The Best Beaches for Families on Long Island
Editor's note: We are in the process of updating this post to reflect the 2021 beach season rules. In general, Long Island's beach season opens Saturday, May 29. Check with your local beach for access information, social distancing rules, and capacity limits before heading out.
Stretching along the north and south shores of Long Island are dazzling beaches known for family-friendly vibes and natural beauty, and we don't just mean the shores in the Hamptons. Whether you have younger kids and are looking for tranquil shores or older kids looking to body surf, there is a Long Island beach for you. It's time to get ready for cool sea breezes and the feeling of sand between your toes.
At these family-friendly Long Island beaches, you'll find picnic areas, swimming pools, and bathroom complexes along with food trucks and umbrella rentals. Use our guide to choose the best beach for your family's needs.
Before you slather your kids with sunscreen and head out the door, keep in mind that beach season in 2020 is bound to look a little different than years past. Be sure to check out our roundup of tri-state area beaches and restrictions when you're planning your beach day. While there are plenty of open shores, there are also more rules than usual. These beaches are staffed from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, unless noted and the prices listed are for summer 2020.
Please note that while we've attempted to provide highlights of these beaches at their best, some of the features and amenities listed below are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please click through to each beach to verify operating hours, residency requirements, capacity limits, and amenities before visiting. Mask wearing is required where social distancing cannot be practiced, including in parking lots, restrooms, on the boardwalks, or at concession areas.
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1. Jones Beach State Park — Wantagh
Jones Beach State Park has been beckoning families for years. The park is laid out over 6½ miles of beautiful shoreline. Recent improvements include more restaurants, boardwalk and leisure path renovations, new playgrounds, a splash pad, and an adventure park. Visitors can swim in the ocean, take a relaxing stroll along the boardwalk, or visit the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center. Bicyclists are permitted on the new leisure path. Fields 3, 4, and 5 offer beach access through the park's iconic beach tunnels; fishing is allowed at field 10; and oceanfront parking and the calm waters of Zach's Bay are located at Field 5. Note: The waves can become rough at Jones Beach, and swimmers are required to swim in designated lifeguarded areas. Mobility mats cover the sand at Fields 2, 6, and Zach's Bay allowing for easier access for visitors with strollers, wheelchairs, and beach gear. At lunchtime, enjoy traditional food stand favorites such as hot dogs and ice cream. In recent years, gourmet concession stands have been added to the amenities with made-to-order pizzas and truffle fries. Also, check out the summer concert schedule for the Jones Beach Theater. Jones Beach is crowded on weekends and holidays, so arrive early. Bathrooms and changing areas are available at each field.
2020 Access Rules: As a state park beach, Jones Beach is open to all, and entrance fees have been waived. Parking limitations are in effect. It's currently operating at 50 percent capacity, and access will be shut down daily once that quota is met. Many attractions, including the adventure park and playgrounds, are closed, and all concerts have been canceled. Concession stands are also closed. You can see a current list of state park restrictions, which apply to Jones Beach and the other state parks listed below, here.
2. Long Beach Boardwalk — Long Beach
This family favorite is a great spot for a day of fun. One of the best things about Long Beach is its 2.2-mile boardwalk. After being destroyed by superstorm Sandy in 2012, the city set out to replace the boardwalk. With repurposed wood, local artwork from residents, and historical markers and explanations, a walk along this stretch is interesting and educational. Rent bikes (or bring your own) and tour the boardwalk, then head to the sand. Umbrellas and chairs are available for daily rental. After a day of sea and sandcastles, check out the ocean-themed Magnolia Boulevard playground. Then, enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the many food trucks, restaurants, or concession stands along the boardwalk. Long Beach is accessible via the Long Island Rail Road, and ample parking is available. Weekends at Long Beach are crowded; be sure to arrive early. Cost: $12 per person for residents. Children 12 and younger are free.
2020 Access Rules: Beginning May 20, beach pass sales were limited to residents only. Passes sold to non-residents before that date will still be honored. The beach is staffed on weekends only through the end of June.
Nickerson Beach is open but only to Nassau County residents. Photo Sara M.
3. Nickerson Beach Park — Lido Beach
Sitting on 155 acres, this complex along the Atlantic Ocean offers sun-kissed activities for the whole family. Boasting soft sand and sparkling water, the beach here is beautiful. However, it's the amenities that keep families coming to this spot. For teen visitors, the "Fun Zone" includes a skate park with several ramps and railings for daring riders, basketball and beach volleyball courts, and a tennis court. There is also a picturesque seaside pitch-and-putt, where families can play nine holes amid the dunes. Two full-size swimming pools and a kiddie pool are located on the property. A playground and concession stand are available, as well as a large picnic pavilion to enjoy lunch in the shade. If you do not have a Nassau County Leisure Pass, the cost might seem steep, but this beach offers a full day of activities for everyone in the family. Bathrooms, showers, and lockers are available. Cost: $15 for Leisure Pass holders; $35 for those without a pass.
