty drinks.
  • Kennedy’s Restaurant: A more classic restaurant, it is located in Breezy Point and offers fresh seafood, dry aged steaks and chops, top-notch wines and beer and a popular Sunday brunch.

Rockaway Beach is also one of the premier surfing destinations in New York, and the peninsula has many great surfing schools. Skudin, run by local and industry legends Will and Cliff Skudin, provides a wide variety of lessons and offers dual camps for children by combining surfing with soccer, lacrosse and other sports.

Conatus Surf Club, founded by former pro surfer Dion Mattison, focuses on teaching students about the ocean and the sand without pushing them into anything, and his initial classes focus on things like paddling and maneuvering.

Locals is owned by Mike Reinhardt and Mike Kololyan, who both grew up in Rockaway and are lifelong surfers and skaters. They teach both hobbies at their school founded in 2011 and currently offer individual and group lessons, camps for kids and charity programs.

Of course, there is also the Riis Park Beach Bazaar for a one-stop shop of hip eateries, stores with all sorts of beach memorabilia, major concerts and events and a large beachfront space with lifeguards.

There is also the Riis Park Golf Course, various street fairs and other local events organized by members of the community. Rockaway Beach is just a short drive over the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge or a ferry ride from Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Rob MacKay, director of public relations, marketing and tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation, contributed to this report. 


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