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Brendan Manley

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Brendan Manley is an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and content development/marketing professional. He has extensive experience in newspaper and magazine publishing, as well as digital media, covering topics including arts and entertainment, sports, lifestyle, news, technology, travel and history. He is an ongoing contributor to Military History, Hotel News Now.com and HOTELS magazine, as well as the Long Island Press, where he formerly served as Managing Editor and Lifestyle section head. He is currently developing several of his original scripts for Hollywood, and consults on various film and scripted TV projects for studios, producers and financiers. Brendan is based in upstate New York's southern Adirondacks region.

Take A Hike on Long Island’s Greenbelt Trails

Hiking is a great, free, and family-friendly way to get some fresh air. (Getty Images)

For Long Island hikers, the term “Greenbelt” has expanded significantly over the years. 

Starting with the original namesake 31.8-mile north-south path completed in 1982 — which runs from Sunken Meadow State Park on the LI Sound to Heckscher State Park on Great South Bay — LI’s Greenbelt Trail system now encompass several different routes, all offering their own unique glimpses of the island’s stunning natural beauty and ecological diversity.

Since much of the island’s landscape is relatively flat, some of LI’s Greenbelt trails are relatively easy for most hikers; the real trick is having the fortitude to walk the substantial length required to complete some of these hikes, like the 47-mile Pine Barrens Trail. Others, like those on the North Shore, can be quite hilly and rocky, offering a more intense aerobic workout. 

But regardless of your ability and stamina, one of the Greenbelt trails below will surely scratch your itch for a stroll:

Long Island Greenbelt Trail
This is the original granddaddy Greenbelt hiking trail, a challenging but rewarding trek that takes hikers on a 31.8-mile north-south course traversing the island from shore to shore, following the course of the Connetquot and Nissequogue Rivers and traversing the Ronkonkoma Moraine.  From the south, the trail begins at Heckscher State Park and terminates at Sunken Meadow, also bisecting Connetquot and Caleb Smith state parks along the way, as well as residential neighborhoods. In the undeveloped stretches you’ll observe a variety of ecosystems and wildlife as you walk along beaches, bluffs, marshes and deciduous forests. Dogs are permitted on the trail, but must be leashed.

Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail
Here’s a 20-mile path that runs north-south from Cold Spring Harbor to the Massapequa Preserve watershed, connecting with the Walt Whitman Trail in the Huntington area. You can pick up this National Recreation Trail from multiple spots; beginning at the northern Cold Spring Harbor portion is popular for its majestic harbor views and for its difficulty, due to steep terrain. Southern portions offer pleasing views of lakes, ponds and abundant waterfowl, but can get swampy in rainy weather. A special feature of the Nassau-Suffolk Trail is its bike paths, which are marked blue and run parallel to the walking paths, so both hikers and mountain bikers can enjoy the voyage. Some parts of the trail, such as Stillwell Woods in Woodbury, have their own smaller trails within. Dogs are permitted on the trail, but must be leashed.

Walt Whitman Trail
This 8.2-mile trail offers a quick, easy walk that even beginning hikers can tackle, while experiencing both the historic and natural beauty of the Huntington area. The trail begins at Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site in South Huntington and continues through West Hills County Park, including a 3.7-mile loop beginning at Reservoir Road, also accessible from the picnic area at Sweet Hollow Road. During the hike you’ll also be able to take in breathtaking ocean views from the top of Jayne’s Hill, the highest location on Long Island. Dogs are permitted on a leash, while walkers should be prepared to share the trail with riders on horseback.

Pine Barrens Trail
You’ll really have a chance to appreciate the vastness that is Long Island’s Pine Barrens as you hike this 47-mile trail, running from Rocky Point to Hampton Bays. As one ventures deeper into the Barrens’ unspoiled woods, passing serene ponds and streams, it seems like another world entirely. Start at the official Pine Barrens Trails Visitor Center (LIE to Exit 70, then north on County Road 111; the center is 1/4 mile north, on the right), located near several trail access points. Tasked with offering environmental interpretation of the Pine Barrens, the center offers exhibits, literature and brochures, as well as a quick, interpretive “Blueberry Loop” trail on the grounds that gives a taste of the larger hike. Also on the grounds is the accessible 3/4-mile El’s Trail, and the Pine Barrens Touch Museum for kids.

Long Island Seashore Trail
Explore 20 miles of Atlantic oceanfront at Fire Island National Seashore — New York’s lone federally designated wilderness — walking amid beach plums, holly, pines and sassafras. Start at Smith Point County Park at the southern end of William Floyd Parkway, then head westward along the beach, crossing through the Sunken Forest at Sailors Haven. Camping along the trail is allowed by permit; call 631-281-3010 for information. Be sure to bring a map with you, as this trail is unblazed.

*Safety Note: Before attempting a hike of several miles, be sure you are properly prepared for the journey. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, bring water and snacks, and use bug spray and sunscreen when appropriate.

Other Recommended Walks:

Muttontown Preserve
25A west of Jericho-Oyster Bay Road, East Norwich, 516-571-8500, nassaucountyny.gov/2839/Muttontown-Preserve
Meander through this preserve’s 550 acres of fields and forests and you’ll experience a unique mix of natural and manmade wonders. Historic highlights are the ruins of King Zog of Albania’s former mansion, as well as Nassau Hall and the Chelsea Mansion and Estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s also evidence of the pre-Revolutionary Duryea Farm.

Hempstead Lake State Park
Lakeside Drive, West Hempstead, 631-669-1000, parks.ny.gov/parks/hempsteadlake
This large 737-acre Nassau park’s trails span three ponds, offering great nature photo opportunities and a relatively easy stroll. As you walk through its shady groves, it’s hard to believe you’re in the heart of Nassau County.

Sands Point Preserve
127 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, 516-571-7901, sandspointpreserveconservancy.org
Enjoy a walk in serene woods along Long Island’s Gold Coast within this stunning 216-acre park, featuring six trails running through forests, on beaches and along high bluffs. The preserve’s 1.6-mile loop trail is good for all skill levels, and there’s even the short Dino Trail for kids, where they follow dinosaur footprints. Guided nature walks are periodically offered.

Quogue Wildlife Refuge
3 Old Country Road, Quogue, 631-653-4771, quoguewildliferefuge.org
This East End refuge’s 300 acres in the Pine Barrens provides hikers with three different trails (running .8 miles, 1.4 miles and 3 miles), as well as another 7 miles of connected trails, running through forests and along ponds, including patches of rare dwarf pines. The smaller .8-mile course circles a pond and small nature center and gift shop. Regardless of your path, be on the lookout for native wildlife such as foxes, eagles and various waterfowl. Dogs are not permitted.

