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Summer is here, and so is Brooklyn Paper’s Beach Vibe Guide


The sun is out, the temperatures are rising, and Brooklyn’s beaches are beckoning. Brooklyn’s southern shores are home to four main beaches: Coney Island Beach, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Plumb Beach.

beachgoers in brookynSwimmers enjoyed the ocean at Coney Island beach over Memorial Day weekend. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Each beach has its own pros and cons, its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s not quite fair to say which is the best or the worst — so we’ve created the first Brooklyn Paper Beach Vibe Guide, a breakdown of each beach, its “vibe” and other need-to-know information. 

Coney Island

 

Coney Island Beach is arguably New York City’s most famous beach, and its most crowded. 

The vibe: The beach is guaranteed to be busy every weekend all summer long, and the vibes — while often chaotic — are always fun. The beach itself is pretty standard: sand, water, waves. It’s the boardwalk that really stands out. 

The historic Riegelmann Boardwalk is home to not one but two amusement parks — Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, each with their signature attraction: The Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel itself.

people jump roping at coney island beach boardwalkThe Coney Island boardwalk is always buzzing with people and activity.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Coney Island also has some of the most famous food of any of Brooklyn’s beaches. In a poll on Brooklyn Paper’s Instagram page, 95% of respondents said Coney Island Beach had the best food of the four beaches in the borough, with the original Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Paul’s Daughter, and more. 

Howard Stone, a Coney Island resident who spent the opening weekend of the beach fishing on Steeplechase Pier, said he loves the beach’s diversity.

man with parrot in coney islandJohnny Guitar and his pet parrots are a staple on the Coney Island boardwalk. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“You’re meeting different cultures of people, and it’s wonderful. And just to talk with different people is wonderful. They learn from us, we learn from them,” Stone said. 

That same weekend, the boardwalk was filled with roving entertainers, like Johnny Guitar and Michael Gibbons, who show off their various exotic pets in exchange for tips. Guitar called Coney Island “the greatest place in the world.”

Know before you go: Parking and traffic are rough, but Coney Island is accessible by the D, N, F, and Q trains. The Brooklyn Cyclones play right next door — check to see if there’s a game on the night of your visit!

Brighton Beach 

If you keep walking east on the boardwalk from Coney Island, you’ll eventually come to Brighton Beach — a much quieter, less touristy area. 

The vibe: The boardwalk is much quieter here, but there’s still a good selection of food, like Anyway Beach Café and Tatiana Grill, a beachfront Russian eatery. Brighton Beach does offer beach volleyball courts and ping-pong tables — and in Brooklyn Paper’s poll, 62% of people said Brighton Beach is the best for swimming in the ocean. 

brighton beach brooklynJust a short walk on the boardwalk from Coney Island is Brighton Beach. Photo courtesy of Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons

There’s also a slice of weird local lore right there on the sand. If you head down to the water’s edge from the end of Brighton 1st Road at low tide, you’ll find the Brighton Stone Faces, which were carved into the jetty by local artist John Philip Capello and his friends in the 1970s. 

Capello told City Lore in 2023 that it took he and his friends weeks, if not months, to carve the faces into the unyielding stone.

Brighton Beach offers another weird attraction: the public restrooms at the Brighton 2nd Street comfort station.

kids playing soccer on beach in brooklynBrighton Beach is a little quieter than nearby Coney Island. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The bathrooms there are manned by longtime Parks Department worker Hazel Chatman. Where many public beach bathrooms are dingy, sandy, and sad, Chatman’s are decorated with streamers and posters, and she keeps the spirit up by blasting music throughout the day. 

Know before you go: Brighton Beach is home to Little Odessa, and there’s a bounty of delicious Russian and Ukrainian restaurants and cafes just a short walk from the beach. 

Manhattan Beach

Tucked away on the eastern end of the Coney Island peninsula is Manhattan Beach, which sits fully inside of Manhattan Beach Park.

The vibe: Manhattan Beach is a bit of schlep by public transit, but the commute may just be worth it. Manhattan Beach is smaller and quieter than the other beaches, and has more of a family vibe, beachgoers told Brooklyn Paper during a recent visit. The beach is tucked into a little alcove on the shore, so the water is more peaceful for swimmers.  

man chilling at Manhattan BeachManhattan Beach offers a more relaxed, family-friendly environment.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

One visitor, Zurab, said he likes to bring his family to Manhattan Beach because it feels safer for kids. He arrived promptly at 9 a.m. to snatch one of the coveted picnic tables. 

“This area is very good for the kids because it doesn’t have high waves. You can see it’s like a bay. It’s not a direct open ocean, so less waves. So it’s like a swimming pool for [the kids],” Zurab explained. 

Since the beach sits inside a park, there’s plenty to do if you don’t just want to lay out — like play basketball, visit the playground, or grill some lunch. 

man grilling at manhattan beachMany families take advantage of the picnic tables in Manhattan Beach Park for a barbecue. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Anthea and Marcus Becklen told Brooklyn Paper they visit Manhattan Beach every year to barbecue and have a good time, and late last month, they brought some friends along for a visit. They ate, played some volleyball, and asked some nearby visitors to join in on their game.

Know before you go: Unlike Coney Island Beach and Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach is a little harder to reach — visitors can take the B1 bus from the Brighton Beach Q stop or walk about 20 minutes, but it’s a bit of a hike with beach chairs and umbrellas. The parking lot beside the beach costs $25 per day on the weekends.

Plumb Beach

Last but not least, we’ve come to Plumb Beach. Inside the Gateway National Recreation Area, Plumb Beach is the most remote option in Brooklyn — and one of the most peaceful. 

The vibe: Where Coney Island offers lots of food, rides, and fun, Plumb Beach boasts more nature and is perfect for watersports and just laying out — in BP’s poll, 29% of voters said Plumb Beach is where they go to relax (tied with Manhattan Beach.)

plumb beachPlumb Beach is more remote and much quieter, with plenty of nature. Photo courtesy of GK Tramrummer RU/Wikimedia Commons

The wide beach has a large dune system, tide pools and a salt marsh, so there’s plenty of marine biodiversity for local naturalists to check out. The endangered Piping Plovers who spend their summers have been known to visit Plumb Beach from time to time – so keep an eye out!

Plumb Beach is a little windier than other beaches, which makes it prime for windsurfing and kiteboarding, and the beach also offers a kayak launch. However, swimming is prohibited, according to the city’s parks department. 

plumb beach birdPlenty of marine life and shorebirds call Plumb Beach home. Photo courtesy of Rhododendrites/Wikimedia Commons

Getting to Plumb Beach is a little more challenging than Brooklyn’s other beaches — it’s most easily accessible by car from the eastbound lane of the Belt Parkway after Exit 9 but before Exit 11, or via the B44 or B4 bus to Knapp Street/Shore Parkway. 

Know before you go: During the spring and summer, Plumb Beach is an important area for breeding horseshoe crabs — if you see them on the beach, kindly leave them alone!