17 Secret Long Island Spots Kids Love

Winding paths, ponds, and streams line the lush grounds of Clark Botanic Gardens.
Winding paths, ponds, and streams line the lush grounds of Clark Botanic Gardens.
10/23/23 - By Jaime Sumersille

While Long Island is home a bevy of culture and fun family-friendly attractions, there are plenty of secret spots and hidden gems on Long Island just waiting to be discovered. That's part of the charm of this island we call home. We've rounded up 17 secret spots on Long Island that kids will love.

From endless stairways to stroll gardens, kids get a kick out of discovering these under-the-radar destinations. The best part: They're almost all FREE. So, read on for our top picks for secret spots on Long Island, and bookmark our Long Island Visitors Guide for Families, for more can't-miss spots to visit.


Don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter to get posts like this delivered to your inbox.

Fun Secret Spots in Long Island's Nassau County

1. Bailey Arboretum – Locust Valley

Pack a picnic and explore the lush grounds of the Bailey Arboretum. From running through fields to hiking around the pond, this North Shore oasis boasts loads of family-friendly fun finds like oversized lawn chairs for photo-ops, an imaginative play space, nature-made instruments, a see-saw, and more. It also hosts nature programs for kids on-site. Bonus: This open space is FREE and dog-friendly.

2. Clark Botanic Gardens – Albertson

Sprawling grounds and gardens, as well as hidden paths and ponds make this tranquil space worth exploring. The flat, lush greenery is stroller-friendly. Bonus: This is another freebie that's open year-round, though donations are encouraged.

RELATED: Botanical Gardens and Arboretums on Long Island for Families

Secret spots on Long Island: Japenese Stroll Garden
The serene Japanese Stroll Garden is seemingly hidden in plain sight.

3. Japanese Stroll Garden – Mill Neck

A quick jaunt through the foothills of Mill Neck brings you to an authentic tea house in the middle of the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden. Center your inner om and enjoy the Japanese landscape and meditative experience along the way. The elevated stepping stone paths might be a bit wobbly for little feet. You could easily drive right past the unassuming gates, so keep your eyes peeled for this incredible, weekends-only, walk-through experience that's open from April through October.

4. Jones Beach Nature Energy Center – Wantagh

The Nature Center in Jones Beach State Park is an engaging spot for families to experience nature up close and hands-on. Animal touch pools, shipwreck viewing, and excavating opportunities are just some of the programs offered here. Take a walk along the center’s family-friendly boardwalk to view species living among the sand dunes. The center offers nature programs for all ages, including weekly Tiny Tots programs for ages 3-6. It's FREE to visit, however, some programs incur a fee.

RELATED: Best Nature Centers on Long Island for Families to Explore

Secret spots on Long Island: Marine Nature Study Area
Educational displays along the trails at the Marine Nature Study Area explain what kids are seeing.

5. Marine Nature Study Area – Oceanside

Explore the great outdoors at the Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside, a South Shore seaside preserve ripe for a self-guided expedition. The one-mile trail is completely flat and on dirt or raised grate bridges. You can comfortably bring a jogging stroller or carry an infant. Be sure to pop inside to see if any of the interactive touch tanks are set up. This FREE ecological site is open year-round.

6. Levy Preserve – Merrick

This 52-acre preserve has 3 miles of trails complete with a 500-foot fishing pier that juts into Merrick Bay. At the park's highest point, make yourself a human sundial to check the time. Plus, park-goers are afforded views of the Jones Beach tower and Manhattan's skyline. During your visit, keep your eyes open for Nigerian dwarf goats that are employed to control weeds and brush in a sustainable way. Kayaking is also offered at Levy Park in June, July, and August. The park is FREE and is open daily year-round with the exception of Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and Thanksgiving Day.

RELATED: 15 Great Stroller-Friendly Park Walks on Long Island

Secret spots on Long Island: Belmont Lake State Park
Pedal ahead to a fun day at Belmont Lake State Park. Photo courtesy of the park

Hidden Gems in Long Island's Suffolk County

7. Belmont Lake State Park – North Babylon

At Belmont Lake, you can pedal your boat, making this an ideal watersport for families with multi-aged children. Rowboat and kayak rentals are also available from the boat dock from May through early October. You can also bring your own kayak. Beyond the lake, the park grounds are ideal for picnicking, playground play, hiking, biking, fishing, and more. Bonus: Leashed dogs are allowed.