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve
581 West Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, 631-265-1054, parks.ny.gov/parks/124
If you’re not up for the LI Greenbelt’s full 32 miles, you may want to just focus on one of its interconnected parks, like Caleb Smith. Here you can trek through 543 acres, spotting a wealth of wildlife and rare plants like Indian Pipe, Trailing Arbutus and Pink Lady Slipper. There’s also a nature museum with exhibits including a great blue heron, red fox, flying squirrel and river otter.

Trail View State Park
8101 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury, 631-423-1770, parks.ny.gov/parks/39
Here’s a tract than runs between Cold Spring Harbor and Bethpage State Parks along the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, encompassing some 400 acres. Marshes, succession fields and hardwood forests typify the view, as well as bicyclists who share the paths with walkers, with elevations ranging from 60 to 300 feet above sea level. The park is a favorite spot for birdwatchers year-round, especially during the spring and fall migrations.

Guide To Long Island’s Leading Irish Bars

Long Island has no shortage of Irish pubs. (Getty Images)

If you throw a dart at a map of pretty much any Long Island town, chances are you’ll come within striking distance of at least one, or perhaps several, Irish pubs. There may be locales in the world where pints of Guinness are in short supply, but thankfully LI is decidedly not one of those places.

So whether you’re looking to kick it like a Celt on St. Patrick’s Day, or just pop in for a pint and a shepherd’s pie on a Tuesday, you’ll find no lack of nearby options. Some recommended Irish oases include:

Buckley’s Irish Pub
386 Montauk Hwy., Center Moriches, 631-909-8330, buckleyspubrestaurant.com
Buckley’s has been a staple in the Moriches area for many years, and it’s easy to see why the locals and visitors keep coming back for more. The warm and inviting atmosphere pairs well with the quality dining and drink choices, and there are some great daily specials, like two-for-one Tuesdays, “Wine Down Wednesdays” and prime rib Thursdays. A popular event is burger night on Mondays, where $5.95 gets you a meaty slab of heaven.

Carney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
136 Broadway, Amityville, 631-464-4445, carneysamityvillage.com
Situated in the heart of quaint old Amityville, Carney’s has all the elements of a great Irish pub, from the vibe, to the drinks, to the food. Brunch is served on Sundays and happy hour runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, featuring drink specials and reduced price appetizers. Check the online calendar for upcoming live music, which typically goes down several times per week. 

Flanagan’s Pub
451 Hawkins Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma, 631-588-9843, flanaganspub.net
Lake Ronkonkoma has its own Flanagan’s-dubbed Irish pub, which takes pride in its Celtic cuisine and expertly poured pints. Happy hour runs Monday through Saturday from 4 pm to 7 pm, along with daily food specials like “Burger and a Beer / Boozy Bingo” on Tuesday nights, or “Fish & Chips / Wine Not” Wednesdays. There’s even a delectable late-night happy hour menu served in the bar area until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; for just $9 you can crush a corned beef Reuben and fries, or loaded tater tots, or a host of other drunken wee-hour glories.

Fulton’s Gate
124 E. Main St., Patchogue, 631-289-1490, fultonsgate.com
Patchogue’s killer nightlife assortment includes this Irish-themed gem, where traditional meets modern and we’re all the better for it. While throwing back pints and/or cocktails your eye is likely to also wander to the tempting dining menu, boasting extensive favorites like Irish fish chowder and Dublin coddle as well as unexpected surprises like edamame dumplings and duck wontons.

Grafton Street Pub
261 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Hauppauge, 631-360-0761, graftonstreetpubli.com
Don’t let the unassuming strip-mall exterior fool you: Grafton Street has reimagined the former Gallaway’s, bringing this neighborhood hangout into the next generation. Honoring Dublin’s famous Grafton Street, the pub focuses on food that’s as tasty as its pints, especially its massive burgers. Check the website for its lengthy list of daily food and drink specials.

James Joyce
49 S. Ocean Ave., Patchogue, 631-562-4000, jamesjoyceny.com
Named for the famed Irish author, the James Joyce in Patchogue actually lives by the famous quote from another Irish scribe, William Butler Yeats: “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” Strangers and friends alike converge on the pub for its extensive whiskey list, wide range of imported and domestic draft beers, and large selection of wine and liquors. The menu is also well worth your time and cash, if for no other reason than to enjoy the decadent Scotch egg offered among the appetizers.

Lily Flanagan’s Pub
345 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-539-0816, lilyflanaganspub.com
Lily’s opened its Babylon location in 2007 and has been a fixture of the village’s thriving restaurant and nightlife scene ever since. Grab a beverage from one of two oversized 360-degree bars, featuring 24 seasonally rotating draft beers, seasonal craft cocktails, and all of the classics. Live music happens on Friday nights, happy hour is hosted daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday Shenanigans provide 2-for-1 Corona bottles from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. The kitchen, which serves “Irish fare with an American twist,” runs until 11 p.m.

Mary Carroll’s Irish Pub
121 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-587-6181, facebook.com/IRISHPUB.mc
Another downtown Babylon favorite among pub peeps is Mary Carroll’s, where the brick and wood paneling look of the place gives off that classic Irish bar ambiance. Inside you’ll find tasty grub and a full range of draft beer and cocktails, as well as an outdoor patio/beer garden for warm-weather drinking. Locals praise the wings and late-night food and drink options.

Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub
15 E. Main St., Smithtown, 631-360-0606. nappertandysirishpub.com
229 Laurel Ave., Northport, 631-757-4141, northport.nappertandysirishpub.com
60 E. Main St., Bay Shore, 631-665-0040, nappertandysbayshore.com
Napper’s has its own Irish pub empire on Long Island, with multiple locations for folks looking to get their Irish on. Each location has its own identity, however; the newest branch — Bay Shore — occupies the former Nutty Irishman pub, located in an old downtown firehouse. Napper’s in Smithtown, meanwhile, has grown into a major live entertainment venue, in addition to providing food and drink. For diners, fret not: Each Napper’s serves similar pub menus featuring classic comfort food, with some variation by the chefs at each venue. 

The Nutty Irishman
320 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-293-9700, thenuttyirishman.com
The Nut’s slogan is “Cold beer, great music, good times,” and how can one go wrong with that? The place is also legendary for its burgers and wings and offers 26 taps, plus a packed live music calendar, with two bands performing on both Friday and Saturday nights. Can’t decide on a beverage? Try the beer flight, featuring five different 10-ounce beer tasters. Tuesday is country music night, complete with live music and line dancing, in case you’re really feeling nutty.

