After Spring 2020’s nonstop ambulance sirens and the daily 7 p.m. clap for healthcare workers, New Yorkers needed a vacation. Rockaway Beach was one of the few places they could trust.

Think back to Summer 2020. New Yorkers had been battling Covid-19 with soap, sanitizer, and common sense for just a few months — and they had started winning. After the initial wave of heavy losses, the infection rate plummeted and stayed low for the entire summer. Hundreds of thousands had fled the city — the escapees were a bizarre mix of the hospitality and arts workers that we needed, and the “good schools” suburbanites that we didn’t.

Suddenly, it was a rare moment in history when the entire city belonged to its people. All of the short-term tourists and most of the long-term tourists were gone, and it was glorious.

But everyone still needed a vacation. The New Yorkers fortunate enough to afford time off saw that the rest of the country had not heeded our warnings: Covid was out of control everywhere except the Northeast. So we looked to places in the city, state, or region for our escapes from daily life. The mountain people went northward, the beach people went to Rockaway.

Reaching Rockaway Beach

I thought this piece was going to be about the anxieties and triumphs of riding old bikes to Rockaway for two long holiday weekends. It’s not. Instead, I offer you the musings of a Guy from Queens digging into Rockway Beach a few decades after childhood.

What my partner and I discovered there was much bigger than how to cross the Addabbo Bridge on bikes without getting killed. We learned that Rockaway Beach had become, and still may be, the most dependably NYC place in NYC. All the building blocks of the borough of Queens, of the whole City of New York, are scattered about the sand in plain sight. Rockaway Beach is the one place where you can get fully away, yet never leave your city or yourself.

So what does someone who’s from the opposite side of Queens see when they go to Rockaway Beach? Well, it breaks down this way:

Click around, check out the photos, and start planning your next trip to Rockaway Beach. Summer may be waning, but the water is just warming up.

Words & photos by Rob Bellinger
Published: 9/10/2021
Rockaway Beach visits: July 3-5 and September 4-7, 2020