If you were to travel from Montauk Point Lighthouse, sitting above the Atlantic Ocean, back to the banks of New York Harbor, looking across at the Manhattan skyline, it would be about 120 miles—Long Island isn’t a huge swath of land. But within that distance, you could find so many different communities, types of terrain, and various backyard adventures to constantly be making new outdoor discoveries.
Even among Long Island’s small cities, crisscrossing highways, train tracks and sports venues, you might be surprised at the amount of high-quality camping available. Simply put, there is no shortage of opportunities to pitch a tent in a quiet patch, build yourself a campfire and enjoy hanging out with the family. And while you’re not scaling any 14ers or traversing backcountry, there are two ways to look at camping on Long Island.
First, it’s an escape: disconnecting from the world to just be with your friends in a reasonably quiet woodland or on one of the multiple coastlines. Or, camping is simply an affordable way to travel around New York and experience this dynamic metro area. Here are a few of the island’s best options for fulfilling both those needs and camping close to the city, in comfort, or in the woods and on the beaches.
Closest To The City Camping
From your tent, you could potentially hop a bus to the No. 2 MTA train and 40 minutes later be seated at one of the outdoor café tables watching the sights of Little Italy. A few more minutes on the train and you might hit a Yankee game, take a walk through the Museum of Ice Cream, catch a show at Radio City Music Hall, or just enjoy a fresh slice of pie or a delicatessen sandwich and cruise around the Lower East Side. Public transit tip: You can ride all NYC subways and buses by buying a Metrocard, which will be accepted through 2023 when it is replaced by the contactless OMNY (One Metro New York) system.
Gateway National Recreation Area Camp Gateway
Brooklyn — Tent, Cabin, Yurt and RV Camping
Camp Gateway’s Floyd Bennett Field Campground is probably the closest actual camping to the heart of NYC. This wooded habitat and the adjacent Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is an important flyway for migratory birds.
Bennett Field was New York’s first municipal airport and was a Naval Air station in World War II, since converted to 1,300 acres of recreational opportunity in the literal shadow of a city of 8.3 million people. Campers have good access to kayaking in Jamaica Bay and can step back in time at the onsite Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP), a hangar where volunteers rebuild vintage aircrafts to their original glory. More info: recreation.gov
Battle Row Campground
Old Bethpage — Tent and RV Camping
Battle Row is a simple campground that is about one hour to the city, even closer to the outer boroughs. So, if you’re a city family looking for open space this weekend or visiting New York on a budget, this has good proximity to the action. Battle Row offers 64 sites, restrooms and private showers on 44 acres. Get lost and back to nature in these wooded forests. Battle Row is also a favorite of organizations and groups who want to plan big annual outings (local discounts apply with your Nassau County Leisure Pass card). More info: nassaucountyny.gov