Summer may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean that NYC families need to say goodbye to the beach just yet. In fact, now through October 31 is actually the perfect time to plan a weekend glamping (that’s glam camping) trip to Camp Rockaway at Jacob Riis Beach.
Now in its second season hosting guests, Camp Rockaway was founded in 2014 by NYC architect Kent Johnson, who was inspired by the history of camping and surfing in the Rockaway community. The Camp Rockaway experience offers the outdoor charm of a camping trip, as well as the comforts of a real bed (with a trendy and comfy Casper mattress and Brooklinen sheets, no less), basic electricity access, and clean indoor bathrooms. Outdoor showers are also available—they’re partially solar-powered and operate on 5-minute timer (so very good for Mother Earth), and they offer complimentary eco-chic shampoo and conditioner with a sweet coconut scent. Towels and washcloths are provided in each tent.
Each of Camp Rockaway’s 12 boho-glam safari tents are furnished to exude Instagram-ready charm: You get a queen-sized bed (if you need a cot for an older child, they can be added to your tent reservation for $75, and come with a sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, pillow, and s’mores pack; families with more than two children should plan to rent two tents) with a vibrantly-colored and ethically-sourced bedspread from India, two side tables (one topped with a potted succulent, both topped with mini fans powered partially by solar electricity from Voltaic), an overhead light (also partially solar-powered, which can also function as a phone charger), a metal camp trunk for locking valuables, and a blue-and-white speckled metal tray, carafe, and cups for water. Outside, each tent has a nice little deck with camp chairs, and back area with hammocks. If it rains (as it did a little while on my recent visit), fret not–the tents prove to be very sturdy and water resistant, and tents are equipped with cozy wool blankets to add to the beds for breezy seaside evenings.
Of course, much of the appeal is the proximity to Riis Beach (part of Gateway National Recreation Area, a part of the National Park system). Camp Rockaway is located conveniently in the east courtyard of the Jacob Riis Bathhouse (adjacent to the Riis Beach Baazar)—they have a flag flying out front, as well as signs, so it’s easy to find when you arrive. Once you check in at the campground, the sand, waves, and boardwalk are literally within steps. Plus, though Manhattanites might perceive of the Rockaways as existing in another state, it’s actually a very easy journey. On a recent stay in early August, I took the NYC Ferry (you can download an app to buy your $2.75 ticket on the spot) from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and found that the ferry ride was a fun adventure in and of itself. If you come from Manhattan, there’s a ferry dock on Wall Street. Once you arrive in the Rockaways, there’s a free shuttle that drops you off right in front of the Camp Rockaway entrance.
In addition to the simple joys of a day at beautiful Riis Beach (there’s nothing quite like getting up in the morning to the sound of the waves, and then walking right out on to a nearly empty beach to enjoy your coffee and breakfast), there’s plenty of family fun to be had in the area and at Camp Rockaway itself. The campground has a hammock grove for relaxation, a communal covered area for lounging, playing games (there are games available to campers on-site), eating, and enjoying books about the area’s history. A water cooler is available there for guests to fill up their tent carafes, and in the morning the camp staff makes coffee. A fire pit in the middle of the grounds lights up at sundown for s’mores making.
When families venture beyond the grounds, there’s an array of food options at the Beach Bazaar (check out Wiseclock Café right next door in the morning for fresh fruit smoothies and rainbow bagels). Depending on where your children’s interests lie, the Rockaways offer opportunities for surfing, whale watching, hiking, fishing, golf, biking, and much more. Plus, through Labor Day (September 3), be sure to check out Rockaway! 2018: Narcissus Garden by Yayoi Kusama, a free art exhibition at nearby Fort Tilden produced by MoMA PS1. This is the third year the festival has set up shop in the Rockaways, and it makes for an easy way to infuse world-class art into a weekend spent in the great outdoors (you can easily walk to the Battery Harris lookout point for a 360-view of the city, bay, and ocean, and to Fort Tilden Beach from the exhibition site).
And finally, each tent at Camp Rockway includes a pre-stamped postcard so you can drop a line to your loved ones! Simply write and address your note and the friendly camp staff will pop it in the morning post for you!
To learn more about Camp Rockaway, and to reserve a tent ($195 weekdays and Sunday; $249 Fridays and Saturdays), visit camprockaway.com!