The Big Apple can start feeling pretty rotten when summertime rolls around. There you are, sweat-soaked on the subway platform or gasping for air at some over-hyped rooftop bar—craving the sound of waves on the shore. Obviously, you are not alone (you never are in New York). But that doesn’t mean the seaside getaway you’re dreaming of has to be jam-packed, far away, or both. We’re here to say—maybe not. And maybe it’ll have some serious old-school charm on top. Forget the Rockaways and the Hamptons for now. These quirky, old-school alternatives are a little less obvious. And they’re 90 minutes or less from midtown.



City Island, Bronx

It’s called the “Seaport of the Bronx.” Never heard of it? Join the club—literally. There are a few to choose from.  Situated about 12 miles east of Yankee Stadium, this 250-acre island remains unknown to a majority of New Yorkers outside the Long Island Sound boating crowd. Some of them are members of the Harlem Yacht Club, which relocated here from its namesake neighborhood back in 1903 and made headlines a few years ago when neighbors complained about its daily ritual of firing a cannon with the lowering of an American flag at sunset. 



But City Island—a quirky enclave that feels like a New England fishing village and often doubles for one in major film productions—is worth a visit for non-sailors, too. There are slices of sand beach here and there, and Jack’s Bait & Tackle will rent you gear and a motorboat for a day of fishing. Learn about local shipbuilding history at the Nautical Museum, housed in an old schoolhouse, and enjoy views of passing freighters over cold beer and fried clams at Johnny’s Reef, a local favorite.



Sandy Hook, New Jersey

No, this is not the Jersey Shore of crowded boardwalks and Jello-shooting party creatures. Situated at the northern edge of that infamous coastal strip, Sandy Hook is a comparatively mellow peninsula that juts out into New York Harbor. You’ll find windsurfers, birdwatchers, and nudists among the usual sunbathing set. (Sandy Hook’s seven sand beaches include Gunnison, the only nude beach in New Jersey.) There’s also a five-mile path that winds through salt marshes and holly forest and is great for cycling and walking.



A sprinkling of historic military installations adds to the atmosphere. Check out the defunct Cold War missile stations and the 1764 lighthouse, the oldest functioning building of its kind in America. The strategic location isn’t entirely a thing of the past, either: The U.S. Coast Guard opened a $54 million base here last summer, as part of ongoing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. Seastreak Ferry service runs May-October from lower Manhattan.



Breezy Point, Queens

Beachgoing New Yorkers flood the Rockaways on hot summer days. But this tightknit seaside enclave at the western end of Rockaway Peninsula? Not so much. Though not gated, the neighborhood once known as the “Irish Riviera” is a cooperative, with its own security personnel and volunteer fire departments, giving it a semi-private feel. For those willing to pay the reasonable day-use fees—around $70 per adult—a pair throwback beach clubs here can feel more open-door than the community itself. 

One is the Silver Gull Beach Club, a 55-year-old institution where some members have claimed the same cabana for decades and aging paddleball maestros like “Five Borough Phil” and “The Duck” hit the courts hard all summer.  Typical scene : “A band of hefty middle-aged men in Hawaiian shirts playing ‘Sweet Caroline’ and little kids flinging themselves into the pool and leathery old women in loungers deepening their already very-deep tans.” Breezy Point Surf Club, two miles west, has been in business since 1937 and counts tennis lessons, waterslides, and a video arcade among its draws.