Sturdy shoes and a sense of adventure — that's all you really need to plan a day around visiting one of Long Island's landmark beacons. Sure, you'll get a dose of history — and a workout — as you climb the tower, but the reward is unparalleled views of the shorelines. What's more, you can round out the experience with a post-tour brunch, a sunset cocktail or even a boat ride back to land.
TAKE A HIKE & GET A BITE
Fire Island Lighthouse
Fresh off a brief closure to assess weather-related damage and plan preservation projects, Long Island’s tallest lighthouse has reopened to the public, ready to welcome visitors who want to climb its 192 steps for sweeping views of the barrier island, Great South Bay and — on a clear day — the Manhattan skyline.
GETTING THERE The lighthouse is the gem of the Fire Island National Seashore, a 26-mile federally protected area just east of Robert Moses State Park. Park in Field 5 ($10), then be prepared for the nearly 1-mile, flat trek through wetlands on the boardwalk heading east.
CLIMB THE TOWER Once you reach the beacon, you can make the climb up the tower’s cast iron steps ($8 adults, $4 ages 12 and younger but at least 42 inches tall). Visit the first-floor gift shop for a souvenir lighthouse miniature ($6), then stop into the Fresnel building next door for a look at the original lens that used to helm the landmark.
GET A BITE Push on by foot to Fire Island’s westernmost community of Kismet — you can walk along the gravel road behind the lighthouse or cross over to the ocean beach for the 30-minute stroll. Once there, head to Surf’s Out for an al fresco lobster roll or Sunday bottomless brunch that’s powered by a DJ. Or try the Kismet Inn Restaurant, to stoke your return jaunt with salad, seafood and burgers.
GOOD TO KNOW Wear sturdy shoes, bring bug spray. Surf’s Out has lockers and showers (bring your own lock) if you want to take a swim or refresh before heading back.
FILL YOUR CAMERA ROLL & WATCH THE SUNSET
Montauk Point Lighthouse
It’s the oldest lighthouse in New York State, a National Historic Landmark completed in 1796. While the tower’s exterior is in the midst of being scraped and repainted, the beacon remains one of Long Island’s most-photographed landmarks. Few visitors can resist lingering in the swing benches lining the parking lot to take a selfie with the tower looming in the background. Others prefer to descend the dirt trail to the picture-perfect pebbly beach for spectacular photos of sunset, cascading cliffs and crashing surf.
GETTING THERE The beacon is at the eastern end of State Route 27 on property owned and maintained by the Montauk Historical Society. Park in adjacent Montauk Point State Park’s huge lot ($8 parking until 4 p.m.).
CLIMB THE TOWER If you’re intent on climbing the tower, you’ll need to get your ticket at least 30 minutes before closing time (in summer that’s 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 7 p.m. weekends). ($12 adults, $5 ages 12 and younger; must be at least 41 inches tall to climb.)
GET A DRINK The park’s upgraded concession, George’s Lighthouse Café, is now a lively spot to grab a craft beer or cocktail and relax on the umbrella-dotted outdoor terrace for social media-worthy photos of the tower in the backdrop — or the sunset.
GOOD TO KNOW It’s tempting to explore the cliff rock wall at the base of the tower’s hill in search of better photo opps, but it can be dangerous — the rocks get slippery in rainy or foggy weather, says lighthouse historian Henry Osmers, and the gaps can quickly overmatch kids. Osmers adds that some of the rocks have shifted due to coastal storms, a problem that will be addressed with an upcoming project.
TAKE A LIGHTHOUSE CRUISE
East End Lighthouse cruises
Lighthouse lovers can knock off a slew of offshore beacons from their sightings bucket list with an all-day cruise from Greenport. Organized by the East End Seaport Museum, most cruises last 2 to 3 ½ hours and visit up to four lighthouses, including a stop for a foot tour of the Long Beach Bar “Bug” Lighthouse. The tours are narrated by Greenporter Bob Allen, whose great-grandfather was the Bug Light’s last live-in keeper. Visitors can enter the lighthouse, walk around on its first and second floors and stroll the wraparound deck for views of Peconic Bay. Tickets are $49-$69.
GOOD TO KNOW Reservations are essential for lighthouse cruises, particularly the special “Super Cruise” that covers seven or eight lighthouses in six hours (next date is July 13; $95).