Paddy’s Loft
1286 Hicksville Rd., Massapequa, 516-798-7660, paddysloft.com
This Nassau County Gaelic hangout touts itself as the “home of the 20-ounce Guinness pint,” so what more reason to visit do you really need? As you’re imbibing that tower of frothy goodness, you’ll also enjoy the cozy vibe of the place, from its traditional wood furnishings to the crackling stone hearth. It’s a favorite for night owls, serving both food and drink until 4 a.m., just in case the urge hits you for lamb stew or bangers and mash at the witching hour.

Paddy Power
70 Merrick Ave., Merrick, 516-223-3900, paddypowerpub.com
Paddy Power is serious about keeping Nassau County pub-goers happy: Normally its happy hour runs all day until 7 p.m. on weekdays, but in 2020 the pub will offer happy hour every day, until 10 p.m.! Pop in for daily food specials, too, like Mexican Mondays or its Irish Sunday brunch. Thursdays are karaoke and ladies night, while tap beers and apps are just $5 on Tuesdays after 7 p.m. The menu is extensive and has something for all.

Shandon Court
115 E. Main St., East Islip, 631-581-5678, shandoncourt.net
Blessed with both a first-rate restaurant as well as a bar, Shandon Court is a perennial favorite for Irish fare in the Islip area, and is regularly voted tops on Long Island. This is your spot when you’re looking for seriously elevated Irish-American cuisine and are willing to pay for it, like its grilled sirloin shepherd’s pie ($21) or ale-marinated corned beef and cabbage ($23). The lounge offers 14 beers on tap, daily drink specials and live music on Fridays, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Long Island’s Must-visit Coffee Houses

There are dozens of independent local coffee shops to choose from in Nassau and Suffolk counties. (Getty Images)

Make no mistake: Long Island runs on coffee. 

Whether your routine consists of a lengthy Long Island Rail Road commute, or sitting in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, or rolling out of bed at 11 a.m., finding a great cup of black gold is essential to the happiness and peaceful behavior of many Long Islanders, no matter what time of day.

So the next time you feel the longing, skip the chains and try one of LI’s independent coffee houses, where quality is king and the ambiance can’t be found at your nearest Starbucks. Here are some favorite locales for a hot or cold brew, plus tasty treats to go with:

Babylon Bean Coffee House
17 Fire Island Ave., Babylon, 631-587-7729

Babylon Bean North Coffee House
775 Deer Park Ave., North Babylon, 631-314-4073, thebabylonbean.com

Going strong since 2010, the original Babylon location and its newer North Babylon sibling feature eight distinct roasts brewed daily. There’s an open mic on Wednesdays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. and live music Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Check out the local artists’ gallery.

Bay Shore Bean
47 E. Main St., Bay Shore, 631-647-7971, bayshorebean.com

The Bean Of Patchogue

62 W. Main St., Patchogue, 631-669-4900, facebook.com/thebeanofpatchogue

The same owners who brought you Babylon Bean and Babylon Bean North are also keeping Bay Shore and Patchogue locals caffeinated. And like their siblings, you can always expect fair trade beans that are locally roasted and then brewed onsite.

Caffe Portofino
249 Main St., Northport, 631-262-7656, caffeportofinonpt.com

This “funky little coffee shop” in the heart of Northport also serves up smoothies, breakfast, paninis and more. Deciding between specials like their savory muffins, nest eggs, breakfast burritos and breakfast pizzas is no easy choice. 

Coffee Booths
226 Middle Country Rd., Selden, 631-846-1966, facebook.com/coffeebooths

This beloved spot was just voted Best Coffee House for the fourth straight year and Best Cup of Coffee for the third time in the annual Bethpage Best of Long Island contest. What more do you need to know?

Crazy Beans
97 Main St., Stony Brook, 631-675-6964, 2 Front St., Greenport, 631-333-2436, 159-14 Route 25A, Miller Place, 631-403-4954, crazybeansrestaurant.com

The husband-and-wife team who launched Crazy Beans are as serious about coffee as they are about food, which is why Crazy Beans has rapidly expanded to three LI locations. The coffee is excellent and all food is cooked to order.

The Cup Coffeehouse
3268 Railroad Ave., Wantagh, 516-826-9533, facebook.com/TheCupCoffeeHouse

Another longtime favorite in the LI coffee house scene, The Cup is the place for Nassau County caffeine-heads to drink up and soak in the joint’s hip vibe and great music. There’s also live entertainment and some truly fabulous desserts.

Flux Coffee
211 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-586-8979, fluxcoffee.com

Flux began on the West Coast as a cold brew early adopter, but its Farmingdale hub now delights East Coasters with all forms of the brewed bean. You can also grab some of their pre-bagged grounds and goodies to go.

For Five Coffee Manhasset
292 Plandome Rd., Manhasset, 516-918-9488, forfivecoffee.com

The lone LI location of this national independent coffee house chain promises the perfect cup of fresh-roasted java.

Gentle Brew Coffee
151 E. Park Ave., Long Beach, 516-605-2370, gentlebrewcoffee.com

This hip Long Beach java hangout also operates a small outlet on the boardwalk, so you can sip and stroll. The Park Avenue flagship location also offers gourmet breakfast items on weekends.

Georgio’s Coffee Roasters
1965 New Hwy., Farmingdale, 516-238-2999, georgioscoffee.com

Don’t be fooled by its unassuming exterior: Georgio’s is serious about selling great coffee, and its patrons flock there for their fix. You can always count on a mouthwatering aroma as you enter and a grand assortment of beans from around the globe.

Hampton Coffee Company

869 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill, 631-726-2633, 194 Mill Rd., Westhampton, 631-288-4480, 749 County Road 39A, Southampton, 631-353-3088, 272 Main Rd., Aquebogue, 631-779-2862, hamptoncoffeecompany.com

Some 20 years after starting out in Water Mill, Hampton Coffee Company has four locations, and is a go-to choice for East End coffee lovers. It’s beloved by tourists and locals alike, so get in line and see what all the fuss is about.

Jack Jack’s Coffee House
223 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-526-9983, jackjackscoffeehouse.com

Another top-flight Babylon-area coffee haunt, Jack Jack’s serves a killer cup, but also boasts an art gallery and a menu of delectable breakfast and lunch items. Check for daily specials.

