1. Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk
"It's not hard, not far to reach...Rock Rock Rockaway Beach!" There is only one beach that the Ramones sing about, and it's in the heart of the Rockaways. The NYC Parks-run Rockaway Beach stretches from Beach 9th St, Far Rockaway, to Beach 149th St, Neponsit. It's open 6 am - 9 pm, Memorial Day to Labor Day, with lifeguards on duty from 10 am - 6 pm.
It includes NYC's only official beaches for surfers: Beach 67th to 69th Sts, and Beach 87th to 92nd Sts. And it's accessible by subway (A to Broad Channel, then shuttle train; the A has a Rockaway Park branch rush hours in the peak direction).
Highlights: Whaleameana statue at the Beach 95th St entrance. Skate park at Shore Front Pkwy and Beach 91st St.
2. Jacob Riis Beach
This mile-long stretch of the Rockaways shore is known as "the people's beach" and is named in honor of Jacob Riis, the famed New York City journalist and photographer who documented the city's poor and working class. Robert Moses designed the park's landscaped walkways, boardwalks, and courtyards. There's the Art Deco Bath House, now with exhibits about the beach's history and current events.
Part of National Park Service's Gateway Recreational Area, Jacob Riis is mostly accessed by car. Take Belt Pky to Exit 11S, then Flatbush Avenue south across the Marine Parkway Bridge to the park. Or take Woodhaven Blvd to Cross Bay Blvd, then west on Beach Channel Dr to the park. Parking fee is $5.
3. Fort Tilden Beach
Walk from Jacob Riis to get here, since the you can only park there with a fishing permit.