How do Long Islanders love the waterfront? Let us count the ways: Some adore nothing more than the sound of crashing surf on a sandy beach; others prefer the quiet flow of a river through the marsh grass; still others are happiest offshore, whether cruising Long Island Sound in a luxury vessel or chasing down the Atlantic's biggest game fish on a charter boat.
In this installment of Newsday's Best Places to Live series, we highlight a sampling of Long Island communities with distinct waterfront cultures and a variety of price ranges. Whether you're a beach bum, a sailor, an angler or a landlubber who just enjoys a killer water view, you can find a place on Long Island that floats your boat.
Oyster Bay is where some of the most competitive sailors train -- and it's also where some of the least experienced ones get their feet wet: The Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay trains Olympic-level sailors, while newcomers to the sport can train at the nonprofit WaterFront Center, also in Oyster Bay. The Sagamore Yacht Club is in Oyster Bay, as well. Home prices in Oyster Bay ranged from $215,000 for a one-bedroom co-op to $14.9 million for a seven-bedroom home on a 5-acre waterfront estate, a search of MLSLI.com shows.
Nearby Centre Island, a village within the Town of Oyster Bay, is home to the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club. "Seawanhaka would be one of the oldest clubs in the country, founded here in 1871," says Robert B. McKay, author of "Great Yachts of Long Island's North Shore."
On the East End, your boat can rub elbows with celebrities' boats in posh Sag Harbor, where Billy Joel's "Alexa" -- the vessel that shares its name both with Joel's eldest daughter and his 1990 pop single "The Downeaster 'Alexa' " -- has been known to dock.
For a slightly more down-to-earth yachting scene, try Babylon and its surroundings. "The South Shore has its series of active sailing clubs like in Sayville and Babylon," says McKay. "On the Great South Bay, you get a more reliable breeze than on the North Shore," he says, adding that the shallow bay is better suited for smaller vessels.
Listing: $599,990 in West Babylon
This 83-by-127-square-foot property includes 115 feet of bulkhead on a cove and an in-ground pool. The three-bedroom home has two full bathrooms and features a stone fireplace. It's listed with JoAnn Boettcher of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 631-422-9292.
FOR OCEAN LIVING
In Nassau County, the city of Long Beach has unrivaled pedestrian access to the Atlantic Ocean. This season, the city has 31 public entry points to the ocean beach, 18 of which sell daily beach passes for $12. Residents pay just $40 for an individual season pass, while nonresidents pay $80. Long Beach has a new 2.2-mile boardwalk, built to replace one that was destroyed in 2012 by superstorm Sandy. The beach and boardwalk area are home to a lively summer scene, including food trucks, a trapeze school, surf camps, a playground and numerous outdoor events.
On the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island website, there were 354 homes on the market in Long Beach -- and since the city is just a half-mile wide, you can walk to the ocean from every one of them. Prices ranged from $69,900 for a studio in a co-op about one block from the beach to $3.3 million for a newly constructed oceanfront contemporary. The Long Beach barrier island also includes the communities of Atlantic Beach, Lido Beach and Point Lookout.
On the East End, Montauk's position at the tip of the South Fork creates exceptional beach access for residents. In Montauk, "you can find a house from which you can walk to the beach for less than a million dollars" -- a rarity you're unlikely to find anywhere else in the Hamptons, says Chris Chapin of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. On the Hamptons real estate sales website HREO.com, prices ranged from $125,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op in an oceanfront complex to $85,000,000 for 30.4-acre summer compound once owned by Andy Warhol.
And on Fire Island, you'd better like walking -- cars are mostly not permitted. But that's fine, because much of the narrow island is less than a half-mile in width, so you're always within walking distance of the beach. The island, which is surrounded by Great South Bay to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south, is about 32 miles long and has more than a dozen communities. Most are mainly summer spots; each has its own distinct neighborhood personality.
Listing: $735,000 in Long Beach
This three-bedroom condo features an oceanfront patio and deck and three parking spots. The custom-finished town home has two full bathrooms and a fireplace. It's listed with Tom Tripodi and Cynthia Altkin of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-432-3400.
Along the North Shore, Long Island Sound and its bays and harbors offer great catches such as bass, fluke, bluefish, porgies, black sea bass and blackfish. The North Shore community with the most waterfront homes available was Northport, including Asharoken, which shares its school district and ZIP code. There were 36 properties for sale, ranging from $749,900 for a three-bedroom house with a beach easement to $5.5 million for a 1.8-acre estate on 150 feet of waterfront, according to a search of the Multiple Listing Service website.
Northport's shipbuilding heritage is a natural fit for seafaring types. "It's rich in maritime history. . . . It's a great place, with a beautiful harbor, very accessible and protected from storms," says Stuart Paterson, Northport resident and owner of Northport Charters.
Paterson says North Shore anglers favor a well-known fishery called the Triangle off Eatons Neck where conditions on the sea floor attract a variety of game fish. "There's lots of structure on the bottom -- rock piles, ledges, reefs. The baitfish hold on the structure, and the game fish feed on the baitfish."