Kookaburra Coffee Co.
69 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre, 516-255-1750, 324A Hempstead Tpke., Malverne, 516-218-2258, kookaburracoffeeny.com

Kookaburra’s success in RVC led to the opening of a second location in Malverne in 2018, near the LIRR station, so caffeine-craving commuters can get in on the action. Both locations come highly recommended.

Massapequa Perk
117 Front St., Massapequa Park, 516-541-7375, facebook.com/Massapequa.perk

Yes, the name is thesame play on words as the coffee shop from Friends. But don’t be fooled. These folks are serious about their coffee.

Morning Rose Cafe
317 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, 516-221-5010, morningrosecafe.com

Enjoy your brew and breakfast in a New England B&B setting lovingly created in Bellmore. Gourmet breakfast is served all day, as well as lunch items ranging from soup to salad to sandwiches to burgers.

Nana’s Ice Cream and Coffee House
225A Post Ave., Westbury, 516-338-6888

Coffee? Check. Good food? Check. Ice cream? You betcha. The only question is: In what order will you consume them all? That’s the burning question Nana’s customers must answer each time they visit this Westbury favorite.

North Fork Roasting Co.
55795 Main Rd., Southold, 631-876-5450, noforoastingco.com

This small-batch artisanal coffee roaster is deeply entrenched within the North Fork vineyard/agriculture community, which drives its passion for excellence. Co-owner Jess Dunne is also a chef, so you can count on food that’s as memorable as the brew.

Pipeline Coffee Company
1887 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh, 516-785-5000, 318A Sunrise Hwy., Rockville Centre, 516-205-8040, pipelinecoffeecompany.com

Pipeline came onto the LI coffee scene in 2018 and already boasts two locations. The focus is fresh, green, sustainable coffee, roasted onsite, plus from-scratch grab-and-go meals and snacks, Coastal Craft Kombucha and Greek yogurt by Nounos Creamery.

Roast Coffee & Tea Trading Company
41 E. Main St., Patchogue, 631-627-3966, roast.coffee

Specializes in micro-roast coffee and fine teas, and has been doing it well for 10 years. The espresso bar is top flight and there’s a wide offering of unique specialty drinks that keeps fans coming back for more.

Sip This
64 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream, 516-341-0491, sipthisny.com

Sip aims to be much more than just a coffee house; its owners aim to make it a fixture of the Valley Stream community. That’s why a full calendar of events, including live music and comedy, as well as exhibits of local art, are at home alongside great coffee and food.

Southdown Coffee
210-B Wall St., Huntington, 49 Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay, southdowncoffee.com

Offers a rotating selection of its high-quality single-source coffee varieties plus a well-stocked menu of breakfast and lunch items. In a rare twist, Mexican favorites figure prominently among the fare, including burritos and tacos, alongside gourmet egg sandwiches.

Sweetie Pies on Main
181 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor, 631-367-9500, sweetiepiesonmain.com

Coffee and pastry go together like peanut butter and jelly, and that’s the magic combination that makes Sweetie Pies a North Shore hotspot. Sipping a hot cup of java (provided by local roaster Georgio’s) while eating a slice of pie, or perhaps a French doughnut or macarons, will be the highlight of your day.

Toast Coffeehouse
46 E. Main St., #3102, Patchogue, 631-654-7091, 9 South Park Ave., Bay Shore, 631-647-9560, 242 E. Main St., Port Jefferson, 631-331-6860, toastcoffeehouse.com

Toast is doing great things with its hybrid coffee house/eatery concept, and now boasts three LI locations. The artsy, eclectic vibe and the fantastic fare keep customers lining up outside the door.

The Witches Brew

311 Hempstead Tpk., West Hempstead, 516-489-9482, facebook.com/The-Witches-Brew

This Nassau County favorite was one of the original bastions of the ’90s coffee house explosion on LI, and is still brewing strong decades later. Great coffee and food (including extensive vegan options) and a uniquely funky atmosphere are a major part of that longevity.

Where to Ice Skate on Long Island

Ice skating isn’t just for hockey players and Olympians.

Although it may not be Canada, Long Island is surprisingly well stocked with ice rinks, both indoor and out, from Nassau County to the East End. So the next time you feel the urge to hit the ice, whether it’s for a leisurely skate or a bit of puck, test your blades of steel at one of these recommended rinks:

Nassau County

Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink
Offers skating programs for all ages, including parent-and-me sessions for toddlers, as well as figure skating, synchronized skating, hockey, birthday parties and private and group lessons. Warm up by the snack bar and fireplace in the lounge. Teen Night is held on Fridays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring music, club lighting and adult supervision. 65 Arrandale Ave., Great Neck, 516-487-4673, gnparks.org

Cantiague Park Ice Rink
Stop by for public skating every afternoon, including weekends. Nassau County residents pay $10 for adults and $6 for children; nonresidents pay $22 for adults and $15 for children. Skate rentals cost $5. Check the rink schedule for skating lessons, speed skating, and hockey camps and clinics. 480 W. John St., Hicksville, 516-571-7056, nassaucountyny.gov/2791/Cantiague

Christopher Morley Park
This regulation-sized outdoor rink, a popular Nassau spot, holds open skating six days a week (none on Thursdays). Skate rentals are also available. 500 Searingtown Rd., Roslyn, 516-571-8120, nassaucountyny.gov/2794/Christopher-Morley-Park

De Matteis Ice Rink
Public skating is offered at this outdoor rink from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weeknights, weather permitting. Weekend sessions start every two hours between noon and 9:30 p.m. Admission costs $10 for adults and $6 for kids under 12. Skate rental costs $5. Concessions are also available. 102 EAB Plaza, Uniondale, 516-683-0303.

