Best places to live on Long Island: For active people

Naz Chafe, from Great Neck, takes swings during Naz Chafe, from Great Neck, takes swings during a tennis match at Great Neck Park district's Parkwood Sports Complex, which has indoor courts as well. (July 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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Woodland trails and tennis courts, sandy shores and skating rinks -- whether you prefer man-made or natural terrain for getting your fit on, buying a home on Long Island ensures an abundance of options for staying active. That's especially true in the summer, says Richard Laskowski, a professor and the former dean of physical education and athletics at Stony Brook University.

"We are on an island, and that affords us an unusual amount of summer activities, more than in other places," says Laskowski. "Water sports, surfing, wind surfing, stand-up paddle surfing. . . . You can kayak almost anywhere on Long Island. You have miles and miles of pristine private and public beaches."

And it's not just about the water, he adds. Thanks to the island's parks, trails and tempting summer weather, "you can bike, you can hike, you can run, do horseback riding in a number of places," he says.

Although Long Island homeowners never have to travel far to find fitness activities, certain communities have exceptional offerings for the active. Here are Newsday's picks for the best places to live on Long Island if you want easy access to athletic activities -- and a sampling of what you can get for each county's median sale price (or as close to it as possible): $390,000 for Nassau and $315,000 for Suffolk as of May.
 

COLD SPRING HARBOR

Hikers and cyclists seeking everything from family-friendly nature walks to challenging terrain will find what they're looking for along the scenic North Shore. "There is a lot of beautiful scenery," including views of Gold Coast mansions, says Bill Selsky, president of Long Island Bicycle Club. "Most cyclists in clubs would prefer the North Shore. It's a little more challenging, a little hillier, which is something we're kind of looking for." Members usually ride back roads off Route 25A and north of 25A, and through neighborhoods, he says.

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In fact, Cold Spring Harbor is the starting point for Long Island's first state Department of Transportation-designated long-distance bike route -- an 85-mile stretch beginning at the Long Island Rail Road station in Cold Spring Harbor and ending at the Orient Point ferry terminal. Other popular road routes that start in Cold Spring Harbor include a 16-mile route that travels through Lloyd Harbor to Caumsett State Historic Park, where riders can find a 2-mile off-road route to the Sound and a 15.8-mile roundtrip route that runs north on Cove Road, past Sagamore Hill to the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Cove Neck.

For hikers, Cold Spring Harbor's Uplands Farm Sanctuary, a 97-acre nature preserve, features a 2.4-mile double-loop trail that's well marked and mostly level, making it an inviting walk for beginners and families. For hikers who are ready to take it up a notch, that smallish trail connects to the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail in Cold Spring Harbor State Park. This one will challenge hikers, with unusually hilly terrain for Long Island, and reward them with gorgeous harbor views. The 40-acre park is a good place to exercise even in winter: It has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails.

$649,999

There are no homes for sale in Cold Spring Harbor listed at or near Suffolk County's median closed sale price of $315,000. The lowest- priced home in the community has three structures, two of which are pictured. It's listed with Risa Ziegler and Jyll Kata of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The highest-priced home is a five-bedroom, 3 1/2-bathroom Colonial on a 2.4-acre lot listed for $4.395 million.


GREAT NECK

For man-made athletic facilities, the Great Neck Park District is a standout -- especially for tennis players. District residents with a park card (free with proof of residency) can purchase a season tennis sticker for $75 ($65 for seniors) to play on 29 outdoor tennis courts throughout the district's parks. The Parkwood Sports Complex also offers a four-court indoor tennis center (court fees are $26-$33 an hour).

"Long Island in general is a great place for tennis enthusiasts, with a large number of public and private courts throughout both counties," but Great Neck is exceptional in this regard, says Bill Mecca, a Long Island representative for the United States Tennis Association. The district boasts 20 Har-Tru courts -- a soft, clay-like playing surface -- which, Mecca says, is "unusual for a public facility." He adds, "Their indoor venue is very well maintained and staffed." The area has a number of privately run tennis clubs as well, he says.

The district includes the Parkwood Sports Complex. In addition to tennis courts, the complex features an ice rink and ample facilities for water sports, including an Olympic-size swimming pool and an intermediate pool. And even Parkwood's lazy river isn't just for the lazy -- there are designated times for walking against the current for a resistance workout. The district includes the villages of Great Neck Plaza, Kensington, Kings Point, Russell Gardens, Saddle Rock Estates, Thomaston and the unincorporated village of Great Neck.

For tennis enthusiasts, nearby Garden City runs a close second to Great Neck, Mecca says. "Garden City also has a four-court indoor public facility, plus about 20 other courts."

$399,000

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This two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op features granite countertops, custom kitchen cabinetry and stainless-steel appliances. It's listed with Wendy Sanders of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Home prices in Great Neck range from $70,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op to $16.98 million for a six-bedroom waterfront Colonial.


