Sure, Long Island has miles of beaches with sun, surf and sand to enjoy in the summer, but there are also plenty of things to enjoy outdoors all year round.
Richard D. Fowler Preserve
Richard D. Fowler Preserve, Southampton
According to Marilyn Kirkbright, President of Southampton Trails Preservation Society, this trail is a pleasant short hike right in Southampton Village. The trail begins near the intersection of Wickapogue Road and Narrow Lane and heads through a wooded area with a stream that you can see from Wickapogue Road. Then it reaches a salt marsh, where it turns along a grassy corridor to Old Town Road and the site where the first settlers spent their first winter. The final leg is a walk along Wickapogue Road back to your parked car.
Sunken Forest National Park
Sunken Forest National Park, Fire Island
Kids will delight in the 20-minute ferry ride that brings them to Sailor's Haven, next to Sunken Meadow Forest.
Visitors are welcome to walk alone on the wooded boardwalk through the forest, but National Fire Island Seashore rangers also give free guided tours from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge
Quogue Wildlife Refuge, East Quogue
This nature preserve has been tending and rehabilitating animals since the 1930s, and its wooded property is a great place to take a hike.
There are 7 miles of trails along these rustic but well-blazed paths, with one that has a mile-long loop around the Old Ice Pond, "a great spot to spot turtles and fish from the bridge," says Marisa Nelson, program director.
The paths are well-marked, on flat terrain and are stroller-friendly.
An English yew tree is a common sight in the arboretum of the LIU Post campus in Brookville.
Connetquot River State Park Preserve
Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale
Tom Casey, vice president of the Greenbelt Trail Conference, recommends this park for families because they can hike any part of the 50 miles, and it's pretty. "It's a very easy walk," he says.
LIU Post Arboretum: A well-kept secret
A path leads to a surprise at the arboretum on the LIU Post campus in Brookville.
Downs Farm Preserve
Downs Farm Preserve, Cutchogue
This family-friendly place is an easy walk for small ones; the trail is little more than a mile long.
And it's clearly marked, flat and stroller-friendly, says Missy Weiss, the former environmental educator and program manager for the preserve.
"It's a very simple loop," she says. "It's impossible to get lost."
Planting Fields greenhouse
Visitors stroll through the aisles of the main greenhouse at Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay.
The vibrant red berries of a tree are seen on a square near Calkins Hall on the south campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead.
A female great horned owl called "Mama" sits inside the Volunteers for Wildlife Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Center aviary at Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown.
Explore a nature preserve
Get up close and personal with nature at Caumsett Historic Park. Find other Long Island nature preserves in our handy guide..
While the gardens are the estate's big draw, the woods at Planting Fields Arboretum have well-worn paths, too, says Simeone.
"A lot of people just come for that," he says.
INFO: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; $8 per carload; 1395 Planting Fields Rd., Oyster Bay; 516-922-9200, plantingfields.org.
Older kids and adults can expand that walk on the Southampton Trails with a guided tour (always free) through the adjacent woods. The tour is run by the Southampton Trail Preservation Society.
INFO: Museum admission is $7, $5 ages 3-12; 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton; 631-537-9735. See southamptontrails.org for more guided trails.
Along the way, hikers at Connetquot River State Park Preserve will see deer, waterfowl and ospreys among the flora.
"You walk past historic buildings, like an old mill, and have great views of the river," Casey says.
INFO: 4090 Sunrise Hwy., Oakdale. Wednesdays-Sundays. $8 parking. 631-581-1005, nysparks.com/parks/8/details.aspx.
Visit Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
A visitor enters the Camellia House at Planting Fields in Oyster Bay.
A cluster of sculpted English yew trees pleases the eye at the arboretum of the campus of LIU Post in Brookville.
A statue greets visitors at the entrance of a Pinetum near the Spiegel Theater on the south campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead. (Dec. 27, 2011)
The walking trail at Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown is covered with fallen leaves in winter.
Sagamore Hill has a nature trail that loops through woodlands.
"The total round-trip is about a mile, and you get a lot of variety along the way," Christiansen says.
While some areas are a bit steep, it's suitable for children 6 and older.
INFO: Open sunrise to sunset daily; free; 20 Sagamore Hill Rd., Cove Neck; 516-922-4788, nps.gov/sahi/index.htm.
A vintage brick and mortar bench sits in the arboretum on the campus of LIU Post in Brookville.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay
Nearly half the 409 acres of the former estate and current state park arboretum property is woodland, says Planting Fields director Vincent Simeone.
Expect to see lots of wildlife, from foxes and chipmunks to birds of prey, such as red-tailed hawks and great horned owls, a delight for kids.
Walkers can select from six different paths, covering about six miles in total, as well as all different lengths to accommodate different ages and abilities.
When you're at Blydenburgh County Park, go in the north entrance off New Mill Road near Route 347, where the main office of the Greenbelt Trail Conference is situated. The office can provide information and maps. The start of the trails also is here.
INFO: Dawn to dusk. Northern entrance is at the end of New Mill Road; 631-360-0753 (conference number) or 631-854-3713 (park number). No parking fee on north entrance; ligreenbelt.org.
Explore Sagamore Hill
Sagamore Hill, Cove Neck
Walk along the same path that President Theodore Roosevelt strolled with his own family and guests.
