Most people go to Jones Beach hoping for sunshine and fair weather, but Ivan Duma, 33, of North Bellmore, hopes for snow — lots of it, covering the white sand as far as the eye can see.
"When it snows, you can go snow-kiting with skis or a snowboard," explains Duma, who was at Field 6 on a recent January afternoon letting a stiff wind lift up a nylon kite that will pull him along the beach on a future snowy day.
For hardy outdoor types, winter is almost as much fun as summer at the parks along the scenic Ocean Parkway. Intrepid beachgoers can also take a nature hike to see visiting seals or native deer, stroll and dine on a boardwalk, climb to the top of a lighthouse, or fish from a pier or on a boat trip. The highlights:
Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh
INFO 516-785-1600, nysparks.com
On winter weekends, the Jones Beach boardwalk fills with people strolling for exercise and relaxation, says state parks spokesman George Gorman Jr. "People come down to the boardwalk just to see the snow on the beach," he says.
With parking fields 4, 6 and West End 2 open daily until sunset (the vehicle use fee is waived until April), visitors can stroll the boardwalk's full two-mile length, stopping for food and drinks at the Central Mall concession (open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily). Die-hard anglers can cast a line from the Field 10 fishing piers.
WHEN | WHERE 10:30 a.m. Jan. 18; 1:30 p.m. Jan. 24, Feb. 1, Feb. 21 and March 1 at Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, Jones Beach State Park West End Field No. 1. Reservations required.
ADMISSION $4 (free younger than 3)
Looking to commune with wildlife from the frozen north? The Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center once again offers its popular seal walks. A naturalist leads a 11/2-hour trek to a spot where as many as four species of seals can be seen frolicking in the sea and sand. Dress for cold weather, and bring binoculars.
Captree State Park, East Ocean Parkway, Babylon
INFO 631-669-0449, nysparks.com
Get a plate of crispy fried clams and fries at the Captree Cove concession stand (9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. weekends through winter, 631-376-1866, captreecoverestaurant.com). Enjoy it in the sunny indoor dining room with a view of the Captree boat basin. Feeling adventurous? Take a winter fishing trip aboard the Captree Princess, which heads out daily at 6 a.m. for cod and ling. And, yes, it has a heated cabin ($40-$90, 631-859-8799, captreeprincess.com).
Robert Moses State Park, Robert Moses State Parkway, Babylon
Fields 2 and 5 — the latter popular with nature lovers — are open all winter long for fans of this five-mile stretch of Atlantic Ocean beach. A hawk-watching platform, located just east of Field 5, is popular with Audubon Society types. Also on the east side of the parking field: the entrance to a boardwalk through a nature area frequented by deer and red fox. Keep walking to the Fire Island National Seashore and the Fire Island Lighthouse.
Fire Island Lighthouse
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends. Tower closes at 3 p.m. Must be at least 42 inches tall.
INFO 631-661-4876, fireislandlighthouse.com
ADMISSION $7 ($4 children younger than 12)
After your boardwalk wilderness trek, warm up with hot cocoa at the lighthouse museum. Visit the gift shop for a souvenir or climb the winding tower steps for a 360-degree panorama of winter beach scenery. If it's below freezing outside, take a quick stroll to the ocean or the scenic bay beach for a rare sight. "In the winter when it gets really cold, the bay will freeze up, and it's pretty," says lighthouse staffer Patti Stanton.