Spending time outdoors may offer a variety of health benefits, including improved mood, increased levels of vitamin D, reduced risk of cognitive decline, and improved fitness from exercising.
Home to over two dozen state parks, Long Island offers individuals of all ages plenty of opportunities to explore nature. So, whether you are searching for a new hiking trail or want suggestions for a new camping spot, here are 10 gorgeous parks on Long Island worth visiting no matter the season.
Long Island Parks: Nature and Wildlife Viewing
Head to these parks on Long Island if you are interested in observing the area’s diverse flora and fauna:
Orient Beach State Park - Suffolk County
Found on the eastern end of Long Island’s North Fork, Orient Beach State Park is home to a variety of marine and avian wildlife. Bird watchers can expect to see Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, and Osprey.
In addition to hiking trails, Orient Beach State Park is perfect for kayaking, swimming, and windsurfing. Visitors can also view four lighthouses (Orient Point, Plum Island, Long Beach Bar, and Cedar Island) from various locations in the park, and if you have a Lighthouse Passport, you can now get it stamped at Orient Beach.
Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve - Suffolk County
Home to over 200 species of birds, avid bird-watchers will want to flock to Caumsett State Historic Preserve. Located on the North Shore along the Long Island Sound, the park offers a diverse mix of habitats to explore, including woodlands, meadows, rocky shorelines, and salt marshes. Visitors enjoy the numerous bridle paths, as well as walking, running, hiking, and nature trails.
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve - Suffolk County
Spanning 543 acres in Smithtown, the Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is one of four state nature preserves located on Long Island. The park is home to numerous rare plants, including Pink Lady Slipper, Trailing Arbutus, and Indian Pipe.
From birds to white-tailed deer, there is plenty of wildlife to enjoy as well. The park also has a nature museum featuring numerous natural history exhibits in the Smith Family home, built in 1751.
This passive-use park is perfect for hiking, fly fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Long Island Parks: On-site Camping
When a day trip isn’t long enough, plan a stay at one of these Long Island parks offering campsites or cottages to rent.
Hither Hills State Park - Suffolk County
Located on the eastern end of Long Island’s southern fork, Hither Hills State Park is a popular spot for day trips, as well as extended stays. The park includes a 190-site campground on the ocean and access to the Napeague Bird Conservation Area.
The Walking Dunes Trail, another unique feature of the park, is a 2.7-mile loop path bordering the Napeague Harbor. Other recreational activities include bridle paths, biking, nature, and cross-country skiing trails.
Heckscher State Park - Suffolk County
Set on the Great South Bay on Long Island’s south shore, Heckscher State Park is one of Long Island’s go-to destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. Swimmers, windsurfers, and kayakers enjoy easy access to the Great South Bay, while cyclists and runners take advantage of the park’s paved loop road
A disc golf course and numerous hiking trails are also available. For those seeking a quiet getaway, Heckscher State Park offers a campground and waterfront cottages with spectacular views.
Wildwood State Park - Suffolk County
Offering 12 miles of scenic trails – including stunning views of the Long Island Sound – Wildwood State Park is one of Long Island’s hidden gems. In addition to swimming and stand-up paddle boarding, numerous multi-use trails (hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing) are available. The park also has campsites, as well as cottages, available to rent.
Long Island Parks: Something for Everyone
If you can’t decide between watersports, hiking, cycling, or running – don’t! These multi-use parks on Long Island offer visitors a variety of recreational activities.
Jones Beach State Park - Nassau County
Situated on 6.5 miles of gorgeous white-sand beach on the Atlantic Ocean, Jones Beach State Park is a summer favorite among Long Islanders. In addition to swimming, visitors can enjoy plenty of other water sports, including kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, surfing, windsurfing, and fishing. The Wild Play Adventure Course – featuring zip-lining and obstacle courses – was added in 2020.
Hempstead Lake State Park - Nassau County
Located in Nassau County, Hempstead Lake State Park includes three ponds that are accessible for water sports – including fishing and kayaking. Numerous hiking, running, cycling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing trails are available.
Additionally, you’ll find several tennis and pickleball courts. Enjoy a picnic in one of many shaded areas, and don’t forget to ride on the indoor historic, hand-carved wooden carousel.
Belmont Lake State Park - Suffolk County
Covering 463 acres in West Babylon, Belmont Lake State Park offers visitors a mix of recreational activities. Those wanting to explore the beauty of Belmont Lake can do so from either a kayak, rowboat, or pedal boat. You can bring your own kayak or rent one for a nominal fee. Hiking, biking, and equestrian trails are also available.
Bethpage State Park - Nassau County
Home to five championship golf courses, Bethpage State Park also includes tennis courts, bridle paths, hiking, running, and bike trails. During the winter months, there are numerous sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing trails available.
NY State Parks Explorer App
Looking for even more New York parks to explore? The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation offers the NY State Parks Explorer app.
Available for download in both the Apple App Store and Google Play stores, the app includes information on the more than 250 recreational sites managed by the state. Search by region or amenities, and quickly access important information like fees, hours, and even trail maps.
Additional Resources for Active Seniors
New York State residents age 62 or older can enjoy free vehicle access to most state parks on weekdays. View the Golden Park Program website for more details.
For additional travel tips and resources for older adults, visit The Bristal’s blog.
This blog was originally published in July 2020. It was updated in October 2023.