No matter what the season, and no matter where you live on Long Island, there’s a state park just waiting for you and your family.
From hiking in the fall to snow shoeing in the winter…from bird watching in the spring to camping in the summer, these gorgeous state parks have something special to offer Long Island families all year round.
To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of parks we believe are worth a visit. An Empire Pass gives you access to any New York state park for the year, but be sure to look at each park’s website for additional vehicle and/or entry fees and restrictions. Of course, Jones Beach and Robert Moses state parks are prime oceanside getaways in the summer; these parks offer year-round entertainment.
For more family fun, see our September GoList, explore our suggestions for a fun weekend getaway, or check out our Long Island Events Calendar.
Bethpage State Park — Farmingdale
Perhaps best known for its world-class golf courses, this park also has great hiking and biking trails and is the starting point for the bike path that leads to Jones Beach along the Wantagh State Parkway. Families can enjoy the picnic grounds, watch a polo match June through October, or go sledding or cross-country skiing in the winter.
Hempstead Lake State Park — West Hempstead
This large park seems to have it all, including multiple tennis courts, playgrounds, basketball courts, horseback riding and hiking trails, and picnic areas. Three ponds for fishing—McDonald Pond, South Pond and Hempstead Lake—are stocked with trout in the fall and other species throughout the year.
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The expansive grounds of Planting Fields Arboretum attract visitors from all across Long Island. Photo courtesy of Planting Fields
Planting Fields Arboreteum State Historic Park — Oyster Bay
Family-friendly events abound at this state park and nature preserve that has more than 400 acres of public gardens, woodlands, and nature trails. Take a guided tour of historic Coe Hall; check out Camellia Greenhouse, which boasts the largest collection of camellias in the Northeast. There are also educational programs for kids.
Valley Stream State Park — Valley Stream
Although smaller than other state parks, there still is plenty to do here, including picnic areas and playgrounds, and sporting areas, including volleyball, horseshoes, and baseball. The Squirrel Nut and Hickory Nut nature trails are great ways for kids to explore the outdoors.
Belmont Lake State Park — North Babylon
If you drive frequently on the Southern State Parkway, you've noticed this wonderful family facility on the westbound side of Exit 38. Families can enjoy softball fields, hiking and biking trails, a bridle path with stables, rowboats and paddleboats for rent, and freshwater fishing (license required). There are also exercise and picnic areas.
Photo by baysidecosta via Instagram
Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve — Huntington
Trails for hiking, horseback riding, running, cross-country skiing, and more can be found at this scenic nature preserve. Historic buildings house equestrian services as well environmental education programs for kids. Fishing and scuba diving (by permit) are also available.
Cold Spring Harbor State Park — Cold Spring Harbor
Visitors can enjoy hiking, bird-watching, kayaking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing at this state park that offers beautiful views of Cold Spring Harbor. It also marks the north end of the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, which leads hikers to Bethpage State Park.
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Highlights of Heckscher State Park include a series of paved hiking trails.
Heckscher State Park — East Islip
Situated on Great South Bay, this park offers swimming, boating, kayaking, and other water sports. There are also picnic areas, sporting fields, and four miles of paved walking and biking trails.
Sunken Meadow State Park — Kings Park
There are three miles of beautiful, sandy beach at this Long Island Sound spot, not to mention a boardwalk, restaurant, picnic areas, and ball fields. Cross-country running trails, a greenbelt hiking trail, boat launches, and golf are also available.
Camp Hero — Montauk
There are 415 acres waiting to be explored here, including maritime forests, beachfront, wetlands, and bluffs. Trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, along with surf fishing (with permit), picnicking areas, and bird watching vistas make this park a hit with families. A former World War II military base and coastal defense facility, Camp Hero is registered as a national historic site.
Hallock State Park Preserve — Jamesport
New in 2017, this North Fork park offers a mile-long beach along Long Island Sound, as well as hiking trails and nature walks, and plenty of spots for bird watching. More is planned, including a potential environmental center.
Hither Hills in Montauk is a beachfront camper's paradise.
Hither Hills State Park — Montauk
This state park's oceanfront campground is a favorite of Long Island families. Picnic areas, playgrounds, sporting fields, and fishing add to its popularity. Walk along the dunes of Napeague Harbor and enjoy its woodlands. It also offers trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.
Montauk Point State Park — Montauk Point
Families can enjoy beautiful views of Block Island Sound along with hiking and cross-country skiing trails. And, if you're lucky, you may spot seals sunning on the rocks. Surf fishing is also available. Montauk Point Lighthouse, commissioned in 1792, is a short walk away.
Orient Beach State Park — Orient
There is plenty to explore at this national natural landmark. Along its 45,000-foot Gardiners Bay beachfront, you'll find a maritime forest with prickly cactus, a saltwater marsh, and lots of marine wildlife. Swimming, picnicking, fishing, water sports, and more are available. Unique to this park: four lighthouses can be viewed — Orient, Plum Island, Long Beach Bar, and Cedar Island lighthouses.
Wildwood State Park. Photo by margaretgraceanne via Instagram
Wildwood State Park — Wading River
Another popular destination for families who enjoy beachfront camping, visitors here will find picnic areas and playgrounds, spots for swimming and fishing, and hiking and cross-country ski trails.
This article was originally published in 2013. It was updated in September 2017.
Top photo: Sunken Meadow. Photo by mattfisher5 via Instagram