2020 Access Rules: Nickerson Beach Park is limited to Nassau County residents only. Capacity will be capped at 50 percent; once the main parking lot reaches that limit, no more visitors will be allowed.
Point Lookout offers family solitude by the sea. Photo by the author
4. Town Park at Point Lookout — Point Lookout
For a low-key beach experience, head to this Town of Hempstead beach. It is a relaxed place to avoid the crowds at the more popular destinations. Parking is a short walk from the lot to the sand. There are no concessions or rentals available—visitors must bring their food, chairs, and umbrellas—but bathrooms are available. Cost: $10 per vehicle for Town of Hempstead residents.
2020 Access Rules: Town Park is open to Nassau County residents only.
The tranquility of Ocean Beach on Fire Island will win your family over. Tais Melillo via Flickr
5. Ocean Beach — Fire Island
Amid the party atmosphere of Fire Island lies Ocean Beach, a swath of the barrier island bordered by Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Like most of Fire Island, it is car-free; access is by ferry from Bay Shore. Warm ocean currents make the water inviting as early as mid-May and well into October. The beach is radio and alcohol-free. Food options abound nearby, especially for seafood lovers, and there are several conspicuously placed bathrooms near the beach. First-time visitors might find navigating the village a challenge, but experienced Fire Islanders are friendly and outgoing; just ask for directions. Taxis to the ferry port are available at the Bay Shore LIRR station on the Montauk branch. Beach access is FREE.
2020 Access Rules: Ocean Beach is open and part of The National Seashore, so there are no residency restrictions. Beware, however, that ferry service is limited, so it may take a little longer to get there.
Robert Moses State Park has an expansive shoreline; you'll never feel crowded. Photo courtesy of Long Island State Parks
6. Robert Moses State Park — Babylon
With nearly five miles of sparkling coastline, Robert Moses State Park is a perfect family beach spot. Featuring four fields with lifeguards at each, visitors can enjoy swimming, surfing, and boogie boarding. Each field offers concessions, beach shops, first aid, and comfort stations. Don't miss Field 5 and its large playground for kids, boardwalk, and nature walk that leads to Fire Island's lighthouse. There are many scenic areas for picnics complete with park grills and tables. An 18-hole pitch-and-putt golf course is available, as well as a large picnic gazebo. This park is accessible by car or the Babylon LIRR station with a bus connection. Cool bonus: Free Wi-Fi is available at Fields 2-5.
2020 Access Rules: As a state park beach, Robert Moses is open to all, and entrance fees have been waived. Parking limitations are in effect. It's currently operating at 50 percent capacity, and access will be shut down daily once that quota is met. Many attractions are closed, including the playground and walkway to Fire Island.
Spend a lovely summer day at Sunken Meadow State Park. Photo courtesy of the park
7. Sunken Meadow State Park — Kings Park
With three miles of shore on the Long Island Sound, these calm waters are a charming spot to spend a summer day. The shoreline turns to wind-formed bluffs, making the scenery unforgettable. On a clear day, you can see to Connecticut. Take a walk on the boardwalk, purchase food from the concession stand, and enjoy a day of natural beach beauty. Also available are nature walks, a large playground complex, and ample space for picnics.
2020 Access Rules: As a state park beach, Sunken Meadow is open to all, and entrance fees have been waived. Parking limitations are in effect. It's currently operating at 50 percent capacity, and access will be shut down daily once that quota is met. Many attractions are closed, including the playground.
From swimming to biking to hiking, Hither Hills State Park has it all. Photo courtesy of Long Island State Parks
8. Hither Hills State Park —Montauk
This scenic park offers families a sandy ocean beach, playground, and a unique campground with an ocean view. Biking and hiking trails are available and don't miss the "walking dunes" of Napeague Harbor. Pack a picnic to share or purchase food here to enjoy at the picnic tables. Bathrooms and a changing area are available. Overnight camping is available for $35 for state residents.
2020 Access Rules: As a state park beach, Hither Hills is open to all, and entrance fees have been waived. Parking limitations are in effect. It's currently operating at 50 percent capacity, and access will be shut down daily once that quota is met.
The beachside playground is one of Orient Beach State Park's most popular attractions. Photo courtesy of Long Island State Parks
9. Orient Beach State Park — Orient
Situated on the eastern tip of the North Fork, Orient Beach is a natural wonder. Families can swim in the relaxing bay, fish from the shore, kayak, or walk one of the many nature trails. There is a large playground for kids, and directly behind the playground, plenty of space for picnics. Collect shells, view the seabirds, and enjoy the saltwater marsh. Serenity and natural beauty abound at this off-the-beaten-path spot. Bathrooms are available.
2020 Access Rules: As a state park beach, Orient Beach is open to all, and entrance fees have been waived. Parking limitations are in effect. It's currently operating at 50 percent capacity, and access will be shut down daily once that quota is met. The playground is closed.
Originally published in May 2017.
Places featured in this article:
Jones Beach State Park
Orient Beach State Park