How The Rockaways Became New York’s Favorite Urban Wellness Escape

As spring welcomes warmer days, New Yorkers don’t have to travel far to escape the concrete jungle. The Rockaways, a narrow, 11-mile peninsula and friendly seaside community in Queens that once hosted the likes of the Vanderbilts and Astors, is undergoing a wellness renaissance. And, thanks in part to the Rockaway Hotel, a six-story, beachy-chic, 53-room destination that opened in 2020, weary urbanites can now book a relaxing sojourn without the plane ticket.

About an hour drive from Manhattan (or a non-stop, 45-minute ferry ride from downtown’s Pier 11), arriving inside the hotel’s lobby, complete with blonde wood furnishings, a warm fireplace and lo-fi tunes, ushers in an immediate sense of calm. Just outside, guests are treated to a seasonal trio of cedar barrel saunas situated around a heated pool, and perfect for soothing tense muscles. Dotted with handsome teak loungers and sherpa throws, a pool house (also seasonal) caters to blissed-out guests in fluffy robes sipping on warm tea, champagne and a menu of tasty bites. (Through May, the hotel offers a handful of 4-hour passes from $40-$60).

Meanwhile, a small-but-mighty subterranean spa offers body work including a CBD recovery massage using cold-pressed hemp, marula, jojoba and olive oils (for serious knots, a deep tissue add-on with Jeanne does the trick). Post-treatment, max your bliss with a detoxifying infared sauna session or opt for a body-firming aloe and seaweed wrap to increase circulation. For a glow-on-the-go, a new Vitamin C Bright & Firm Facial combines Dr. Dennis Gross products with LED light therapy. (Guests can also stock up on the hotel’s herbal-infused line by local outfit Goldie’s Natural Beauty).

In the mornings, fuel up with overnight oats and coffee drinks at Greenhouse Cafe. Afterwards, a rotating menu of daily sculpt, full body and yoga classes round out the hotel’s fitness offerings. There are also designated wellness weeks showcasing some of New York’s cutting-edge boutique workouts (past participants have included YO.BK , Goodform Pilates, Rumble Boxing and 305 Fitness). And, when the weather cooperates (think sunshine and gentle sea breezes), classes are known to move to the outside deck. You can also break a sweat at the recently-opened Goodform and Orange Theory; or drop in the venerable Hot Yoga Studio for hot and vinyasa offerings.

There’s also retreat programming. Last month, the hotel hosted its inagural Currents, a “wellness odyssey” dedicated to discussions around plant medicines and alternative healing modalities (including mushrooms, CBD and cacao). “The idea was to educate and inform around business ethics, including how these medicines will eventually integrate into our hospitality spaces,” said IGG Hospitality’s Terence Tubridy — also one of the Rockaway Hotel’s partners, who alongside his friend Matthew Evertsen, a creative director, wanted to bring accessible information to everyone. The evening’s panel (a diverse mix of educators, creatives, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and one retired hockey player) explored timely topics such as destigmatizing cannabis and the ethics of consumption. Tubridy also added, rather excitiedly, that the hotel’s planning another event next year.

Make sure to venture outside. Long known for its robust surf community, the hotel can set up lessons from beloved local spots including Skudin. You can also pick up hip threads, hand shaped surf boards and locally-harvested chaga mushroom tinctures at Almeda Club. Or, perhaps you’ll opt for an invigorating plunge in the Atlantic. A short drive from the hotel, stretch your legs at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a protected site where woods and salt marshes dovetail with a thriving population of waterfowl and Osprey. Later, nab one of the hotel’s beach cruisers and coast down the boardwalk.

“The brick and mortars are starting to show up,” Tubridy said of the healthy food uptick including fruit smoothies at Cafe Claudette, celery juice at Rockaway Roasters and avocado toast at the hotel’s airy eatery Margies. And, just in time for sandal season, the veggie-inspired concession counters at Brothers and La Fruteria will open to great fanfare. (Alternatively, if you’re jonesing for a hamburger and fries, the waterside Bungalow Bar is your best best; and just after Memorial Day, the forthcoming Adrienne’s in Broad Channel will serve southern Italian fare).

As early evening fades over Rockaway’s laid-back beach community, retreat to your room for a languid sunset (1-and-2 bed bungalows with marble kitchens are ideal for longer stays). Perched on your ocean-facing balcony, a whiff of fresh salt air meets the rollicking blue waves. In the distance, a row of surfers are patiently waiting for their set. Are you in Malibu, California? Nope, you’re in Rockaway, Queens.

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