It's time to grab those hiking shoes or a good pair of sneakers and prepare to go a little wild this week, as we show you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors in and around Oyster Bay. You and your family can hike at Muttontown Preserve, where you'll likely see people on horseback as you visit the ruins of King Zog, the last Albanian monarch's castle. Shu Swamp (try saying that three times fast!) has a lovely toddler-friendly loop trail with a pond where you can feed the brown trout, sticklebacks and other fish. Plant lovers will enjoy the grounds at Planting Fields with two indoor greenhouses and outdoor specimen plantings. Birds of prey, snakes, and lizards, both captive and wild can be seen up close at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary. Enjoy!
Coming up next week; we'll show you some exceptional places to sign the kids up for classes in Oyster Bay.
Muttontown Preserve was voted the “best nature walk on Long Island” in 2006 by Long Island Press. Living just a few blocks away, I can certainly vouch for its beauty and tranquil atmosphere. The preserve is made up of 550 acres of meadows, woodlands, and ponds. Bluebirds can often be spotted in the meadow in late spring and summer as can many other birds. You may begin your hike at the Bill Patterson Nature Center at the end of Muttontown Lane, just south of 25A, where you can pick up a trail map and checklist of the birds you're likely to see. You'll begin by hiking through woodlands and pass the Chelsea Center with its well-manicured gardens, then through the meadow as you loop back. If you're interested in the ruins of King Zog's castle you'll want to enter further south, at the Route 106 entrance. This is also the equestrian entrance, and your likely to see many local residents taking their horses out for a stroll. One note of caution: There is plenty of poison ivy around here, so be sure to stick to the well-marked and cleared trails and admonish your children, "Leaves of three, let it be."
Charles T. Church Nature Preserve (Shu Swamp)
Frost Mill Rd., Mill Neck
Shu Swamp, a magical wooded wetland, is ideal for younger hikers. The loop trail is not too long and fairly level. Shu, an old Dutch word, meaning cascading waters, is crossed by a meandering Beaver Brook. Hikers will cross over the creek several times as they walk along wooded footbridges and stepping stones. My children never tire of dropping leaves on one side of the bridge only to see it come out on the other. The loop trail opens up to an expansive pond where brown trout, sticklebacks and rare American brook lamprey live. Be sure to bring some bread crumbs and a field guide if you'd like to see and identify the variety of fish. There is a dock here with some benches, making it a perfect spot for a picnic. It can get very muddy here, so be sure to wear proper footwear.
Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center
134 Cove Rd
Saturday and Sunday 12-4PM
free admission, donations accepted
The T.R. Sanctuary is the oldest songbird sanctuary in the U.S., making it the first place in America to be literally for the birds. So bring your binoculars (or borrow a pair from the nature center) because there are certainly plenty to be seen here. The nature center houses several species of reptiles, including lizards and snakes, and outdoors you can see a few permanently injured birds of prey. Along the trails, as you begin, there is a small pond, home to several species of frogs. The center offers programming throughout the year, including an egg hunt in the spring. Check out their website for details.
Planting Fields Arboreteum
1395 Planting Fields Rd.
free admission until April 1, $8/car April 1–November 15
Rolling lawns, exquisite formal gardens, hiking trails, a camellia greenhouse, and a main greenhouse make this a wonderful family outing. Planting Fields is one of the few remaining Gold Coast Estates that retains its 409 acres and historical buildings. Pack a lunch and picnic under one of the giant beech trees or within a colorful garden as you listen for birds and spot butterflies.