Finally, gone are the days where a beach day doesn’t have to end in a long, sticky subway ride home. Instead, make a weekend out of it – introducing Camp Rockaway, a seaside escape at the historic Jacob Riis Bathhouse.
Inside what was once the bathhouse courtyard – which hasn’t been accessible to the public for decades – twelve furnished safari tents make up the luxury glamping accommodations at Camp Rockaway. Inside each tent, comfortable beds have all the sheets, pillows, and extra blankets you need for a good nights sleep. (Though it usually cools off quite a bit at night, solar-powered fans sit on each side of the bed, just in case.) A large lock box keeps your stuff safe, and a mini-bar fends off late-night hunger pangs. Out front, each tent has two beach chairs; out back, a private hammock for all your reading-and-chilling needs.
Tents branch out beyond Camp Rockaway’s communal space, which features a fire pit (with nightly bonfires), a picnic area, camp store, more hammocks, loungers, games, WiFi, and of course – good vibes. Additional amenities elsewhere around camp include a bathroom, showers, and power strips for charging campers’ various electronics. Also notable is that the fire pit has a grill which may be used in the evenings. (However, there’s no refrigeration – we recommend bringing food that’s fully prepared.)
The greatest amenity, however, is being steps from the beach. And after spending several days and nights here, it’s still impossible to decide what’s better: morning walks on an empty beach – or watching the sunset at night, and getting that extra beach drink in – because there’s zero worries about getting home. Either way, the sheer convenience of Camp Rockaway makes it worth staying here; but the cherry on top is that, now in its third year, Camp Rockaway has absolutely perfected glamping. It couldn’t possibly be easier to spend an amazing weekend at the beach.
Of course, now that you’re not stuck commuting with thousands of other people also leaving the beach at the end of the day – you’re going to have some extra time! So do the obvious beach stuff, but also make some time to explore the maritime-nature-vibes in this area and go biking, birding, or sailing. Keep reading for all of our Rockaway recommendations, and keep a lookout for their Fort Tilden location next summer!
What To Do at Rockaway Beach: Hit the Beach, Hop on a Boat, or Bike the Boardwalk, or Hop on a Boat
Camp Rockaway is part of the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, a collection of businesses housed in Riis Park’s art deco gem, the Bathhouse Beach Pavillion. The businesses include tons of food vendors, a beer garden, pop-up shops, music, an arcade, and more. Basically everything you need is here, so if you’re just staying for one night, this is probably your spot. There’s events nearly every night at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, from DJ’s to volleyball to outdoor movies; check their event calendar for more info. Also notable at this part of the beach is Lido, who makes packing for your beach trip so much easier by providing rental cabanas, beach umbrellas and chairs through their Lido Beach Butlers app. (Pro tip: order in advance because they sell out quick!) If you miss the boat, or forget anything, Boarders has beachgoers covered on all the basics like sunblock, towels and umbrellas.
A less obvious way to spend time at the beach is on bike, which are literally everywhere thanks to Lime Bikes. (If you’re not familiar, think CitiBikes on steroids – they’re electric bikes! While you still have to pedal, the extra electric boost makes any ride pretty easy.) A ten minutes ride takes you to Fort Tilden, where you can explore the old ruins of WWII bunkers. There’s also a great overlook of the beach and surrounding nature trails here – ask the concierge at Camp Rockaway for the detailed directions. We hear it’s a killer spot to watch the sunset.
Much further down the beach, the concessions along Rockaway Beach at 106th street, 97th street, and 86th street feed the masses – this is the most popular (and crowded) part of Rockaway Beach, as it’s served by the MTA. All three concession stands often host live performances and other special events well into the night; full schedule is available here, or check the Rockaway Beach Club Instagram.
Celebrating something special, or just want to go all out? We got you. For years, we’ve been using Sail Rockaway to explore Jamaica Bay; take a sunset tour! Speaking of tours, there’s also whale watching tours in Rockaway (!) through American Princess Cruises. It might sound crazy, but dolphins and whales can actually be seen simultaneously with the NYC skyline. Who knew?
Last but not least, whether it’s rainy day, or you just want a cool souvenir, there’s some pretty cool shops sprouting up at Rockaway. We love Swellife, a cute women and kids boho-style boutique; there’s also Off Season, a lifestyle boutique on the Rockaway Peninsula and flagship store for their in-house ready-to-wear collection of the same name. Also notable are Zingara Vintage and vintage truck End of the A. There’s a ton of rotating pop-ups right outside Camp Rockaway at Riis Park Beach Bazaar, too!
Where to Eat & Drink at Rockaway Beach: a Friday Night Lobster Party, Boardwalk Concessions, Off the Beaten Path Bars & Restaurants
As Escape Brooklyn discovered years ago, staying overnight at Rockaway is a total game changer. It opens up all kinds of possibilities for nighttime beach fun without having to worry about getting home. On the various lower-numbered concession stands, weekdays tend to be on the mellower side, but weekends pretty much turn into parties at every one of the Rockaway Beach concessions. (Here’s that link to Rockaway Beach Surf Club event calendar, again) At 86th, Rippers fills the entire concession, slinging burgers, fries, and is suspiciously fun, with seemingly non-stop beach parties. Milder vibes but equally great food can be 97th Street concessions (Super Burrito, La Cevicheria, Lobster Joint) and 106th street concessions (Caracas, Brothers Rockaway.)
That said, we’re into the milder vibes these days (think less people, more sitting/breathing room) at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar. That’s not to say they don’t have their fair share of events though – like the amazing Friday night Lobster Jam at Rockaway Clam Bar. Tickets are $30 (and sell out quick) for a 1.5 lb Maine lobster dinner with corn and potatoes. (We hear the frozé from the bar next door is pretty good, too.) Other events include lots of DJs and bands; check the schedule here. Back to strictly food talk: also at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, Meat Up Grill serves up a menu featuring grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers – plus our favorite veggie burgers on the planet, Beyond Burgers. Pizza Moto is also closeby on the boardwalk. Need to cool off? Grab a Brooklyn Shaved Ice at their super-cool boardwalk location, or grab ice cream from neighboring Ample Hills Creamery.
All of the above can be found on the various boardwalks at Rockaway – but there’s tons of options off the beaten path, too. Our favorite is probably Rockaway Beach Surf Club with its super-cool beach vibes, beer-and-shot specials, big back yard, and ridiculously good tacos, c/o from Tacoway (previously the famous Rockaway Taco.) Rockaway Brewing’s Tap Room is another awesome spot not to miss, and a great place to stock up on beers to bring back to camp. Similar-but-more-sophisticated outdoor drinking vibes can be found at Sayra’s Wine Bar, serving up tapas and wine in its beautiful back yard. Last, don’t miss out on Rockaway staples like Thai Rock for dining overlooking Jamaica Bay – or basement dive bar Connoly’s for their signature piña colada. Cheers!