WANTAGH

Though some post-Sandy house hunters express skittishness about buying in South Shore communities, you don't have to live in a flood zone to enjoy the South Shore lifestyle and a surprising variety of athletic offerings. Wantagh is a great example: The community has homes that are safely outside the FEMA flood zone -- such as the one pictured here -- and residents enjoy easy access to Jones Beach, as well as proximity to two Nassau County parks with a number of fitness amenities.

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Sports offerings at the waterfront Wantagh Park include a basketball court, five tennis courts and several ballfields, as well as two walking and cycling paths and a two-mile fitness trail with 20 activity stations for exercises, such as pullups, balance walking and sit-ups. The park's pool complex -- available to county residents at a steep discount compared to nonresidents -- includes an Olympic-size main pool, diving pool and training pool, as well as water features for kids.

And Wantagh's Cedar Creek Park has eight tennis courts, eight paddleball courts, two basketball courts and several playing fields. The park even has an archery range, sledding hills and a year-round roller rink. Walkers, joggers and cyclers can enjoy a 1.5-mile path and a 1-mile path within the park.

But for a longer jaunt, they can take the newly expanded Jones Beach bike path -- a paved pedestrian and bicycle path that originates at Cedar Creek Park and follows Wantagh Parkway all the way down to the beach. The flat, paved path is a favorite for beginners and casual cyclers, says Bill Selsky, president of the 200-member Long Island Bicycling Club. "It's scenic, protected, not on a road, and it gets you to Jones Beach." And if you've still got energy left to burn after that bike ride, the beach and boardwalk are, of course, perfect for a swim, walk or jog.

$394,999

This four-bedroom, two-bathroom expanded ranch features three-zone heat. It's listed with Joyce Friedman and Theodore Torgensen of Century 21 AA Realty. Homes for sale in Wantagh range from a four-bedroom, one-bathroom ranch for $100,000 to a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom Colonial for $829,000.


GREENPORT

The lush North Fork is a popular choice for scenic tours by bike, kayak or canoe, providing opportunities to observe birds, wildlife, flora and fauna while getting a great workout. "We have water on both sides, and it's only a mile or two across, so it really gives you a lot of access to water," says Doug Murphy, owner of Eagle's Neck Paddling Co., which offers bike and kayak rentals. "If you're looking to stay close to shore, we have a myriad of estuaries. There are dozens of creeks . . . and it's just a fabulous place."

The seaside village of Greenport is attractive to paddlers because of its proximity to Orient Beach and other alluring waterways. Greenport's Maritime Festival, held annually in September, even features a harbor-front kayak derby.

"If you're a sea kayaker, if you're into touring, you can go from Greenport to Shelter Island, or over to the south side," says Murphy, who has boat rental locations in Southold, New Suffolk and Orient. "Our best one is at Orient Beach State Park," he says. "I send families out there especially, because there's so much else to do. You can go out for the whole day -- swimming hiking, kayaking. It's a nice area for families to go."

To maximize your day of fitness, you could even skip the drive: A marked bikeway connects Greenport to the park.

$315,000

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This two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo is listed with Vincent Panettieri of Vin Pan Realty Inc. Home prices in Greenport range from $95,000 for a one-bedroom co-op to $7 million for a 7.8-acre, three-parcel waterfront estate with two houses.


BETHPAGE

Bethpage State Park is a golfer's dream, with five 18-hole regulation golf courses that are open to the public. The most famous, of course, is the devilishly challenging Black Course, which has twice hosted the U.S. Open golf championship. Bethpage Black is only recommended for low-handicap golfers. Beginners can feel comfortable playing on the Yellow Course or the gently sloped Green Course, while those seeking a moderate challenge may prefer the Blue Course or the Red Course.

Living anywhere in New York State grants golfers a generous reduction in fees -- residents pay only about half what nonresidents pay to play. But those who choose to buy a home in Bethpage have the added advantage of a short trip to the course, reducing the risk of missing tee time due to traffic. The park's fitness amenities also include playing fields, sports courts and bridle paths.

Bethpage also offers natural attractions for the active. Densely developed Nassau County may not be the first place that springs to mind for outdoorsy pursuits such as hiking or cycling. But if you prefer Nassau's proximity to the city, living in a community along the 20-mile Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, which spans the north-south stretch from Cold Spring Harbor State Park to the Massapequa Preserve, will put you steps away from a precious sliver of preserved nature -- and the longest hiking trail in the county. Bethpage offers access to that trail, as well as a popular four-mile, mixed-terrain mountain bike trail that parallels parts of the paved path.

For road riders, the 80-mile Central Suffolk Bikeway also originates at Bethpage State Park. Cyclists ride along Quaker Meeting House Road, Bethpage Road and Main Street to the Long Island Rail Road station in Farmingdale. From there, the route follows the rail line, running clear out to Riverhead.

$399,000

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This five-bedroom, two-bath expanded ranch has a new stove and refrigerator. It's listed with John Pentecost of Graceful Park Realty. Home prices in Bethpage range from $124,900 for a one-bedroom, one-bath co-op to $699,990 for a four-bedroom, 2 1/2 bathroom high-ranch.

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