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Long Island beaches: How to avoid paying parking fees

Avoid traffic and parking fees with the following

Avoid traffic and parking fees with the following tips and tricks. Credit: Joel Cairo

With some of the highest ranked beaches in the world, it’s no wonder Long Island sees countless individuals flock to its shores each summer.

Sitting in the sand and listening to the waves gently roll against the shore is about as relaxing as it gets; trying to get to the beach, however, is anything but. Between battling traffic, finding parking and having to pay for said parking, a trip to the beach can cause just as much stress as it relieves.

It doesn’t have to be though.

With a few simple tricks, the costs and stress of a trip to the beach can be greatly reduced, or even eliminated.

Jones Beach

Arguably Long Island’s most well known beach, Jones Beach State Park sees between 6 million and 8 million visitors each year, most of whom have to fork over anywhere from $8 to $10 for parking per vehicle. With 6.5 miles of shoreline, Jones Beach has multiple points of entry along the Ocean Parkway, presenting a couple of unique opportunities to get on the beach without paying.

For those near the Wantagh Parkway, consider leaving the car at home and breaking out the bicycle to pedal your way to Jones Beach. Beginning at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford, the Jones Beach bicycle path runs along Wantagh Parkway for 5.3 miles, ending at the Atlantic Ocean. If you don’t live near Cedar Creek Park, consider parking at the county-owned park and taking your bicycle from there to the beach. The bicycle ride may seem long at first glance, but the miles go by fast and provide some excellent scenery along the way. Just remember to bring a lock for your bicycle for when you finally get to Jones Beach.

If biking isn’t your thing, you’re still in luck. NICE Bus’ 88 line runs in the summer from the Freeport Long Island Rail Road station to Jones Beach. It may not be free, but $2.75 for a bus ride is still better than $10 per trip. One caveat: The more people traveling together, the more it would make sense just to drive — or bike — together.

Long Beach

As anyone who lives or visits there frequently knows, there’s so much more to Long Beach than just the surf and sand. Long Island’s largest city is just that: a bustling community bordering miles of great beaches.

Parking at Long Beach — especially in the summer — can be challenging at best and downright frustrating at worst. Those nonresidents seeking a season parking permit will be set back $300. While that may be worthwhile for frequent visitors, those traveling to Long Beach a handful of times may want to look into taking the train. Long Beach has its own LIRR line offshooting from the main Babylon line.

Robert Moses State Park beach

There are plenty of methods for getting to the beach in Suffolk as cost efficiently as possible as well. Take Robert Moses State Park for example; either catch a train to Babylon or simply park at the station and catch the bus to this beach for just $2.25 each way. Not only will you save on parking, you’ll also save on patience from sitting in traffic along the Robert Moses Causeway as you inch ever closer to your sandy destination.

Fire Island

Unless you have your own boat — or, better yet, know someone else who does — a free trip to Fire Island is unlikely. But that doesn’t mean getting there has to be expensive.

Visitors can purchase combination tickets on the Long Island Rail Road that includes round trip train tickets to either Bay Shore or Patchogue, ferry tickets and taxi tickets for taking customers from the train stations to the ferry terminals and vice versa, all for under $40. When purchasing tickets at the train station, select “Deals & Getaways” and then “Beach Getaways” to access the deals.

Alternatively, parking at either the Patchogue or Bay Shore train stations and walking to the ferry terminals is an option, but spots are likely to be filled up.

Smith Point County Park beach

From the Mastic-Shirley Long Island Rail Road station, Smith Point County Park beach is only 4.4 miles away. To avoid paying the $15 per vehicle for parking at the beach park, consider taking the S-7E bus — available only in the summer — from the train station to the beach.

While William Floyd Parkway lacks a dedicated bicycle lane like the Wantagh Parkway, biking from the train station to Smith Point is still an option.

Other options

If all of that sounds like too much work for getting to the beach, consider simply going outside of typical hours. For all of the county and state park beaches, get up early and get to the parking fields before 8 a.m. in order to not only beat the traffic, but avoid paying fares as well. Alternatively, head to the beaches once the fare collectors head home — between 4 and 6 p.m. depending on the beach — and enjoy the beach after most have already packed it in for the day. Those who take this option at Cedar Beach, Overlook Beach, Smith Point, Meschutt Beach or Cupsogue Beach will be treated to live music and entertainment until well past dusk at the Beach Hut establishments located at these beaches.

Finally, purchasing a town resident pass, a Suffolk County Green Key, Nassau County Leisure Pass or Empire Passport can save a lot of money for frequent beachgoers who would rather not get creative to avoid paying for parking.

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