Freeport Recreation Center Ice Rink
Enjoy free skate rentals at the Thursday afterschool skating special from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday night is Teen Night from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., set to music. Public skating is available on Sundays from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; one parent skates free with each child. Serves as home base for Arrows Youth Hockey and Freeport Skating Academy.  Freeport residents enjoy discount passes and activity cards. 130 E. Merrick Rd., Freeport, 516-377-2314. freeportny.gov/148/Ice-Rink

Grant Park Skating Rink
This outdoor rink is open five days a week (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Check out the night skating from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Skate rental is available. Broadway and Sheridan Ave., Hewlett, 516-571-7821, nassaucountyny.gov/2799/Grant-Park

Iceland
Public skates are held Fridays from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 2:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. (children only) and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Admission costs $9 for kids 9 and younger; $11 for all other ages. Skate rental costs $6. Skate to a live DJ Friday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Birthday parties are available, as well as a skating school, hockey clinics and camps, and a figure skating club. Discounts are offered for large groups and frequent skaters. 3345 Hillside Ave., New Hyde Park, 516-746-1100, icelandlongisland.com

Iceworks
Formerly the official practice facility of the New York Islanders, this top-tier rink offers learn-to skate program for kids and toddlers, as well as hockey classes for “minis” (ages 5 to 7), Hockey 101 (ages 7 to 12) and adult hockey instruction. It is also the home rink of the Junior Islanders youth hockey program. 175 Underhill Blvd., Syosset, 516-496-2277, nhl.com/islanders/iceworks

Long Beach Municipal Ice Arena
Offers multiple weekly public skating sessions, as well as a half-hour learn-to-skate program on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for skaters aged 4 and older. There’s also the new Junior Rangers Girls Hockey League, for girls aged 11 to 14. Public skate sessions cost $8 per adult and $6 per child 12 and under for residents; nonresident adults pay $10 and $8 for children. Skate rentals cost $5. There is also a snack bar and party room. 150 W. Bay Dr., Long Beach, 516-705-7385, longbeachny.gov/icearena

Long Island Sports Hub
This multisports complex includes an ice hockey-focused rink for skating and skill development, scrimmages and more. It offers skate and rink rentals, as well as skill development programs for beginner to advanced players. 165 Eileen Way, Syosset, 516-364-4000, lisportshub.com

Newbridge Arena
Holds multiple public skates, including Friday night sessions. Youth hockey, private and group lessons and birthday parties are also available. Newbridge also hosts Hot Shot Hockey, one of LI’s largest fire and police hockey leagues. 2600 Newbridge Rd., Bellmore, 516-783-6181, newbridgearena.com

Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park
This is the new official practice facility of the New York Islanders. Public sessions are typically held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; check the website for evening times. Admission costs $11 for skaters 13 and up, $9 for kids ages 6 to 12, and free for kids aged 5 and younger. Skate rental costs $5. There’s a pro shop, and birthday parties are available. The rink also runs a skating school and hockey leagues. 200 Merrick Ave, East Meadow, 516-441-0070, northwellhealthicecenter.com

Port Washington Skating Center
Sundays are Family Skating Day from 2:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. There’s also skating school, open skating sessions and youth and adult hockey. Party packages can also be booked. 70 Seaview Blvd., Port Washington, 516-484-6800, pwskating.com

Town of Oyster Bay Ice Skating Center
Located at Bethpage Community Park. Offers skate rentals, public sessions and group lessons, youth hockey and birthday parties. Figure skating lessons are provided by the RINX Skating School. 1001 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, 516-433-7465, oysterbaytown.com

Suffolk County

Deer Park Tanger Ice Rink
Why not skate where you shop? Admission is $10 (kids younger than 5 skate free) and skate rentals are $4 (free for TangerClub members). Check the website for current public hours. Teens with school IDs enjoy discounted skating on Tuesdays, and there’s a Friday night skate complete with DJ. Parties and lessons are also available. 152 The Arches Cir., Deer Park, 631-940-9750, tangericerink.com

Dix Hills Ice Rink
This Town of Huntington-owned rink holds open skating sessions on weekends from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays from 3:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. There’s also a special Friday night session with a DJ from 8:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. There’s an ice hockey recreation league you can join, skating lessons for all ages and a snack bar. 575 Vanderbilt Pkwy., Dix Hills, 631-462-5883, huntingtonny.gov

Southampton Ice Rink
A semi-enclosed facility, this refrigerated rink offers skating into April, with public skating held six days a week (closed Mondays). Skate rentals are available, as well as afterschool lessons and hockey leagues. 668 County Rd. 39, Southampton, 631-283-2158.

Superior Ice Rink
Hit the ice for public sessions from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends, Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and with a DJ on Friday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Admission costs $9 for adults and $7 for children ages 11 and younger. Skate rental costs $4. There’s a pro shop and party packages are available. 270 Indian Head Rd., Kings Park, 631-269-3900, superioricerink.com

The Rinx
Featuring twin NHL regulation-size rinks, this Town of Islip building located in Hidden Pond Park is Suffolk’s premiere destination for all things ice. It offers party packages, skating schools, hockey camps and a snack bar. Open skates are held from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays; weekend sessions run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also check out the Friday “Rock & Roll Night,” from 8:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. 660 Terry Rd., Hauppauge, 631-232-3222, therinx.com

The Rinx at Harborfront Park
You can’t beat the view at this outdoor rink in Port Jefferson’s Harborfront Park, open seven days a week. Parties, lessons and locker rentals are available. 101-A E Broadway, Port Jefferson, 631-403-4357, therinx.com/pjrinx

The Rinx at Wyandanch Plaza
This relatively new outdoor rink offers public skating through March 1. Sessions run Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission costs $8 per adult, $5 for kids and $4.50 for seniors. Multiple learn-to-skate classes are also offered. 40 Station Dr., Wyandanch, 631-643-2050, therinx.com/wp

Miraculous Manhasset: From Pasture to Prada

Downtown Manhasset runs along Plandome Road. Photo by Tab Hauser.

Driving through Manhasset on ever-busy Northern Boulevard, it’s hard to imagine that the place was once basically just one big waterfront pasture on the North Shore, where as far back as the mid-1600s hundreds of cows enjoyed the area’s fine grazing land. 

The real estate has appreciated considerably since then, while the local bovine population has notably declined. What is now known as Manhasset — a Native American term meaning “island neighborhood” — was formerly part of a broader peninsula called Cow Neck, also comprised of modern-day Port Washington and other surrounding villages, located on Schout’s Bay, or present Manhasset Bay. 

By 1659, Cow Neck was home to 300 cows and their keepers, separated from its southern neighbors by 5 miles of fence. In 1677 the fence came down, landholdings were formalized and the future Manhasset became Little Cow Neck, while Port Washington took the name Upper Cow Neck.

It wasn’t until 1840 that Manhasset adopted its present name, just as changes began to sweep through the area. Although the dairy business so long associated with the region remained strong, new industries — like oysters — started to take hold. Then in 1898, Manhasset was connected to the Long Island Rail Road, leaving most of its agrarian past behind, as a series of spectacular estates of families like the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and Strathmores took hold.

As those extravagant days ebbed by mid-century, the region evolved again, becoming one of LI’s most family friendly communities and a premiere destination for retail, hosting branches of some of the most well-known stores in New York.

