Long Island is New York City’s backyard, one of New Yorkers’ favorite escapes—a dynamic destination that’s filled with resort towns, cultural centers and more. What Manhattan is to Broadway and bustle, Long Island is to rest and relaxation. But there’s plenty to do for any type of vacationer: surf and sun at a beachfront getaway, chill out at a first-class resort, be seen at one of the area’s hottest clubs and sample wine at a world-renowned vineyard. There are quaint downtowns to stroll, top boutiques and outlet stores to thrill the most selective shopper and some of the country’s most incredible farm-to-table cuisine by celebrity chefs. For the must-do’s when visiting Long Island, read on.
1. Sun, Sand and Surf
Long Island’s sparkling beaches border big waves to the south and quaint villages to the north. Surf the waves at Montauk, sunbathe on the vast stretches of Jones Beach or take in a top concert nearby. Robert Moses State Park is another large beach that’s great for swimming, sports and picnics, and it tends to be less crowded than Jones Beach. Fire Island is home to a number of public and private beaches, and is one of the most popular destinations in the United States for LGBTQ visitors. Shelter Island’s beaches are quieter, and its B&Bs and relaxed vibe are the perfect counterpoints to a stay in the City.
Don’t miss: With more than six miles of white sand beaches, Jones Beach State Park is a great place to swim and sunbathe, stroll on the boardwalk, sample fresh local seafood and barbecue at the many concession stands, or take in a concert by a world-famous band at the outdoor Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater. Learn to hang ten with Skudin Surf, whose expert instructors make riding the waves easy to learn. The surf school has locations at Jones Beach, Long Beach, Tobay, Nickerson, Atlantic Beach and Rockaway Beach.
2. Hook, Line and Sinker
Fisherman flock to Long Island for some of the best saltwater fishing on the East Coast. Both inshore and offshore fishing enthusiasts will find a wave of good fortune—inshore waters teem with striped bass, bluefish, mackerel and flounder, and offshore you can catch tuna, swordfish and shark. Or just dig your toes into the shallows to come up with clams the size of your fist. Across Long Island you can find top-rated fishing charters, fishing tournaments and plenty of watersport rentals, including boats, jet skis, paddleboards, kayaks and more.
Don’t miss: Eskimo Charters sail seven days a week out of Captree State Park. The Star Island Shark Tournament is held in June each year in Montauk and ends with dancing under the stars. Or join the Viking Fleet for whale watching and dolphin spotting in July and August—bring the family!
3. Long Island Wine Country
Long Island is one of the best places in the country to swirl and sip—more than 70 vineyards and wineries produce what just might become your new favorite variety of vino. Long Island is an epicenter for premium vinifera grapes and was named one of the top 10 wine regions in the world by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Long Island’s East End benefits from a long growing season, maritime climate, moderate temperatures and ideal soil conditions. The region produces more than 500,000 cases of wine annually; the most popular varietals include merlot, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and riesling, plus many award-winning blends you’ll want to sample.
Don’t miss: Martha Clara Vineyards is open year-round; their Wine Down Wednesdays run through the summer from 6 to 9pm, complete with wine, live music and a food truck. Take a winery tour at Sannino Bella Vita Vineyards, named one of the best in the country by USA Today—the only New York vineyard to earn the honor.
4. The Gold Coast
On Long Island’s north shore just outside of New York City, world-class museums and Gold Coast mansions highlight a beautiful bygone era. Built during the Roaring Twenties, a time of opulence, almost 200 of the original 500 mansions and estates survive today. (Trivia: a mansion is typically over 7,000 square feet with more than 30 rooms and seven bedrooms.) The location inspiration behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the Gold Coast mansions offer breathtaking splendor. Although many are still private homes, several are open to the public for visits, overnight stays, events and tours.
Don’t miss: Taylor Swift shot her “Blank Space” video at Long Island’s Oheka Castle, a French-style château that dates back to 1919; it’s now a hotel that offers a Gatsby-themed package. The Nassau County Museum of Art is housed in a three-story mansion once owned by steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, and Old Westbury Gardens is laden with gorgeous antiques and surrounded by 200 acres of gardens for a serene stroll.
5. Family Fun
Long Island boasts family fun for everyone—whether it’s a trip to the Long Island Children’s Museum or the Long Island Aquarium. For a history lesson like no other, tour the sites associated with George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring, a secret group of the area’s men and women who ferried information during the Revolutionary War. See a show at the Long Island Puppet Theater & Museum, climb one of the island’s 25 lighthouses, or thrill to concerts and sporting events at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Don’t miss: The Long Island Aquarium features one of the largest all-living coral reef displays, and kids will especially love the “Sea Lion Selfie” experience. At the breathtaking Cradle of Aviation Museum, historic planes are suspended in midair, including the sister plane to Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, along with historical exhibits. And in the hotter months, there’s no better place in New York for kids to cool off than Splish Splash water park, whose dragon- and alien-themed rides have earned it a spot on the Travel Channel’s list of the country’s 10 best water parks.
Long Island is easily accessible from NYC by train, bus, ferry and more. Traveling to its farthest reaches from NYC should take less than three hours. For detailed directions, visit discoverlongisland.com.