For visitors to the Big Apple, the hubbub and sleepless energy of urban life can be both exhilarating and exhausting. In a city where the touristic and manicured grounds of Central Park or the groomed, monumental fields of Flushing Meadows count as the greenest getaways, the urge to break out to nature can often creep up unexpectedly.
For many, the antidote can be found just a short drive from the bubbling heart of New York itself, along the wide open sand stretches and beachside state parks of Suffolk County and the old Montauk Highway. Here, the legendary beaches of Long Island offer up crashing waves, surf swells and an undulating backcountry of alluring sand dunes; the perfect antithesis to metropolitan dizziness.
Here are five of the best-rated beaches in Long Island, where visitors can kick back and relax while listening to the din of the Atlantic swell.
This five mile stretch of glistening white sand on the Atlantic side of Fire Island has long been one of the major weekend getaways for beach-goers in New York City. It’s famed primarily for its wide and dune-backed east-coast beachfront, which comes complete with historical points of interest like the Fire Island Lighthouse and open views of the deep Atlantic blue. It’s also home to one of the most popular nude beaches on Long Island, which can be reached by following the path east through to the Island’s National Seashore.
This all-in-one seaside destination is alive with various attractions to suit every type of visitor. Surfers and sunbathers enjoy their own designated sand stretches, while there’s also a clothing optional beach on the easternmost point of the bay. While still boasting all the natural beauty of New York’s coast, the Jones Beach State Park is no stranger to big business and commercial development and accordingly there’s plenty of eateries, concession stalls and parlours selling everything from seafood to milkshakes in the summer, along with a short 9-hole golf course and a number of swimming pools to boot.
Generally regarded to be one of New York State’s best kept coastal secrets, either not many tourists know that Main Beach was rated as one North America’s best in 2013 or they’ve had a hard time finding it on the map. It’s actually perched on the far eastern tip of Long Island, in the sleepy seaside town of East Hampton. Of the many beaches accessible from town, Main is the most developed, but still promises seclusion and quietude like no other in the region. What’s more, visitors enjoy relatively gentle surf swells, along with a range of more up-market eateries within a short walk.
Home to some of the most undeveloped and untouched beachfront terrain in all of Long Island, the Gilgo State Park boasts mile upon mile of both Atlantic and Great South Bay sands. Traditionally it’s been a mecca for intrepid surfers and sea fishermen, many looking to conquer the fabled breaks of the legendary Hemlocks Beach, where riders usually have the swells all to themselves. But Gilgo’s quietude comes at a price, and it’s also without question one of the most inaccessible beaches on the island, with access restricted to permit-holding 4X4s or those crossing the bay by boat.
Roaring waves crash continuously onto the picture-perfect, picket-fenced beaches of Long Island at this family friendly state park. Just under 200 campsites and RV parking facilities are available, making it one of the best beach-lover’s stop offs on the Montauk Highway and a great accommodation option for those looking to explore Long Island’s coast for a little longer. What’s more, from the beach it’s possible to take the various hiking routes into the Hither Hills and Napeague Harbor area, where walkers are treated to a montage of New York’s links fauna and magnificent coastal views.