Long Island has 1,600 miles of coastline, which means it has an awful lot of beaches. Some are on the storied Long Island Sound. Some face the NYC skyline. Others are adjacent to the rolling swells of the Atlantic Ocean. But no matter where you are on Long Island, there’s a beach nearby just waiting for you to launch your ocean adventure.
Obviously, when you think of beaches, you think of summer, but those beaches are still there after the lifeguards have left for the season. There are plenty of pleasant days before Memorial Day and after Labor Day, especially the latter, as September and October can offer incredible days at the beach, not to mention opportunities for paddlers, beach wanderers and wave riders alike.
And some local elbow-nudge advice: Exploring during the offseason is also much cheaper. Not only do the prices of rentals and accommodations drop, but New York has some steep fees for non-resident beach use and parking (to the tune of $30-$40 a day or $400 a season.) But then there are the free beaches close to the city—each with a unique quality all its own, endearing it to visitors for sustained, year-round use—from the People’s Beach at Jacob Riis Park, Rockaway Beach (of the Ramones’ fame), Coney Island and Brighton Beach, just miles from the bustle of Midtown Manhattan.
Best Beaches for Paddling
When launching a standup paddleboard or sea kayak, you’re going to want to keep the daily conditions in mind. For instance, you don’t want to launch in the ocean when there’s some kind of Atlantic swell. And you always want to paddle prepared, geared up properly (most notably with a fitting lifejacket and outerwear to sustain submersion in the water) and always aware of tidal currents, especially if you want to explore the East River. But when conditions are right, there are literally hundreds of places worth experiencing on a saltwater paddling tour.
Ponquogue is a fun-and-sun beach in the town of Hampton Bays just west of Shinnecock Inlet. Starting a paddling excursion here sets you right off into the open waters for the Atlantic—always an adventure. So, look to launch on a calm day with small swell and either very light or north (offshore) winds, push your way through the breaking waves and then get to paddling. Keep those eyes peeled for dolphins. There is parking (not cheap in the summer), but that affords you access to the new sustainably built pavilion complex, restrooms, outdoor showers and concession.
For a serene salt-air experience, try the relatively flatwater paddling of Mount Sinai Harbor from Cedar Beach in the town of Brookhaven on Long Island’s North Shore. Provided there’s no wind, it’s a fantastic spot to either learn to paddle or really explore the harbor. This protected body of water also has a marina, fishing, boat ramp and concessions. While you’re there, you can learn all about the local ecology at the Mount Sinai Marine Environmental Stewardship Center.
Manorhaven Beach Park
Here’s a nice option for Nassau County, especially if you’re a beginner. This is a full park complex with a pool, picnic area, waterslides, sports fields, boat ramp and other facilities. Bring your own paddleboard or kayak or rent one from Kostal Paddle, right in this Hempstead Township Park. They do rentals, lessons and tours on Manhasset Bay.