Whether you’re heading to Queens for sun or surf, make this boutique stay your beachside base for exploring the Rockaways.
When you think of New York, waves lapping on a golden stretch of sand are unlikely to spring to mind. However, many New Yorkers can tell you that when summer hits – or winter swells summon the surfer scene – their thoughts turn to Rockaway Beach. Set on a finger-like peninsular in south Queens, it’s a beach town hopping with lively bars, food trucks and a beachfront boardwalk that stretches for miles. Fancy more than just a day trip? The Rockaway Hotel is a swish urban getaway with the shimmering Atlantic on one side and distant Manhattan skyline twinkling on the other. Here’s how to make a stay of it in the Rockaways…
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
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A marine blue and seal gray facade steers you into this chic coastal getaway. Set foot inside, and it warms up even further with a sunny beach-house vibe, filtered through the lens of some seriously stylish interior design. Although just a block from the beach, you’ll likely spend most of your time poolside, water heated to perfection and comfy lounge chairs perfect for sun-soaked afternoons. Rooms are Scandi-meets-Atlantic in style, with bay or ocean views. There are even bunks and bungalows for you and your crew. You’ll find a visual feast in their 150-piece art collection, but the best views are from the rooftop restaurant, serving small plates, with a raw bar and skyline views.
Just steps from the Rockaway Hotel, this small and unpretentious burger joint is big on fun-time vibes and belly-patting grub. It’s run by Rockaway native Mike and serves up a mouthwatering menu that includes their legendarily good burgers. A nod to Mike’s Irish heritage includes Guinness on tap and Dublin egg rolls, but you could just as easily go Mexican with their top tacos, loaded nachos and margaritas.
On the face of it, Locals Collective feels like your regular hipster coffee shop, albeit with a rad surf-infused vibe. It was founded by a pair of lifelong Rockaway residents with a passion for surfing, as a collective space for surfers to share their experiences. It’s a one-stop shop for everything surf-related, from lessons to board hire, as well as a safe and comfortable place to change, shower and store surf gear. Their breakfast burrito is the bomb, too.
You have your pick of arepa joints in Rockaway, but it’s hard to top Caracas Arepa Bar for their superb boardwalk setting and consistently cracking corn cakes, originating in South America. First opened in New York’s East Village, this beachfront outpost (open summers only) of the Venezuelan mini-chain is regularly flocked with hungry summer crowds – some head here straight off the ferry a couple of blocks away. Their signature frozen sangrias really hit the spot on a sizzling afternoon.
Opened in 2011, Rippers has firmly established itself as a go-to landmark on Rockaway’s beachfront boardwalk. A rough-and-ready Eighties-era aesthetic sets the scene for a streamlined menu centered on grass-fed burgers – though there’s a vegan option, too. Cold beer and wine on draft keeps things simple, or there’s a decent smoothie selection if you’re feeling virtuous. Its popularity often means snaking lines, but regular live music and entertainment keeps things moving in the right direction.
If there’s anywhere that distills the neighborhood’s chilled surf vibe into one place, it’s the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Grab a fish taco and the signature piña colada and share stories about monster barrels and sick swells with like-minded wave riders. It’s a popular locals hangout, too, and a community hub with regular surf-related events, live music and pop-up shops. Don’t forget to grab one of their hoodies before you leave.
The first brewery in Queens, this colorful and friendly company invites beer-lovers to its taproom to sample its latest creations. The beer menu ranges from punchy hop-filled IPAs to crisp pilsners, and there’s a kitchen serving up the likes of pretzels, brats and vegan chili. A formidable wall of vinyl provides great tunes, and they even welcome kids. Take-outs also come in some seriously cool cans designed by local artists.
For pretty much everything you’ll need for a great day hanging beachside, head to the Riis Park Beach Bazaar. It opens early in the summer season and hosts a wide range of beach-friendly outlets from ice-cream vendors and taco joints to vintage clothes and surf shops. The buzzy hub also features regular live entertainment, plus it’s worth having a poke around the old derelict bath house – a grand Thirties-era slab of Art Deco architecture.
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meet our Local Insider
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WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
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I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.