That means there’s plenty to do in Manhasset, whether your interests range from big-ticket shopping sprees to serene nature walks. Here are some ways to truly immerse one’s self in all that is Manhasset:

IF THIS ROCK COULD TALK

To get a real sense of just how long the Manhasset region has been occupied, try and sneak a peek at Shelter Rock (10 feet from Shelter Rock Road, on the border of Manhasset and North Hills), an 1,800-ton natural granite boulder glacially deposited there more than 11,000 years ago. Measuring 55 feet high and 35 feet wide, it is the largest known of its kind on the Island, and features a 30-foot overhang. Native Americans purportedly used the rock as shelter as far back as 1,000 B.C. and the Matinecock tribe is known to have settled nearby; multiple colonial and Native American legends surrounded the rock for centuries and still endure. 

Today, Shelter Rock is located on the 408-acre Greentree Foundation (gtftew.org) private estate, formerly owned by the Whitneys, which is one of Long Island’s last largely intact Gold Coast estates and comprises nearly a quarter of Manhasset’s total land footprint. It is now a conference center dedicated to international justice and human rights issues; unfortunately, that means Shelter Rock is not currently publicly accessible, aside from special tours conducted for schools, scout troops and other groups, and special events like the Greentree Foundation Teachers’ Ecology Workshop, held there each year. However, if you drive on Shelter Rock Road, look for a marker sign, denoting where you can potentially see the very top of Shelter Rock from the road, especially during the winter, when there is less vegetation.

Manhasset is also home to abundant parkland. (Photo by Jim Henderson)

COMMUNE WITH NATURE

Some former Manhasset estates, luckily, are now public domain. The natural beauty of the Manhasset area is showcased for all to enjoy at Leeds Pond Preserve (1526 N. Plandome Rd., Plandome Manor, 516-627-9400, nassaucountyny.gov/2834/Leeds-Pond-Preserve), a rolling, 35-acre oasis overlooking Manhasset Bay. Hike its nature trails through a wooded valley crowned with 16 acres of maple, oak, and tulip trees, past the ruins of a stone farmhouse, following a stream leading to Leeds Pond. There is a 40-minute self-guided trail around the pond — home to numerous varieties of ducks and birds — as well as several unmarked trails to explore. 

The preserve is also home to the Science Museum of Long Island (1526 N. Plandome Rd., Plandome Manor, 516-627-9400, smli.org), housed in a former Victorian mansion. The museum is run by a nonprofit dedicated to teaching children about science through various programs, including enrichment workshops held on weekdays and during school vacations, as well as summer camps. Activities at the museum are scheduled, preregistered science workshops only; it does not currently offer any exhibits. Check the website for upcoming events.

TRACES OF THE PAST

Although you have to make a concerted effort to look for them, Manhasset and its surrounding villages still contain some vestiges of the area’s historic colonial beginnings. For example, the 18th century Flower Hill neighborhood (the intersection of Port Washington Blvd., Bonnie Heights Road and Country Club Drive) still features three original farmhouses: The Willets House, on the west side of Port Washington Blvd., now headquarters of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society (336 Port Washington Blvd., 516-365-9074, cowneck.org); the Williams House, also on the west side of Port Washington Blvd.; and the Hewlett Homestead, on the east side.

And in the hamlet’s old commercial center, right next door to Manhasset’s public library stands its historic Quaker Meeting House (1421 Northern Blvd., 631-421-0259, fgcquaker.org/connect/quaker-finder/manhasset-quaker-meeting), dating to 1702, which was even occupied by British and Hessian troops during the American Revolution. In 1812 the original building was demolished and rebuilt, using the original benches and timbers. The oak tree on the property is said to be one of the oldest and largest on LI.

TRULY MELLIFLUOUS 

Manhasset’s passion for the arts is nurtured by the Music Institute of Long Island (90 Plandome Rd., 516-627-7052, milimusic.com), a classical music school that teaches the Suzuki, traditional and Associated Boards of the Royal Schools of Music methods to students of all ages, instrumental skills and levels. Budding virtuosos flock there to learn from esteemed instructors from some of the most prestigious conservatories and graduate music schools in the U.S. and Europe, who teach instrumental programs in violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, piano, jazz piano, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, voice, and tuba. Graduates of the institute have gone on to colleges and conservatories such as Juilliard, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes School, Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Harvard, Amherst, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan.

The Americana Manhasset, aka The Miracle Mile, is in the heart of the hamlet. (Photo by Shinya Suzuki)

MIRACULOUS MALL

Of course, Manhasset is perhaps most popularly known for its 220,000-square-foot, open-air Americana Manhasset mall (2060 Northern Blvd., 516-627-2277, americanamanhaset.com), stretching along what’s known as the “Miracle Mile.” Yes, that’s the very same Miracle Mile referenced by Billy Joel in the 1980 hit, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” The mall’s dizzying array of more than 60 restaurants and high-end retail stores includes brands like Prada, Hermès, Dior, Cartier, Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara, Celine, Tiffany & Co., surrounded by gardens designed by Oheme, van Sweden & Associates. There was a time when even the likes of J.Lo shopped there. How much more of an endorsement could you possibly need?

WHERE TO DINE

BLVD25
1496 Northern Blvd., 516-918-9083, blvd25ny.com

Café Continental
1538 Northern Blvd., 516-627-4269, cafecontinentalmanhasset.com

Cipollini Trattoria & Bar
2110 Northern Blvd., 516-627-7172, pollrestaurants.com/restaurants/cipollini

Gino’s
451 Plandome Rd., 516-627-5280, ginosofmanhasset.com

La Coquille
1669 Northern Blvd., 516-365-8422, lacoquilleny.com

Louie’s Manhasset Restaurant
339 Plandome Rd., 516-627-0022, louiesmanhassetrestaurant.com

Schout Bay Tavern
118 Plandome Rd., 516-627-2190, schoutbaytavern.com

Stresa
1524 Northern Blvd., 516-365-6956, stresa-restaurant.com

Toku Modern Asian
2014 Northern Blvd., 516-627-7121, pollrestaurants.com/restaurants/toku

Umberto’s
429 Plandome Rd., 516-472-7801, umbertosfamily.com

Villa Milano
168 Plandome Rd., 516-365-3440, villamilanomanhasset.com

WHERE TO STAY
 
Hilton Garden Inn Roslyn
3 Harbor Park Dr., Port Washington, 516-626-3600, hilton.com

Smithtown: Running With The Bull

The Smithtown Bull statue greets visitors on Route 25. (Long Island Press photo)

You can’t miss it as you drive through the hectic intersection of Routes 25 and 25A in Smithtown: a massive statue of a bronze bull, the type which looks more at home on Wall Street than a busy Long Island thoroughfare. And as you might imagine of any farm animal deemed worthy of a statue, in Smithtown — first settled around 1665 — the monument honors no ordinary bull. 

