But like a budget motel, the beach at Coney Island gets the job done. It is a veritable workhorse of a public beach; it always has been. Coney Island's beach isn't one of those nasty little ribbons of sand sandwiched between land and sea like a wilted cucumber stuck between two slices of crustless white bread. No. It's the full loaf: a gloriously broad swath of sand and a shore where the Atlantic Ocean waves relentlessly roll in. It’s easily accessible by public transportation or car, with attentive life guards, a colorful boardwalk, public bathrooms (but no changing rooms or showers), a fishing pier that's fun to walk on, extraordinary views of historic amusement rides, and tons and tons of beach-goers.
And, it’s absolutely free to use.
Plus, it’s unique. Nowhere else in the world can you go to a beach, and within ten minutes walk be at the world famous, landmarked Cyclone roller-coaster or Parachute jump, throwbacks to a century-old history of America’s most populist beach resort. And its not just history, you can ride new rides at the "Scream Zone," eat cotton candy and Nathan’s hot dogs till you’re spilling out of your swim suit, and then just hop the subway home.
The beach at Coney Island is proudly inclusive, not exclusive. It’s a people’s beach for average workaday New Yorkers, with bells and whistles galore: amusement park entertainment nearby, satisfyingly fried food that makes no pretense to being healthful, not to mention New York City's only, and wonderful, aquarium and a ballpark so intimate you can see the players' faces.
As for demographics, revel in the fact that you'll find every kind of beach-goer here: families and old folks, children and singles, lovers and lonely souls, New Yorkers speaking not just English but a proper New York City babel of languages. And, of course, tourists.
If you like your beaches pristine, get here early especially on a hot day. You won’t be alone, or surely not for long, but you can enjoy a few moments of reverie. (Just don't brave the water, however innocent it looks; rip tides along this coastline steal a life at least once a year.)
But if you love the crush of a really busy urban beach, and love to watch the antics of fellow beach-goers playing in the ocean, or if you just want a fast, cheap, convenient way to get to the ocean from anywhere in Brooklyn, well then, the beach Coney Island is just the place for you.