Pillow Talk: Between the Sheets of the Rockaway Hotel, New York

The Rockaway Hotel has a welcoming pool area, with comfy lounge chairs perfect for sun-soaked afternoons
The Rockaway Hotel has a welcoming pool area, with comfy lounge chairs perfect for sun-soaked afternoons | Courtesy of the Rockaway Hotel / Expedia.com
Photo of Leon Beckenham
12 November 2021

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…

Rockaway Hotel

Bright and stylish guest room with views out to the water at the Rockaway Hotel
Courtesy of the Rockaway Hotel / Expedia.com
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.

Happy Jack's

Bar, American, $$$
A man holds a wood tray carrying a giant burger with bacon and a fried egg with French fries at Happy Jack's
© Blackrabbit / Unsplash.com
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.

Locals Collective

Coffee Shop, Snacks
The industrial modern space at Locals Collective
Courtesy of Locals Collective
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.

Caracas Arepa Bar

Restaurant, Venezuelan, $$$
Pork arepas with guacamole
© Bobby Coutu / Getty Images
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.


Bar, American, $$$
The exterior view of Rippers avocado-colored building and shade sails on the Rockaway beachfront boardwalk
Courtesy of Rippers
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.

Rockaway Beach Surf Club

Bar, American
The chilled surfy vibe of the Rockaway Beach Surf Club
Courtesy of Rockaway Beach Surf Club
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.

Rockaway Brewing Company

Craft Ale Bar, Beer
Exterior storefront of Rockaway Brewing Company LIC Tap Room with multiple murals
© Robert K. Chin – Storefronts / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Riis Park Beach Bazaar

Food Court, American, Italian, Mexican, Seafood, $$$

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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