According to the popular—albeit largely fictional—story, English settler Richard Smythe rescued the captured daughter of a Native American chief, who rewarded Smythe by granting him all the land Smythe could encircle in one day on a bull. (Historians say it was really Lion Gardiner, not Smythe, who rescued the daughter. Chief Wyandanch then gave Gardiner the land, which Smythe either bought or won in a card game.)

The myth, however, has a more memorable conclusion: Smythe, apparently no dim bulb, purportedly opted to ride “Whisper,” his prized bull, on the summer solstice — the longest day of the year — thereby acquiring the land once called “Smithfield,” and now known as Smithtown. The bull, meanwhile, got a statue.

Now 350 years later, Smithtown remains as vital a component of the North Shore tapestry as ever. Today, it comprises one of Long Island’s most active and colorful townships, offering fine dining, eclectic retail, historic and natural attractions, arts and entertainment, nightlife and a host of outdoor recreational options. It’s a great place to work, live and visit, and continues to evolve and expand with the times.

Of course, no trip to Smithtown is complete without a quick gander at the bronze Whisper the Bull Statue at the crossroads of Routes 25 and 25A. And by quick, I mean you’ll literally need to look quickly as you drive past, since there’s nowhere nearby to park. Instead, tap your horn in reverence of the majestic creature as you whizz by. After that, our other mandatory Smithtown suggestions include:

Other photo goes on page 2: A crisp blue sky filled with fluffy clouds over the mouth of the Nissequoque River of Long Island. (Getty Images)

GREEN LIVING

Smithtown strikes a healthy balance between picturesque natural scenery and modern suburban convenience. To bask in the former, there’s Caleb Smith State Park Preserve (581 West Jericho Tpke., 631-265-1054, parks.ny.gov/parks/124), boasting 543 passive-use acres and multiple habitats, accessible by several hiking trails. Keep an eye out for birds like prothonotary warblers, Virginia rails and osprey, as well as rare plants like pink lady slipper, trailing arbutus and Indian pipe. There’s also its recently renovated Nature Museum, which presents nature programs and natural history exhibits, including a great blue heron, red fox, flying squirrel and river otter. Fishing is permitted, in season, on the Nissequogue River and Willow Pond; in winter, trails double as paths for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

If your hike at Caleb Smith doesn’t yield enough wildlife sightings (or if you just dig animals), continue on to Sweetbriar Nature Center (62 Eckerncamp Dr., 631-979-6344, sweetbriarnc.org), a haven for natural science education and wildlife rehabilitation. Located on 54 acres of gardens, woodlands, fields and wetlands on the Nissequogue, hundreds of species of plants and animals reside there. Stroll through the outdoor enclosed Butterfly Vivarium; meet the denizens of the Reptile Room and Rainforest Room; play in the Discovery Area; and create in the Art Center. Many special events are also held at Sweetbriar throughout the year, as well as children’s environmental education weeks and birthday parties.

And it would be downright criminal to not specifically mention the many advantages of Smithtown’s prime location on the Nissequogue River. When weather permits, a day spent paddling this scenic waterway is the very definition of idyllic, and Nissequogue River Canoe & Kayak Rentals (Paul T. Given County Park, Routes 25 and 25A, 631-979-8244, canoerentals.com) is there to make it happen for you. Trips begin (or end) at the Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park, or the headwaters at Smithtown’s Paul T. Given County Park. Transportation to and from the launch is provided.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is in the heart of downtown Smithtown..

UNDER THE LIGHTS

Smithtown’s convenient, central location on Suffolk’s North Shore makes it an ideal destination for arts and cultural events, notably at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts (2 E. Main St., 631-724-3700, smithtownpac.org), presenting a range of musical and theatrical events throughout the year. Now entering its 18th season, the center’s 2019-20 calendar includes performances of Annie, The Taming of the Shrew, Green Day’s American Idiot: The Musical, The Addams Family, and A Chorus Line. There’s also a children’s theatre and upcoming special appearances like The Cast of Beatlemania (multiple dates) and Desert Highway Band’s tribute to the Eagles (Dec. 14).

POTENT POTABLES

Wine tasting on Long Island is always a surefire activity, but you might not always have the time for a lengthy ride out to the East End. That’s why it’s all the more enticing that Smithtown is home to Harmony Vineyards (169 Harbor Rd., Head of the Harbor, 631-291-9900, harmonyvineyards.com), sustainably farmed by viticulturist Stephen Mudd and featuring wines crafted by Eric Fry. Sample Harmony’s Bordeaux-style red blends, Chablis-style chardonnays, local beers and gourmet plates year-round in its historic circa-1690 waterfront tasting room and vineyard terrace. Special events include “Drink-In Theatre” on Friday nights and “Tasting Notes Jazz Club” on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Smithtown’s drinking and nightlife scene isn’t all fancy wines and exotic cheeses, either. There are several time-honored watering holes in town where the drafts flow, the wings sizzle and the big-screen TVs glimmer. Croxley Ale House Smithtown (155 W. Main St., 631-656-8787, croxley.com) is one can’t-miss choice, with 52 varieties of beer and cider on tap, 34 bottled brands and six more served in cans. Check out the new and seasonal varieties, the extensive dining menu and the weekly specials, including Taco Tuesdays, Wednesday Historic Wing Nights and Happy Hour specials Monday through Friday.

Similarly classic and heavily frequented is Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub (15 E. Main St., 631-360-0606, nappertandysirishpub.com), which hosts a steady calendar of live bands and a young, lively crowd of partyers. Weekly drink specials and themed nights keep the beverages flowing, as well as Napper’s All-Day Happy Hour from Monday through Friday. There’s also a surprisingly intriguing dining menu, with atypical pub grub like duck empanadas with Thai chili sauce and Brussels sprouts with honey lime Sriracha sauce, alongside classic burgers, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.

A night out in Smithtown can even take on an otherworldly twist. One of the town’s most mythical hangouts, Katie’s of Smithtown (145 W. Main St., 631-360-8556, katiesofsmithtown.com), regularly packs ‘em in thanks to its friendly bartenders, back patio and live music, but the establishment is also reportedly haunted, so there’s that, too. And while I can’t guarantee you’ll experience the supernatural yourself, you’ll definitely want to haunt Katie’s brand-new food truck. Even more legendary than the purported ghosts is Katie’s signature mac daddy cone: a waffle cone stuffed with creamy mac and cheese. Nothing scary there.

