A Day Trip to Jones Beach: Travelogue and Budget Itinerary

With a week to go before I started working, I decided to make the most of my final free weekdays. AX agreed to accompany me on any adventures since he is also trying to live up his days as a freelancing photographer. Since he has a car, this of course meant that we would be getting out of the city. We finally settled on Jones Beach, a place we had both heard good things about but had never been to.

It was an easy drive from New York, though we did make a quick detour to a few stores in Long Island while we were in the area. We stopped for lunch at the All American Hamburger Drive-In in Massapequa, NY. At just under 20 minutes from the beach, this is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. The Drive-In itself looked like it hadn’t changed since the 50s. The service is incredibly fast and friendly and the food is cheap and delicious. Our combined meal of two quarter pounders with cheese and one order of onion rings, root beer soda and a chocolate shake was just shy of $12. Everything came in this cool retro packaging without a single trace of hipster irony.

When we arrived on the Jones Beach island (is that what it’s called?) we were a bit overwhelmed. It’s actually incredibly long, and we had no idea how to navigate it (except to just drive straight and then randomly pick a spot to turn off). I kind of wish that I had done some prior research, but what’s a spontaneous trip without some confused wandering? Since it was a weekday in the off season, there was no fee and the parking lots were basically empty except for one or two other cars. We picked one and parked, warily eyeing the long walk to the beach.

After walking quite a distance through periodic soft sand and shards of shells, we finally made it to the empty, overcast, swimming-prohibited shore. There are places at Jones Beach that allow for swimming, but this was not one of them (which was fine, since it was cold anyway and we were just there for the fresh air). If you want to swim, do a bit of prior research so that you’re not totally lost when you get there.

Despite the negative descriptors, the beach was actually perfect for our purposes. The water was cold and refreshing and the beach was so empty, but felt so in focus. Sometimes when you spend so much time in the city, everything is covered in a sort of haze. You never make eye contact with people on the street and hardly pick out tiny details in the environment around you. When was the last time you stopped midway through your journey and soaked in the building nearest to you, focusing on each unglamorous crack, smudge of grime, or peel of paint? In the city there is so much happening at once you tend to blur out all of the unnecessary details. Often I will pride myself on going to a park and pausing to enjoy it, but will have powered through the journey to get there, whizzing past people and sighing when I get held up over one thing or another, which inevitably always happens. Walking along the beach I felt each sense more richly — the smell of the sand and sea, the glint of the sun, the sounds of the waves and my own feet in the sand.

After about an hour and a couple of unexpectedly large waves we walked back to the car as the sun finally made its way out from behind the clouds. I spent the ride back feeling sleepy but ready to take on the 9-5 life, with the knowledge that this perfect getaway is mere minutes from the city.

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As a part of my ‘The Amateur on a Budget’ series, here’s a sample cost breakdown for a day trip to Jones Beach. The drive from the city will probably be more like $12, but to be safe I rounded up. You can always estimate your individual trip cost with this handy calculator from GasBuddy. Lunch at The All American Hamburger Drive-In will help keep your expenditures low, and if you go on a weekend (or probably any day during peak season) expect to pay an $8 fee for the beach. I also threw in $15 for whatever else — snacks or maybe you want to take a dip in the bath house pool ($3 for adults). And of course, the trip can be even cheaper on an individual basis if you load up the car with more friends (and thus more fun?). Happy adventuring!

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