This surfer catches a wave in Long Beach.

This surfer catches a wave in Long Beach. Credit: Newsday / Kathy Kmonicek

Sure, Long Island has great beaches. But where would you go if you wanted to, say, gather sea shells? Watch surfers? Whether you want to find a stretch of sand in the center of the action or dodge the crowd altogether on a secluded beach, here's a tip sheet to the area's surf and sand.


ORIENT BEACH STATE PARK: East end of Main Road (Route 25), Orient, 631-323-2440, Parking: $8 June 27 through Labor Day

"This is where you'll see the largest shells and the most unbroken shells," says George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director for New York State Parks. "You'll also see a lot of unusual shells, such as the fan [scallop] types, conch-type and razor and other clam shells." You may see tiny shells, sometimes called jingle shells, in various colors.


MONTAUK POINT: Hither Hills, 631-668-2500, 631-668-2554

Frank Silipo, park supervisor, says clear beach glass is most common, but occasionally you see pieces from old blue and green glass bottles. If driftwood tickles your fancy, all sizes and types wash up, too.


GILGO BEACH: Ocean Parkway, off Wantagh and Robert Moses parkways, Babylon, 631-826-1255, Parking: $15-$25 daily (nonresident); $30 resident season pass

"The waves break good, and it is a popular destination for people around here," says Charlie Bunger, 38, whose family owns Bunger Surf Shop in Babylon and operates a rental shack at Gilgo. "It also is a great place to watch people surf."

Also try: Democrat Point at Robert Moses State Park; Long Beach (near Lincoln Boulevard); Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays


MONTAUK DOWNS STATE PARK: 50 S. Fairview Ave., Montauk, 631-668-3781. Parking: Free

Because of its golf course, Montauk Downs gets a lot of celebrity traffic. Park employees say they've gotten autographs from "Sex and the City's" Kim Cattrall, Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad.

HITHER HILLS STATE PARK: Old Montauk Highway, 631-668-2554

People-watching is a good bet at Hither Hills State Park, which also is prized by those who, like Greta Garbo, "want to be left alone."


WATCH HILL BEACH: Fire Island, 631-687-4750. Parking: Free ($16 adult round-trip ferry from Patchogue)

This beach has two personalities, says Paula Valentine, Fire Island National Seashore public affairs specialist. While weekends are usually busy - if you come on a Monday or Tuesday, you can find a stretch of sand to walk and enjoy the solitude.


JONES BEACH STATE PARK: 1 Ocean Pkwy., Wantagh, 516-785-1600. Parking: $8 daily through Sept. 13

More than 100,000 people visited Jones Beach's 6.2 miles of sand over Memorial Day weekend alone. It's the undisputed place to meet friends or people-watch at almost any hour. Stroll the boardwalk, or just grab some sand and wait for the world to come to you.


GOV. ALFRED E. SMITH / SUNKEN MEADOW STATE PARK: North end of Sunken Meadow State Parkway, Kings Park, 631-269-4333. Parking: $8 through Sept. 13

You'll find at least a playground or a ballfield at most Island beaches. But there's a lot to keep you busy here: Three playgrounds, six softball fields, a soccer field, eight basketball courts, a golf course, driving range and putting green. Also try Jones Beach for its lighted shuffleboard, miniature golf and paddle tennis courts.

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