Clean sand, stunning surf, and permission to use flotation devices in the waves (verboten at all other city beaches). What more could Rockaway Beach have to lure you out for a day? How about a water park on the Jamaica Bay side at Beach 92nd Street, just a short walk from the new NYC Ferry service that costs the same as a subway ride? Now that’s some bait! We checked it out — here’s our report!
photo via Rockaway Water Park Facebook page
Rockaway Water Park
It began in 2012 as a water-sports outlet catering to really big kids (i.e., adults who still like to splash around) but today Rockaway Water Park is a full-fledged family destination with activities for everyone.
“I love the water and think that it’s a resource that is seriously underutilized,” explains owner-operator Robert Kaskel. “I wanted to give waterfront access to people who otherwise don’t have it.”
With this goal in mind, he invested in a fleet of kayaks, SUP (stand-up paddle) boards, and jet skis that people ages 18 and older could take out. He also hired a crew of lifeguards certified for open-water rescues, CPR, and first aid, and with that, a water park was born between the Cross Bay Veteran’s Memorial Bridge to the west and the subway line to the east.
Serious Floating Fun
But the big attraction for kids (and adults alike!) came last summer with the installation of the Tarzan Boat. Anchored several yards offshore, the Tarzan Boat is a 12-by-34-foot floating dock outfitted with a diving board, a rope swing, two trampolines, a curly water slide, and numerous other jumping off points.
Kaskel learned of the floating fun structure last season and acted fast to bring it to the Rockaways. “Someone passed a link onto me last July and it didn’t take more than a few seconds to know it was the perfect add for me,” Kaskel explains. “I went into action fast — licensing, permits, insurance — and two weeks later, I had it in the water.”
photo: via Rockaway Water Park Facebook page
The Tarzan Boat is open to anyone age eight or older. As much as your kids may want to jump off the dock and swim straight out there, everyone first has to watch a safety video produced by Tarzan Boat, described as “the world’s first floating water park.” With light Caribbean music playing in the background, visitors learn the rules: no pushing, no running, only one person on the rope swing or trampolines at a time, and an enforced buddy system. (At any given moment, the lifeguard stationed on the float may ask you where your buddy is and you’d better know!)
Rockaway Water Park also has two anchored foam rafts where you can hold yourself steady for a break or slip and slide to your heart’s content.
photo: via Rockaway Water Park Facebook page
The Cost to Splash Down
Two hours of play time on the Tarzan Boat costs $25 per person, and while walk-ins are welcome, online reservations are recommended, especially on weekends and holidays.
The float can accommodate 40 people per shift. Jet skis rent for a half hour, hour, or more and can include tours to Coney Island and New York Harbor. Rates range from $80 to $400 depending on the rental time and the number of people on the vehicle. Parents can take children on jet skis as long as the child’s feet can securely reach the runners.
In addition to the ferry, Rockaway Water Park is also a short walk from the Beach 90 stop on the Rockaway Shuttle, which connects from the A train at Broad Channel. The park will be open through Labor Day week and then on weekends, until September 17 or 18, depending on weather and demand.
photo: via Thai Rock Facebook page
Thai Food Worth the Trip
If all the activity makes everyone hungry you don’t have to go far. Rockaway Water Park is located behind Thai Rock restaurant, which Kaskel has owned and operated since 2010, save for a hiatus following Hurricane Sandy damage in 2012.
The restaurant is renowned in the Asian foodie community for serving authentic, not Westernized, Thai food, thanks to Kaskel’s wife’s family recipes from Thailand. The “Rock” refers to not only the location, but the live music frequently played here.
Thai Rock also has an amazing beer selection, with 24 draft lines and 17 bottle choices, and more than 200 types of spirits including a great range of bourbons, ryes, Irish whiskeys, tequila, mezcales, rums, gins, and vodkas. Kaskel likes to say it’s finest spirits collection in Queens, and he might be right!
375 Beach 92nd St.
Have you visited Rockaway Water Park? Tell us in the comments below!
— Cheryl deJong-Lambert