NYC: Orchard Beach & City Island

The one thing we are missing in Midtown is a beach. In July I looked for a beach nearby and discovered Orchard Beach in the Bronx – a beach I had never heard of. When we had the car in the City for a weekend, we drove to that beach one morning. It turned out that it is less than half an hour away – or only one hour by public transport. Busses go right to the beachfront. So far we have gone twice and this is already our favorite beach in New York City.

We enjoyed the scenic drive because Orchard Beach is in the middle of Pelhalm Bay Park. Which again is New York City’s largest public park. Yeah, we hadn’t heard of that one either. That is a real pity because we discovered a real gem there. Or two. There is a giant parking lot when you arrive at the beach and it wasn’t expensive at $10 (only $8 on weekdays). From there it is a short walk to the beachfront.

Orchard Beach has plenty of amenities. There are public grills that everyone can use, concession stands, tennis courts, playgrounds, showers, and bathrooms. For using the restrooms everybody is required to wear a mask. The beach is also big enough that we could easily keep our distance from everyone around us.

This year they have not opened all parts of the beaches for swimming. There are employees of the National Park Service who are keeping an eye on all guests. While I always had problems putting even my little toe into the water on the Massachusetts shore, I have no problems diving into this part of the Atlantic. It is much warmer and therefore more pleasant. That is in part at least probably because the beach is in a bay, Pelham Bay.

What I also love about this beach is that you have a choice between sitting on the sand and thus in the blazing sun or on grass and under trees. This definitely prevents my delicate Central European skin from getting sunburned. Because there are mostly families on the beach we found that we could even leave our things alone when we went swimming. Nobody took anything.

Besides, there always seems to be a fun atmosphere there. Especially Puerto Rican families seem to meet there. At least we saw mostly their flags. People bring instruments or big loudspeakers. Whole dancing clubs seem to meet there. It is so much fun to watch couple dance. It almost feels like in an older movie, like Dirty Dancing 2 maybe.

The first time we went to the beach, we explored a little further. We learned that City Island is right in front of Orchard Beach. So we left the car and walked through Pelham Bay Park to the little island. That is how we also noticed that there are many tiny beach sections away from the big beach. They are perfect if you want more peace and quiet.

We were very happy that we walked to City Island because there was a giant line of cars trying to get there via the only bridge. After looking around for a bit, we decided to have a late lunch at “Sea Shore”, one of the many seafood restaurants by the water. None of the restaurants is cheap, but we were first served a big appetizer (a whole little bread and different spreads) and then shared a seafood platter. 

We ended up taking leftovers home. My favorite part of eating there was that later on it turned out that a friend had worked in exactly that restaurant during college years ago. It is the little coincidences that make everything even better and more fun.

When we walked back, we collected garbage on the way. That is the only downside: While Orchard Beach itself is clean, people don’t seem to care when they are in the park. But despite this, we love Orchard Beach and also want to visit Pelham Bay Park more once it is fall. With all its trees, it must look magnificent in October.


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