Spring arrives a little early this year — at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 20 to be exact — but not a moment too soon for early birds eager to enjoy Long Island’s most invigorating season.
You can take a carefree stroll on a sandy beach — parking is free and crowds are sparse this time of year at Jones Beach, Robert Moses and other state parks. Or jump the gardening season with a look at what’s new for the growing season.
Here are activities that take advantage of daylight saving time’s extra hour of sunshine and that refreshing early spring air:
OLD WESTBURY GARDENS
WHEN | WHERE Beginning March 31, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Tuesdays, Old Westbury
INFO 516-333-0048, oldwestburygardens.org
ADMISSION $12 ($7 ages 7-17)
The meticulously preserved Gold Coast estate presents an opulent backdrop for romantic spring strolls — and family Instagramming. Turn back the clock to the Gilded Age on a tour of the Charles II-style mansion and 200 acres of formal gardens and landscaped grounds, which are dotted with scenic ponds.
HIKE TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
WHEN | WHERE Open daily, sunrise to sunset, Robert Moses State Park, Field 5, Babylon
ADMISSION Free state park admission through March 31
Roll down the windows and breathe in the salty air (and oceanfront scenery) along the Robert Moses Causeway and the Ocean Parkway on your way to the eastern end of Robert Moses State Park, Field 5. You’ll be walking an enchanting pathway: a three-quarter mile boardwalk trail through the shifting dunes. (Deer may stop by for photo ops.) Keep walking to the Fire Island National Seashore for views and tours of the Fire Island Lighthouse, completed in 1853 and still one of the highest points on Long Island. ($4-$8 tours, 631-661-4876).
The Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island
WHEN | WHERE Morning hikes (start times vary and are weather-dependent) March 25, April 14, 15, 28 and 29, Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Beach
INFO 631-319-6003, cresli.org
ADMISSION $5 suggested donation ($3 younger than 19)
New York State Parks
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. March 24 and 25, and 2 p.m. March 31, Montauk Point State Park
ADMISSION $4 (free younger than 3)
In springlike weather, you might not need to bundle up so much to see the seals that haul out to sunbathe on shoreline rocks through April. Take a guided walk to bid farewell to the frisky critters before they migrate north.
Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference hike
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m. March 31, Sans Souci County Park, Broadway Avenue, Sayville. Meet at park entrance on Broadway Avenue.
INFO 631-567-9484, ligreenbelt.org
Get back to nature with Tom Casey, a retired Copiague High School English teacher and amateur naturalist who leads 30 Greenbelt Trail hikes a year. Casey leads a 3.5-mile hike along the Browns River, talking about the habitat along the way. The view on the flat, sandy trail includes onetime commercial cranberry bogs now known as the Sans Souci lakes, and the occasional red fox sighting.