Strolling Long Island's boardwalks has always been a quintessential cheap date, where couples can meander hand-in-hand to the romantic sound of crashing surf. However, just about anyone with a yen for salt air and crowds can find relaxation on the wooden seaside promenades ranging from three-quarters of a mile to more than 2 miles long.

This year, improvements have been made. Eighty percent of the Jones Beach boardwalk has been replaced with Brazilian hardwood, says George Gorman Jr., New York State Parks deputy regional director. The boardwalk at the Fire Island National Seashore is being resurfaced with a recycled lumber product, said FINS spokeswoman Paula Valentine.


Free concerts, craft fairs, romantic sunsets, recreation and wildlife sightings also await those who tread the boardwalks in summer. Parking is free at state parks after 6 p.m. on weekends and 4 p.m. weekdays. In Long Beach, if you can't find a space on nearby streets, try the 50-cents-an-hour municipal lot near the Long Island Rail Road station.

Here's where to have some fun on the boardwalks:


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Distance: 2 miles, from Fields 1 to 6, portions concrete.

What's there
: Food, games, concerts - you name it. Buy a cone at the Friendly's ice cream parlor at the West Bathhouse or the soft-serve window at the Central Mall at Field 4. Play shuffleboard, basketball, paddle tennis or mini-golf - or take your beloved to dance or hear a free concert at the band shell.

Good to know
: There's a new lighted playground.


Distance: 2.2 miles from New York Avenue and Neptune Boulevard.

What's there: You'll need a beach pass ($10 a day) to hit the sand 9 a.m.-6 p.m., but the Long Beach Boardwalk is free and open to everyone all day. It's a popular spot for visitors from other parts of Long Island as well as residents of the adjacent apartment buildings. You can walk, run or bike - the latter in a 14-foot-wide bike lane that cuts a swath down the middle of the boardwalk. Free concerts are offered on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8 during July and August.

Good to know: If you don't want to walk to Park Avenue restaurants and takeouts, there's a boardwalk concession stand at National Boulevard.


Distance: About three-quarters of a mile from the entrance at the east end of Robert Moses State Park Parking Field 5, to the Fire Island Lighthouse at the Fire Island National Seashore.

What's there: Lots of wildlife, including deer and the occasional fox amid the low, marshy vegetation that surrounds the boardwalk. Cranberry bushes bloom in late summer (there's poison ivy, too, so stay on the boards). The Robert Moses State Park section features educational signs with information about wildlife and the barrier island; the concession area has snacks as well as restrooms.

Good to know
: The lighthouse is open regularly - take a tour up the 192-step tower ($6) or attend one of many special events, such as a behind-the-scenes morning lighthouse-keeper tour.


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Distance: About 3/4 mile. The view includes Long Island Sound and the Connecticut shore to the north. A concession stand serves ice cream, soda, soup and more.

Good to know
: Nearby are the park's 27 holes of golf, a driving range and a putting green.