8. Avalon Preserve – Stony Brook

There is so much to see among the 216 acres of this nature preserve. Kids can travel through a labyrinth, see reflections in a massive garden globe, and explore some of the prettiest landscapes the area has to offer. While this site is FREE to visit, note that it is closed on Mondays.

9. Prosser Pines Nature Preserve – Middle Island

The tall pines (as in Long Island Pine Barrens) make this Long Island spot particularly unique. You feel like you're in a magical forest with trees seemingly reaching as tall as the sky. Search for teepees to explore along this 3/4-mile loop trail, which is an easy route to run or walk. The trail is open year-round and pets are welcome. You'll find a similar setting in the adjacent Cathedral Pines.

10. Elizabeth Alexandra Morton National Wildlife Refuge – Sag Harbor

One of the most unique experiences in a completely natural setting on the South Fork, the birds at this refuge eat right from your hand. Bring a baggie of bird seed and see if you can identify which little winged ones land for a visit. Walk the flat trail to an expansive beach with sweeping views of Sag Harbor. This is the perfect place to plop for a picnic before your hike back home, and it's open year-round.

11. Holtsville Ecology Site – Holtsville

A leisurely walk through the well-kept, stroller-friendly grounds at one of our favorite local petting zoos reveals more than 100 animals including a bobcat, buffalo, bald eagle, American black bear, and more—all of which are injured or non-releasable. Bring your camera because the kids will want a photo of their little faces poking through the large “photo-op” board where they will appear to be farmers or farm animals. Pack a picnic lunch, and plan on a visit to the playground before heading befor home. This FREE eco site is open daily year-round, with some exceptions.

RELATED: 7 Long Island Boardwalk Gems Kids Will Love

Secret spots on Long Island: Quogue Wildlife Refuge
Bring your binoculars and spy some wildlife around the Quogue Wildlife Refuge pond.

12. Quogue Wildlife Refuge – Quogue

Set back from a curved road, the 300-acre nature preserve on the East End boasts free family fun via wildlife, water, and wonderment. Yuck it up with some of the resident waterfowl before visiting the animals who have been rehabilitated but can't be released. From indoor critters and slithery things to an outdoor butterfly garden and tortoise pen, you will be greeted by animals all over at this refuge. Explore three different trails that make up seven miles of hikes, and be sure to take in vantage points of the Old Ice Pond. Teepees, tree stumps, and more make this a fun trail hike. Just across the street find the Fairy Dell Boardwalk, a catwalk through tidal wetlands. Open daily from sunrise to sunset; the Nature Center building hours vary by the season.

13. Long Island Live Steamers – Brookhaven

Chug on down to Long Island Live Steamers' twice-monthly Sunday public run days from May through October. Ride on miniature steam, diesel, and electric trains that operate on eight acres of scale tracks through the forest of Southaven County Park. Donations are encouraged.

14. Peconic River Herb Farm – Calverton

This 14-acre waterfront plant nursery and unique garden shop is full of rolling hills, lakeside benches, and fun photo-ops. Families can explore the property, greenhouses, and two-story barn. There's also a large shop, which sells vintage clothes, toys, furniture, and decor. Pack some food and pop a squat for a tranquil lunch. Visit for FREE seven days a week from April through October.

15. Pirates Cove – Belle Terre

Just outside of harborside Port Jefferson Village, the lies tiny, bucolic village of Belle Terre. Its fabled Pirate's Cove is a great spot for a short walk with a beach-like vibe. The climb to the dunes makes an ideal picnic spot with picturesque harbor views. Officially called McAllister Park, public parking here is sparse, so arrive early to snag a spot. You can also access the cove by walking about one mile from “dog beach” near Harborfront Park in Port Jeff. Open daily from dawn to dusk.

16. Sunken Forest – Sailors Haven

Hop on the Sayville Ferry and head to Sailors Haven, an uninhabited area on Fire Island. There you can explore the Sunken Forest and enjoy some of Long Island’s best beaches. End the day with ice cream on the dock (when in season!) as you wait for the ferry home. Facilities are open seasonally and pets are not permitted on the ocean beach from mid-March through Labor Day.

17. 67 Steps Beach – Greenport

Just below the rolling grounds of the Horton Point Lighthouse is 67 Steps Beach. It's a steep walk down the rocky shoreline of the Long Island Sound, but totally worth it. Stop along the way for photos and be sure to search for some beach glass, which is ripe for the picking. You have to pay to park at the lighthouse, and it only accepts cash.

Unless noted, photos by the author

We may earn a small commission if you click through our link and make a purchase. This revenue helps us maintain this site, so thank you for supporting us.

Places featured in this article: