Winter doesn't mean only battening down the hatches and putting away the sneakers: It can be the perfect season to do some exploring. We asked sketch artist Nirmal Mitra, who’s also a copy editor at Newsday, to illustrate five of Long Island's best off-the-beaten-path spots to visit before the year ends. Mitra broke his ankle while scouting for this series, but said the dramatic view was worth the agony.
Even with winter coming, Smithtown's Stump Pond Loop invites both adventure and reflection. Our sketch artist described the 5-mile trail as a tunnel of green and gold. Part of the Long Island Green Belt Trail Conference, the stretch begins in the north end of Blydenburgh County Park and goes around Stump Pond. So when you're done decking the halls and decorating the tree, you may want to spend some time enjoying a brisk hike through nature's corridors. (Address: 102 New Mill Rd, Smithtown)
Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve
Not easy to find, the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve is tucked away behind the Town of Hempstead's sanitation department and a golf course just off the Meadowbrook State Parkway in Merrick. But the only traffic here is a herd of grazing Nigerian dwarf goats, which are used to keep down brush and weeds. Depending on how cold the weather gets, visitors may see the goats roaming paths that lead to panoramic views of Long Beach and, if you squint, the Manhattan skyline, as well. (Address: Meadowbrook State Pkwy, Merrick)
Old Field Point Lighthouse
If you have time this holiday season, make the trip up Old Field Road to the Old Field Point Lighthouse. If you don't already live nearby, it's well worth the drive to the North Shore to see its distinctive stone edifice, keeper's cottage and views of the Long Island Sound and Port Jefferson Harbor. The structure was originally built in 1823, and rebuilt in the 1860s. Dress warmly and take in the view of the old lighthouse standing guard against the ocean. (Address: 207 Old Field Road, Setauket)
David Weld Sanctuary
The David Weld Sanctuary in Nissequogue is a glorious but forbidding place that "almost wants to be left alone," Mitra says. The 50-foot bluff that meets the stone-covered beach can be navigated safely, if you know which pathway to take. But the absence of signage makes that tricky. Our artist broke his ankle there while scouting for this series. But the dramatic view was worth the agony, he said. (Address: Boney Lane, St James)
McNulty's Ice Cream Parlor
For those missing summer, the long drive through the woods of Miller Place to McNulty's Ice Cream Parlor is a sure-fire cure. The spot is hard to miss with its sand-covered parking lot, ice cream cone sign and colorful beach chairs. It's also conveniently located near the Carter Christmas Tree Farm. Recommended: McNulty's pumpkin ice cream topped off with some summer nostalgia and Christmas carols. (Address: 153 North Country Rd, Miller Place) But, if you'd like something nearby, try one of the options listed here.