Our Long Island Community
The Hamptons get all the attention on Long Island, but the 118-mile-long and 23-mile-wide land stretching from the New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn has a number of top attractions to keep you busy for days.
Flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on the south and the Long Island Sound on the north, the 10th largest island in the country has plenty of wide-open spaces, uncrowded beaches, and historic mansions. From the golden beaches of the South Shore to the quaint waterfront villages of the North Shore, from the fabled Gold Coast mansions and their elaborate gardens to historic lighthouses and museums, you'll never run out of things to do on Long Island's Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The land that gave us Walt Whitman, Billy Joel, Jerry Seinfeld, LL Cool J, and Mariah Carey is culturally and ethnically diverse; no single town is the same as another, and you are sure to find various accents. With that, you'll also find authentic ethnic food, delicious bagels, and fresh seafood.
Kids can have endless fun building sandcastles on beautiful beaches and learning about the island's surrounding waters at the Jones Beach Nature Center and the Long Island Aquarium. Summer days can be spent at concerts at the outdoor amphitheater at Jones Beach, attending one of the many fun weekend festivals or exploring castles and mansions.
The best part is, you can get to almost anywhere on the island from New York City via the Long Island Rail Road. It may be the busiest commuter rail in the country (and probably the most expensive), but it's convenient, comfortable, and fast.
Montauk Point Lighthouse
At the farthest point east on Long Island stands the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse in the hamlet of Montauk. Commissioned by George Washington and completed in 1797, the oldest lighthouse in New York State became a beacon of hope and the first sight millions of immigrants saw on their way to the free world. It later became a strategic fire control station by the armed forces during WWII.
Today, the lighthouse attracts scores of tourists wanting to take in the expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean and catch glimpses of the seals that gather on the shores. On these dog-friendly grounds, there are walking trails that take you around the buildings and onto a rocky beach. You can climb up to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views or visit the museum, located in the 1860 Keepers' house.
Miles of enchanting beaches and tiny villages flanked by sand dunes, white-tailed deer, and pristine wilderness make Fire Island seem like a world away from the concrete jungle of New York City. This narrow barrier island parallels Long Island on the South Shore, with the westernmost tip beginning at the popular Robert Moses State Park and separated by the Great South Bay.
From the Robert Moses Beach, you can take a nature trail to the Fire Island Lighthouse and Smith Point Visitor Center. The best way to explore Fire Island is on an overnight stay, either at a campground at Watch Hill or by renting a beach house, but be sure to book early in the year to reserve a spot. Take time to explore the Sunken Forest on a relaxing walk on the elevated boardwalk under the canopy of a maritime holly forest.
The Fire Island National Seashore, which covers 26 miles of the island, can be accessed by boat or ferry from Patchogue, Sayville, and Bay Shore.
Robert Moses State Park
Previously named as one of New York's best beaches, Robert Moses is a five-mile-long State Park located on the western part of Fire Island. It is popular with locals avoiding the crowded Jones Beach, and is easily accessible by car or from the Babylon train station. Robert Moses has a pristine oceanfront, and ideal waves for swimming, boogie-boarding, surfing, and surf-fishing. Its historic Fire Island lighthouse makes for picture-perfect shots. It also has an 18-hole Pitch & Putt golf course and a volleyball court (open from early April through mid-November) in case you get bored from soaking up the sun on the beach.
From world-class beaches to lovely hamlets and towns boasting mansions with manicured lawns, the Hamptons, in the easternmost part of the South Fork of Long Island, embody the quintessential summer getaway. You can fill your days with outdoor parties, gallery openings and museum outings, alfresco dining, and of course celebrity watching.
The area encompasses Southampton and East Hampton, with hamlets such as Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Water Mill, and Amagansett among others. This seaside resort destination has miles of sunny beaches, including the world-famous Main Beach and Cooper's Beach. Getting to the Hamptons may take a while, whether you are taking the Hampton Jitney or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) or driving, but the trip is well worth the time.
Long Island Vineyards
The best Long Island wineries to visit feature gorgeous tasting rooms, special events like live music and plenty of perfect picnic spots. Vineyards have dotted the north and south forks since 1973, when Louisa and Alex Hargrave founded their eponymous winery, which would become Castello di Borghese. Today, the region is home to large producers with multiple locations as well as promising upstarts that make excellent wines in small quantities.
What used to be a region known for potato and produce farms has, over the past few decades, become a stellar wine producing region and a great place for a wine country vacation. With amazing wineries, restaurants, quaint village shops and farm stands, the North Fork is New York’s own little Napa Valley.
Long Island Aquarium
The Atlantis-themed Long Island Aquarium boasts one of the largest living coral displays in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to the 20,000-gallon display tank, this Riverhead aquarium has a massive shark tank, and a number of indoor and outdoor exhibits of marine and island wildlife. Kids can have up-close encounters thanks to touch tanks and other interactive features like meet-and-greet with penguins, selfies with sea lions, and feeding the birds at the Bird Aviary.
In the summer, a 90-minute Atlantis Explorer Boat educational tour takes visitors down the Peconic River. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, you can do a shark dive in a cage in their Lost City of Atlantis Shark exhibit. The aquarium also hosts sleepovers, so you can spend the night next to the tanks.
Old Westbury Gardens
Step right into the pages of The Great Gatsby when you enter the grounds of this Old Westbury opulent estate, former property of John S. and Margarita Grace Phipps. This Gold Coast estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, consists of 160 acres. It features the main attraction of the palatial Westbury House surrounded by sweeping lawns, rose gardens, water fountains, serene ponds, and lakes. Begin with a tour of the mansion, followed by a stroll through its gorgeous gardens.
During the warmer months, Old Westbury Gardens has concerts and special events on the main lawn. Their most popular event, Dog Days, happening in the spring and fall, attracts dog owners and lovers to the gardens for a fun-filled outing with hikes, themed-entertainment, and vendors.
The Cradle of Aviation
The world-class Cradle of Aviation Museum houses Donald Everett Axinn Air & Space Museum Hall, which has permanent and changing collections chronicling the history of aviation, specifically that of Long Island. It has air and spacecraft displays (from biplanes to a lunar landing module), hands-on exhibits, and cockpits to climb into.
The museum also has an IMAX Dome surround-screen theater, showcasing immersive virtual reality experiences and films that transport viewers to far-flung places. The museum's latest exhibit, Space: A Journey to Our Future, is part of their countdown to the Apollo at 50 celebration. Next door on Museum Row, the historic Nunley's Carousel, created in 1912, has been restored to its former glory and is available for rides.
Located on the North Shore, the 43-acre former estate of William K. Vanderbilt includes the Spanish Revival-style mansion of Eagle's Nest, turned museum and Planetarium. The museum houses thousands of wildlife specimens that Vanderbilt collected during his overseas expeditions. Additional structures on the property include a boathouse, seaplane hangar, and a curator's cottage surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Vanderbilt's Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium has full-dome films, laser shows, live star talks, and concerts. The rooftop observatory is open to the public Friday nights (depending on weather) where visitors can see the night sky through a 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope with the guidance of an astronomy educator.
*Content of this page courtesy of Lavanya Sakara from planetware.com