Rockaway Beach offers 7 miles of urban sand

Rockaway Beach has always been a well-known spot Rockaway Beach has always been a well-known spot for surfers. (July 27, 2013) Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

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Once known as "New York's Playground," Rockaway Beach is on track to reclaim that title -- in a new way.

The Queens neighborhood that housed the former Rockaways' Playland amusement park might lack a Coney Island-like scene, but a different one is taking hold where trendy restaurants, beach-side bungalows and boutique motels add vibrancy to the seaside community.

Many of the waterfront homes and businesses that were destroyed by superstorm Sandy reopened for the summer. And the city's Parks Department is working overtime to rebuild portions of the boardwalk that were washed away. (On a recent sunny Saturday, bulldozers caravaned down the beach crowded with sunbathers.)

The neighborhood, immortalized in a Ramones song, takes its name from the the seven-mile stretch of sand that extends the entire length of Rockaway Peninsula.

The neighborhood has always attracted surfers because it has the city's only legal surfing beach, and the scene has grown in recent years.

FIND IT

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Rockaway Beach is on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. It is bordered to the east by the Arverne neighborhood and to the west by Rockaway Park.

EAT & DRINK

Rockaway Taco, 95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd. This no-frills shack offers tasty fish, carne, chorizo and tofu tacos ($3.50), plus Italian ices (small $2.50) with offbeat flavors such as cucumber lime. 347-213-7466, rockawaytaco.com

Bungalow Bar, 377 Beach 92nd St. Bungalow Bar's facade hides its secret attraction: a large outdoor deck in the rear, overlooking Jamaica Bay. 718-945-2100, bungalowbarny.com

Caracas Arepa Bar, 106-01 Shore Front Pkwy. Latin American corn cakes stuffed sandwich-style with fillings such as black beans, queso blanco and fried plantains ($7-$8.50). Local bands perform in the outdoor seating area on weekends. caracasarepabar.com

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Uma's Rockaway Beach, 92-07 Rockaway Beach Blvd. Opened this summer, this cozy, brick-walled eatery serves up Uzbek cuisine: shish kebabs of chicken beef and lamb, and plov, a traditional dish with rice, lamb, carrots and onions. 718-318-9100

DO

Rent Jet Skis for up to two hours from Rockaway Jet Ski at Thai Rock, 375 Beach 92nd St. Full-day and multiday tours are offered, promising close-up views of the city's bridges and the Statue of Liberty. Kayaks also available. Info: 718-318-0111, rockawayjetski.com

The Rockaway Beach stretch has always been a well-known spot for surfers. The most popular spot to ride the waves is Beach 90th Street. Boarders offers surfing lessons at Beach 69th Street. Skudin Surf offers surf camps for adults and kids, individual lessons and weekend classes for groups. New York Surf School also offers group and individual lessons at that same location. Info: boarderssurfshop.com, skudinsurf.com, surflessonsnewyork101.com

Docked a few neighborhoods west of Rockaway Beach, at Riis Landing in Breezy Point, American Princess Cruises take curious seafaring onlookers of all ages into the Atlantic Ocean on narrated whale- and dolphin-watching cruises (through Aug. 29). Info: 718-474-0555, americanprincesscruises.com

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Supplemented with staff reports.

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