Sagamore Hill, now a national park, was once the summer home of the 26th president. The expansive property has a nature trail that loops through woodlands where hikers can walk over a little bridge that spans a salt marsh creek and passes by Cold Spring Harbor's waterfront, says Martin Christiansen, chief of visitors services at the site.
Old Westbury Gardens includes the Westbury House mansion.
A dawn redwood tree reaches upward at the Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown. (Dec. 28, 2011)
Sunken Forest is considered unique for its odd mix of forest, beach plants and freshwater flora as well as 40-foot holly trees.
Mosquitoes love the forest, too, so cover up with insect repellent.
INFO: $13 adults; $7.50 children younger than 11. Sayville Terminal, 41 River Rd.; see schedule at sayvilleferry.com or call 631-589-0810. Sailors Haven Visitor Center, which is right by the ferry drop-off: 631-597-6183.
Stroll the grounds and arboretum at Hofstra University
A sculpture titled "Creating" by J. Seward Johnson Jr. sits on the lawn near Hofstra Hall at Hofstra University in Hempstead.
Feel dwarfed by trees at Bailey Arboretum
Moss grows on a dawn redwood tree at the Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown.
This trail takes about one hour and is perfect for families.
INFO: Wickapogue Road just east of Narrow Lane, Southampton.
Mallard ducks swim in the pond at Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown.
A tree extends to the sky in the Pinetum near the Spiegel Theater on the south campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead. To become a Tree City, a community must have a department that attends to trees, a tree-care ordinance, a community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance.
After your walk around the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, the children will love seeing the animals that have been rescued or were injured and are being rehabilitated at the site, now including owls, a bald eagle and a red fox.
For older children, try the 3-mile trail that goes around the northern end of the refuge through the dwarf pines, an ecologically rare animal habitat.
INFO: Open sunrise to sunset daily. Free. 3 Old Country Rd., East Quogue. 631-653-4771, quoguewildliferefuge.org.
Clean up the yard
Those leaves aren't going to rake themselves. Here are more garden chores and advice for Long Island homeowners.
The trail at Downs Farm Preserve winds through trees and is parallel to Downs Creek, with benches along the way to rest and look at the views if the little ones get tired.
The preserve is home to a fort of the Corchaug Indian tribe that is on the National Park Register of Historic Places.
While you can't go in the fort, the whole 51-acre parcel is considered ancient land. "We say that we are hiking and walking on land that is potentially where Native Americans once walked, hunted and played," Weiss says.
INFO: Open daily, dawn to dusk; free; Route 25, Cutchogue; 631-765-6450, groupfortheeastend.org.
Tackapausha Preserve, Seaford
Part of the Greenbelt Trail, the preserve is a fun walk for kids, and a stop at the museum completes a great day.
Guided walks at the county museum are available on request, for both groups and individuals.
"We cater to everybody," says Dennis Fleury, site director at the Tackapausha Museum.
Have a drink outdoors
Have some rum punch in the sandy beach area overlooking Patchogue River at Off Key Tikki bar in Patchogue. And you can just as easily sit outdoors and unwind with a drink at these great Long Island spots.
The Southampton Trail Preservation Society runs many guided trails in the Hamptons, some suitable for even small children.
Behind the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton is a small field that loops around and usually has butterflies and birds flying about. Afterward, stop by the museum, where there are plenty of children's programs about the environment.
At Tackapausha Preserve, paths are flat, well-maintained and clearly marked, with a pond with bridges and a waterfall along the way.
At the museum, kids can see owls, foxes, turtles and other animals.
INFO: Trails free and open sunrise to sunset; museum open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; admission $3 adults, $2 for children ages 5 to 12 and seniors, free for ages 4 and younger; 2225 Washington Ave., Seaford, 516-571-7443, nwsdy.li/tackapausha.
Visit Old Westbury Gardens and the Phipps Estate
Old Westbury Gardens, a Charles II-style mansion located on the North Shore, is offering guided "back stairs" tours for the first time since the estate opened to the public in 1960, giving visitors a glimpse at how the servers lived.
A tabletop scotch elm fans out over a walking path in the arboretum of the LIU Post campus in Brookville.
Brickwork dating back to the original construction of the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post can still be seen in the arboretum of the LIU Post campus in Brookville.
Take a ride on two wheels
Strap on your helmet and head to one of Long Island's beautiful bicycle trails. You'll find smooth paths and beautiful scenery at Bethpage Bike Path, Bethpage Mountain Bike Trail, Central Suffolk Bikeway, Cathedral Pines County Park, Eastport Trail, Heckscher Park Trail to Central Islip, Hempstead Turnpike Trail, Huntington-Lloyd Neck Trail, Jones Beach Trail, Kings Park Bike Trail, Nassau-Suffolk Bike Greenbelt Mountain Bike Trail, Shelter Island Trail, South Fork Trail -- and down your own block and around town.
Here, a cyclist rides over a small bridge on the Bethpage Bikeway of the Massapequa Preserve. The bike path runs from the middle of the Island in Bethpage to the South Shore village of Massapequa, paralleling the southern section of the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail.
Blydenburgh County Park
Blydenburgh County Park, Hauppauge
The east side is flat, making the walk very kid-friendly. The west side is a bit more hilly, but both have spectacular water views of the pond. On the east side is also the rowboat concession and benches, as well as picnic tables.
An American Elm tree dominates the courtyard in between administrative buildings near the arboretum on the LIU Post campus in Brookville. (Dec. 27, 2011)