Most Long Island beaches are as similar as grains of sand, whether they’re on the ocean, bay or Long Island Sound, but a few stand above the rest because of their scenery, ambience or amenities. Here are five public beaches with a little somethin’ extra.
JONES BEACH STATE PARK
A record 8.5 million beachgoers flocked last year to Jones Beach State Park’s 6.5 miles of pristine white sand. The nearly 2,500-acre state park offers fun for all ages and interests. Summer day choices include Field 6, the closest beach to the parking lot, which also has areas popular with kite-flyers, surf-casters and members the LGBT community. Field 4, aka “Muscle Beach,” is the place to be seen for the bikini and bicep crowd. Families with toddlers can swim in wave-free Zach’s Bay. For a quieter escape, head to the windswept dunes and wildlife sightings at West End Fields 1 or 2.
ROBERT MOSES STATE PARK
Fire Island’s Robert Moses State Park spans five miles of dazzling Atlantic coastline. And, unlike most of Fire Island, it’s easily accessible by auto along the state parkways. Amenities include four lifeguard-staffed beaches, each with food concessions, beach shops, first aid offices, restrooms and outdoor showers. Field 2 boasts a volleyball court area and an 18-hole pitch-and-putt golf course. Field 5’s boardwalk connects to the Fire Island National Seashore, where you can climb the historic lighthouse tower.
SUNKEN MEADOW STATE PARK, KINGS PARK
Families with small children can enjoy a safe day of swimming — watched by lifeguards perched in giant beach chairs — on this scenic stretch of the North Shore. The gentle Long Island Sound waters seem made for your toddler’s first saltwater swim lesson. The water temperature tends to warm up to a comfortable level earlier in the season, say state parks officials. Shelter from the sun (which can be very strong, indeed) under a rainbow-colored beach umbrella or pitch a small tent in the crunchy pebbles. If you have tender feet, water shoes are recommended for wading or strolling. Après-swim, showers are located next to the boardwalk to rinse the saltwater off your skin and suit. The kids will probably want to spend at least part of the day at the park’s playground complex.
KIRK PARK BEACH, MONTAUK
Steep parking fees are charged for the pleasure of sun bathing alongside celebrities at exclusive Main Beach in East Hampton and Coopers Beach in Southampton. But the Atlantic crashes on the same powdery white sand at Kirk Park Beach at the edge of Montauk Village, and the parking is free in the big lot. Also known as “Umbrella Beach” and “IGA Beach” because it’s next to a supermarket, Kirk Beach Park is staffed with lifeguards and has restrooms. Beachgoers can take their picnic basket across the street to Kirk Park, or climb the stairway over a dune to the Village of Montauk’s seafood restaurants and delis. A department store is located downtown for buying sunscreen and flip-flops.
ORIENT BEACH STATE PARK
Osprey nests, a maritime forest and a salt marsh are among the natural wonders at Orient Beach, which reopened in February after a $300,000 project to rebuild its storm-damaged causeway access road. It’s the last state park beach before the ferry to Connecticut. The lifeguard-patrolled beach on the gentle waters of Gardiners Bay is steps away from parking, a nautical-themed playground, a picnic area with grills, a food concession, showers and restrooms. As a sightseeing bonus, four lighthouses can be seen from the park, including the curiously shaped Long Beach Bar “Bug Light.”