Sturdy shoes and a sense of adventure — that's all you really need to plan a day visiting one of Long Island's landmark beacons. Sure, you'll get a dose of history and a workout as you climb to the top of these lighthouses, but the reward is unparalleled views of the shorelines. What's more, you can round out the experience with a post-tour brunch, a sunset cocktail or even a boat ride back to land.
FILL YOUR CAMERA ROLL & WATCH THE SUNSET
MONTAUK POINT LIGHTHOUSE It’s the state's oldest lighthouse (completed in 1796) and a National Historic Landmark to boot. The beacon remains one of Long Island’s most-photographed landmarks. Few visitors can resist lingering in the swing benches lining the parking lot to take a selfie with the tower looming in the background. Others prefer to descend the dirt trail to the picture-perfect pebbly beach for spectacular photos of sunset, cascading cliffs and crashing surf.
GETTING THERE It is located at the eastern end of State Route 27 on property owned and maintained by the Montauk Historical Society. Park in the adjacent Montauk Point State Park’s huge lot ($8 parking until 4 p.m.).
CLIMB THE TOWER If you’re intent on climbing the tower, you’ll need to get your ticket at least 30 minutes before closing time (in the summer, that’s 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 7 p.m. weekends). ($15 adults, $10 ages 62 and older, $5 ages 12 and younger; must be at least 41 inches tall to climb.)
GET A DRINK The park’s upgraded concession, George’s Lighthouse Café, has been a lively spot to grab a craft beer or cocktail and relax on the umbrella-dotted outdoor terrace for social media-worthy photos of the tower in the backdrop — or the sunset.
GOOD TO KNOW It’s tempting to explore the cliff rock wall at the base of the tower’s hill in search of better photo-ops, but be careful and pay attention to the warning signs. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the NY Department of Environmental Conservation are working together to create a revetment around Montauk Point to protect it from erosion. Unfortunately, this means that there will be no visitor access to the cliff rock wall at the base of the tower for the rest of this year,” says Mia Certic, executive director of the Montauk Historical Society.
TAKE A HIKE & GET A BITE
FIRE ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE Long Island’s tallest lighthouse (180 feet) welcomes visitors to the first-floor gift shop for a souvenir lighthouse miniature ($6). Step into the building next door for a look at the original Fresnel lens that used to helm the landmark. View the Keeper's Quarters museum. The boathouse also is worth a walk to view a Surf Boat and equipment used by the U.S. Life-Saving Service, one of the forerunners of the U.S. Coast Guard.
GETTING THERE The lighthouse is the gem of the Fire Island National Seashore, a 26-mile federally protected area just east of Robert Moses State Park. Park in Field 5 ($10), then be prepared for the nearly 1-mile, flat trek through wetlands on the boardwalk heading east.
CLIMB THE TOWER Tower climb may be closed for repairs due to recent storm damage. Check website for reopening.
GET A BITE Push on by foot to Fire Island’s westernmost community of Kismet — you can walk along the gravel road behind the lighthouse or cross over to the ocean beach for the 30-minute stroll. Once there, head to Dive for drinks and tacos powered by live entertainment. Or try the Kismet Inn to stoke your return jaunt with salad, seafood and burgers.
GOOD TO KNOW Wear sturdy shoes; bring bug spray.
TAKE A LIGHTHOUSE CRUISE
EAST END LIGHTHOUSES Lighthouse lovers can knock off a slew of offshore beacons from their sightings bucket list with an all-day cruise from Greenport. Organized by the East End Seaport Museum, most cruises last two hours and visit various locations across the Peconic Bay. They include a stop for a foot tour of the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, aka "Bug Light," narrated by a local resident. Visitors can enter the lighthouse, walk around on its first and second floors and stroll the wraparound deck for views of Peconic Bay. Offering other outings including a "Super Cruise" covering multiple East End lighthouses.
TAKE A CRUISE Purchase tickets online ($59 adults, $49.50 senior/student or military, $25 ages 2-11).
GET A BITE Greenport has a full slate of restaurants for a quick or leisurely meal. Well-known Claudio's has lively outdoor seating areas perched right at the water's edge.
GOOD TO KNOW Cruise reservations are essential.