Adventures at Shadmoor State Park and Ditch Plains Beach

Summer or winter, head for standout activity options at the park-beach combo destination marking the far eastern end of Long Island.

If you’re in the Big Apple and looking for an extra-urban outdoor adventure, there’s an all-season option just a short drive away. Head to the end of Long Island, where Shadmoor State Park (just east of Montauk) and nearby Ditch Plains Beach offer an idyllic spot to get out and enjoy the sunshine (or snow). Whether in the heat of summer, or the depths of dark winter, Shadmoor’s 99 acres provide more than 2,400 feet of rugged ocean coastline that invite adventure via two separate stairways down to the water, plus plenty of overlook platforms to take in the bluff-top views of waves and ocean birds. Ditch Plains is less than a mile east of the state park and opens up beautiful beaches for swimming and some of the best waves for East Coast surfing. Here’s how to enjoy the fresh air and favored activities of this dual outlet in both the popular, sunny season as well as the oft-overlooked off-season.

SUMMER ACTIVITIES (IN-SEASON)

Hiking/Running Trails

Shadmoor State Park is an ideal target for picturesque runs through coastal greenery and along steep, oceanside cliffs. Of course, if you want to hike or run along the water, the beach provides a perfect low-impact alternative. And if you’re looking for something a bit different, try the 1.2-mile Roosevelt’s Run Trail. Park in the visitor parking lot off of the Montauk Highway and start the route heading south down the trail. When you reach the cliffside, turn east and run alongside the cliffs, heading north for over a half-mile and then back inland to complete the loop. (For added exploration, veer off on the Shad Lane trail, just after the loop’s turn back inland, to view a WWII observation bunker.)

Surfing

Ditch Plains Beach sets up some of the most consistent waves on Long Island. While you can surf year-round (bring a supremely warm, full wetsuit in the winter months) summer surfing brings consistent waves, good weather, and welcome sunshine. If you have an East Hamptons Parking pass, park at Ditch Plains; if not, walk, bike, or e-bike into the beach area. Enter the water where the cliffs start and wade out for a consistent beach break. On days with low swell, you can also launch kayaks or paddleboards off the beach next to the jetty.

Photo: Michael Carni/Shutterstock

WINTER ACTIVITIES (OFF-SEASON)

Cross-Country Skiing/Snowshoeing 

Shadmoor State Park is one of the best spots on Long Island to snowshoe or XC-ski during the winter. Make sure you are using classic skis rather than skate skis though, so that you can take full advantage of the ungroomed trails throughout the park. While you can repeat your summer route and take the Roosevelt’s Run Trail, also consider leaving the main parking lot and heading down the Shad Lane path through the middle of the park and between frozen-over wetlands. Either take the Shad Lane path all the way to the water, or take a right turn down the Bunker Lane trail for a faster path to the water. 

Fishing

Fishing in the surf of Shadmoor State Park, right from the beach, yields action all year-round. However, if you’ve got options, the off-season, especially late fall and winter, ups the chances to do more catching than fishing. Target the coveted striped bass, or stripers, from the beach out into the shallow waters. You can take legal fish home with you all the way until mid-December. You can take cod home year-round, but you’re more likely to find them on the northside of Long Island than you are in Montauk. Fishing here requires a free NYS Recreational Marine Fishing Registration at all times, plus a Suffolk County Night Fishing Permit if you plan to fish at night. And if you’re planning to fish on the water, make sure you’re properly equipped, and aware of swimmers, surfers and other beach-goers.  

Getting There

From the village of Montauk, drive east 2 miles on the Montauk Highway and turn right (south) into the Shadmoor State Park Trail Parking Lot. There’s no fee to park, though you’ll need a Town of East Hampton parking permit to park at Ditch Plains Beach. It's an easy drive, walk, or ride from Shadmoor State Park, though—just continue another mile east down the Montauk Highway before turning right (south) down Ditch Plains Road to where it ends at the parking lot.

Shadmoor State Park is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, all year long. Ditch Plains Beach is open year-round as well, though swimming is only allowed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. when lifeguards are on duty, every day from mid-June to Labor Day, and then usually only on weekends for the rest of the year. Regardless of the month, be sure to dress for the weather ahead, as exposure to the ocean (and especially cold winter breezes) can leave you shivering if you’re unprepared. 

Refresh & Refuel

For a quick, classic-Americana bite, stop at John’s Drive-In in the village of Montauk right off the Montauk Highway. It’s open daily, but call first to check on hours that can shift according to the season. If you’re looking for a quick snack or sandwich, the Montauk Market is a small shop with plenty of fast and tasty options—easy to grab for your beach day ahead (open daily from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.