On the South Shore, Freeport is a favorite spot for adventurous anglers who like to fish the canyons -- deep trenches in the ocean floor where the water conditions attract big game fish such as tuna, shark and swordfish. Private boat owners and commercial fishing charters alike take advantage of Freeport's ocean access via Jones Inlet, launching numerous day trips as well as overnight excursions to fishing hot spots such as Chicken Canyon and Hudson Canyon.
On the East End, Montauk is well-known for all kinds of fishing, from bass blitzes near the coast to shark and tuna fishing farther offshore. "The fishing is amazing out there -- they've got everything," says Austin Frye of Wantagh, a fishing enthusiast and yacht dealer. An angler's options are numerous, including ocean fishing charters, surf casting or even freshwater fishing in Montauk's Fort Pond.
Listing: $1.425 million in Asharoken
This 0.4-acre property is situated between Duck Island Harbor and Long Island Sound. A beach lot on the Sound is included. The four-bedroom Hamptons-style home has three full bathrooms and a half-bath. It's listed with Joanne LaCascia and Roberta Hunt of Signature Premier Properties, 631-360-2800.
FOR DOCKSIDE LIVING
If you want a dock in your own backyard, buying a home with a pre-existing bulkhead is significantly easier than adding one. The process typically requires a minimum of three permits -- one from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, one from the Army Corps of Engineers and one at the local level -- says Scott Moses, an expediter for the Merrick-based service GetDockPermits.com. Along Nassau's well-developed South Shore, a property with a bulkhead is relatively easy to find.
In a keyword search of available homes with a dock or bulkhead, Massapequa had the most in the county, with 31 homes listed on Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, ranging in price from $410,000 for a three-bedroom house on Carmans River to $2.199 million for a four-bedroom Dutch Colonial on the open bay.
Massapequa's south shore has a neighborly network of more than a dozen canals and creeks stretching up from South Oyster Bay, where some boat owners may find themselves becoming as friendly with folks across the canal as with those across the street. "It's a different kind of community on the water," says Teresa Marotta of Exit Realty Premier. "They're all so friendly. They drive by on the water and say hello to one another. They have that connection."
Homes with bulkheads are less common in Suffolk, and there tend to be more hurdles to adding one there, Moses says. "The farther east you go, the more pricey everything gets," and local permit requirements can be strict, he says. Moriches, including East Moriches and Center Moriches, had the most available in the county, 41, ranging in price from $327,000 to $2.99 million, according to a search of the Multiple Listing Service.
On the East End, Southold had the most homes for sale with docks or bulkheads -- 24, including 17 with docks and seven with bulkheads, ranging in price from $444,000 to $1,888,888.
Listing: $659,000 in Massapequa
This 70-by-100-foot canal-front property features a floating dock with a ramp, and a multilevel deck with a tiki bar. The six-bedroom Colonial has three full bathrooms, bamboo floors and a stone fireplace. The home is listed with Teresa Marotta of Exit Realty Premier, 516-795-1000.
FOR BAY LIVING
If a home by the bay tops your wish list, you'll find the most choices in Hampton Bays, which is surrounded by three bays: Great Peconic Bay, Tiana Bay and Shinnecock Bay. There were 25 bayfront and bayview homes listed on the Multiple Listing Service ranging from $149,000 for a one-bedroom unit in a bayfront co-op with a dock to $3.325 million for a five-bedroom Mediterranean-style home with a deepwater dock.
Want bay living on a budget? Try Baldwin and Baldwin Harbor for a wide variety, all for less than $1 million. There were 28 waterfront homes on Multiple Listing Service, with prices ranging from $349,000 for a three-bedroom ranch on a canal with bay access to $989,000 for a three-bedroom Colonial on the open bay with a floating dock and 165-foot bulkhead.
On the North Fork, where Flanders Bay meets Great Peconic Bay, is Jamesport. Of the community's 38 homes on Multiple Listing Service, 22 were waterfront or had a water view. Prices ranged from $399,000 for a three-bedroom Victorian with a water view to $2.775 million for a three-bedroom ranch on a 0.63-acre beachfront property.
"If I could pick any place to live, I would pick Jamesport, Southold, Greenport, Orient. Those to me would be ideal," says Steven Berner, president of Long Island Paddlers Inc., a canoeing and kayaking club. The relatively calm, low-traffic waters are great place for boaters and paddlers to enjoy nature and wildlife, because nearby land surrounding the water is undeveloped, such as Hubbard County Park in Flanders, Indian Island County Park in Riverhead and the privately owned Robins Island.
Listing: $1.595 in Hampton Bays
This 1.2-acre estate features more than 200 feet of bulkhead and a water depth of 4 feet at low tide on Tiana Creek, with access to Tiana Bay and Shinnecock Bay. The five-bedroom house has two master suites, entertainment rooms and a bar area. The property has a heated gunite pool, brick patios, gardens and a koi pond. It's listed with Theresa Thompson and Tahir Baig of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 631-871-7844.