Long Island is a beachgoers’ paradise with many choices on a summer day — from the South Shore’s vast state parks, to the quieter crescents of the rocky North Shore and the pristine white sands of the East End. We’ve combed the Island for four sandy (or pebbly) strands that stand out from the crowd for unique vibes, distinct flavors and magnificent shorefront vistas.
FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
SUNKEN MEADOW STATE PARK, SMITHTOWN. Generations of kids have taken their first saltwater dip in Sunken Meadow’s stretch of the Long Island Sound, which is gentle enough for tots to wade in. On hot summer days, families arrive in droves to spread blankets, umbrellas and lawn chairs on the crunchy pebble beach (water shoes recommended). It’s a scenic panorama with bluffs rising above the western end of the shoreline, and Connecticut’s shore to the north. Après-swim, snacks and drinks can be purchased at the concession on the three-quarter-mile boardwalk. Need to freshen up for the ride home? Showers are located outdoors on the beach and in the recently renovated restrooms.
CONEY ISLAND-STYLE FUN
LONG BEACH. It’s no coincidence that Long Beach’s 3.3-mile beach and 2.2-mile boardwalk recall Brooklyn’s seaside promenade: Both were designed by William H. Reynolds, the early 20th century entrepreneur who also built Coney’s Dreamland amusement park. Long Beach’s powdery-soft white sand is a summer playground not only for sunbathing and lifeguard-supervised swimming daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It also buzzes with volleyball tournaments, concerts and al fresco dining.
Breathe the salt air on a boardwalk stroll with an ice cream in hand, or stop for tacos, a deli sandwich or even an acai bowl at one of the eateries that have been popping up post-Sandy reconstruction. Options include five food concessions, mobile carts and “The Shoregasboard” food truck market at Riverside Boulevard. If you’d rather bike the boardwalk, for a fee you can rent two-wheel transportation at a Social Bicycles station located at Edwards Boulevard.
A TASTE OF THE CARIBBEAN
FIRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE. Fire Island is the next best thing to a Caribbean getaway, and it’s just a ferry ride away on the Great South Bay. Its 17 private communities are carefree places where flip-flops and toy wagons are the main mode of transportation (no cars allowed) — expect Instagram-worthy sunsets wherever you go.
The wildest part of the island, however, is the Fire Island National Seashore, one of only 10 federally protected national seashores in the country. Officials suggest a day trip itinerary that combines both nature and night life: take the Sayville Ferry Service to Sailors Haven, and hike Sunken Forest’s one-and-one-mile boardwalk. Then shower at Sailor’s Haven’s restroom facilities and change into your evening clothes for a three-quarter mile walk to the welcoming cocktail bars and seafood restaurants of Cherry Grove. Catch a ferry from Cherry Grove back to Sayville.
COOPERS BEACH, SOUTHAMPTON. Like Main Beach in East Hampton, Coopers is regularly rated among the top 10 beaches in the nation by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. Last year the self-dubbed Dr. Beach ranked Coopers fifth, praising its “white quartz sand” within view of luxury real estate.
But it can be a pricey challenge to enjoy a day catching rays alongside international celebrities and other Hamptons summer folk. Even with a nonresident day pass of $50 per car, parking tends to fill up early in the day at Coopers, the best known of 11 beaches on the Village of Southampton’s seven-mile oceanfront. If you get in, rent chairs and an umbrella, buy a snack at the beach concession, and just soak up the dreamy Hamptons sunlight and the stunning view of the blue Atlantic.