Maureen's Kitchen
Maureen’s Kitchen co-owners Christine Fortier and her brother, Kevin Dernbach. Their sister, Doreen Migliore, is also on staff. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

WHERE TO DINE

Aji 53
1 Miller Pl., 631-979-0697, aji53.com

Café Havana
944 W. Jericho Tpke., 631-670-6277, cafehavanali.com

Casa Rustica Restaurant
175 W. Main St., 631-265-9265, casarustica.net

Chop Shop
47 E. Main St., 631-360-3383, chopshopbarandgrill.com

Ciro’s Pizza
546 Smithtown Bypass, 631-724-5745, cirospizzany.com

The Garden Grill
64 N. Country Rd., 631-265-8771, thegardengrill.com

H20 Seafood & Sushi
215 W. Main St., 631-361-6464, h2oseafoodsushi.com

Javier’s Cafe
101 E. Main St., 631-406-7712, javierscafe.net

Maureen’s Kitchen
108 Terry Rd., 631-360-9227

Thai House
53 W. Main St., 631-979-5242, thaihousesmithtown.com

Westbury: The Center Of It All

The annual Westbury street fair draws a crowd on Post Avenue.

For nearly four centuries, the Village of Westbury, nearby Old Westbury, and the surrounding areas have perpetually flourished, nurtured by a central location on prime Long Island real estate. 

Earlier still, the stretch of Jericho Turnpike that winds through Westbury was once a trail used by Massapequa Indians. The view may be different today, but the commute is the same.

Back in the mid-1600s, when the first Europeans began settling the once-vast Long Island prairie known as the Hempstead Plains, an English Quaker named Edmond Titus built a homestead on a prime tract of grassland, amid 12,000 acres purchased purchased by Captain John Seaman in the 1640s from the Algonquian Tribe. Another Quaker settler, Henry Willis, christened the area “Westbury” in 1675, after his hometown of Westbury, Wiltshire, England. More Quaker families soon arrived, and by 1700 Westbury’s first Society of Friends meeting house was built.

Today, much has changed since Westbury’s humble Quaker beginnings. Westbury now boasts one of the most racially and culturally diverse populations on the Island, while Old Westbury — long a Gold Coast stomping ground — is regularly ranked one of the wealthiest places in America. That’s also why it’s a truly vibrant region to visit, whether you’ve got shopping, dining, or fun and games on your agenda.

The truth is, there are lots of reasons for visitors to spend time in Westbury, whether you’re from out of town, or just the next town over. Popular Westbury draws include:

NYCB Theatre at Westbury
NYCB Theater at Westbury

PASSION FOR THE ARTS

Long Island’s live entertainment scene owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the NYCB Theater at Westbury (960 Brush Hollow Rd., 516-247-5200, thetheatreatwestbury.com), a.k.a. the Westbury Music Fair, consistently one of the area’s most enjoyable venues to catch a show at for generations. There’s really nothing quite like a performance on its ever-so-slowly rotating round stage, paired with the intimate feel of the room. What’s also great about the venue is the wide array of acts that come through; upcoming appearances include Los Lobos, Jay Leno, Styx, Dwight Yoakam, and John Cleese.

Westbury is also home to The Space at Westbury Theater (250 Post Ave., 516-283-5575, thespaceatwestbury.com), a vibrant and eclectic entertainment venue occupying the Tudor-styled former Westbury Movie Theater, first opened in 1927. Reborn in recent years, the Space is now an anchor of Post Avenue with its impressive façade, complemented by state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems within. Don’t miss upcoming performances by Carl Palmer, Phil Vassar and the ever-popular Pink Floyd tribute, the Machine.

An artist’s rendering of the exterior of Lesso Home in Westbury.

SHOP AND PLAY

Sometimes, a store is so popular, it ensures a steady stream of visitors to a neighborhood. That’s the case in Westbury with department store Century 21 (1085 Old Country Rd., 516-333-5200, c21stores.com), which beckons to fashion-savvy bargain hunters from all over the 516 and 631. The only thing more impressive than the selection are the prices.

Another of Westbury’s main shopping hubs, the Mall at the Source (1504 Old Country Rd., 516-228-2110), is in the process of being reborn as the mega home goods store Lesso Home New York Market. In the meantime though, some of the key remaining anchors of the old Source mall still provide ample reasons to visit; stop in and enjoy a meal at P.F. Chang’s or The Cheesecake Factory while you still can. It’s also a good excuse to hit the arcade at Dave & Buster’s, if you really need an excuse at all.

Better yet, find a few like-minded gamers and book a slot at Escape of a Lifetime (473 Old Country Rd., 516-780-4420, theescapeofalifetime.com), where you can choose from three different themed escape rooms, with varying levels of difficulty. Break into Da Vinci’s Study to steal his manuscripts, or pretend you’re a bank robber and flee The Vault before the cops arrive. Or, if you’re really up for a challenge, escape from The Asylum, before you become a permanent resident. 

THE LOUNGE OF LIFE

When the hustle and bustle of the Westbury area make you crave a little downtime, luckily there’s a long list of local watering holes and night spots where you can kick back and unwind in style. One neighborhood favorite is His & Hers Bar & Lounge (259 Post Ave., 516-385-3335), where the bartenders are friendly and you can order specialty martinis in flavors like mango, guava, tamarind, peach, and pineapple. Another popular hangout is Friar’s Tavern (231 Post Ave., 516-333-3893), located across from The Space, so it’s a slam-dunk choice for pre- or post-gaming a concert. You’ll also love the great drink prices and all-around good vibes.

For a vibe of an entirely different color, try The Polo Lounge (1100 Jericho Tpke., 516-333-7117, westburymanor.com/polo-lounge), a swanky, old-school restaurant and lounge with 1940s flair, located inside the Westbury Manor catering hall. There are no tables — just booths — perfect for relaxing and enjoying the top-flight food and expertly crafted cocktails. Similarly unique is the Mystique Hookah Lounge (973 Old Country Rd., 516-385-2320, mystiquehookahlounge.com), the area’s preferred location for sharing some shisha with friends. It’s open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, which is perfect for late-night smokers.

Old Westbury Gardens.

GOING GATSBY

Westbury’s fertile terrain wasn’t just prized in the past as farmland; in the 19th century it also attracted the New York elite, who came to hunt, ride, and play polo on the Hempstead Plains. This burgeoning new community of ultrawealthy landowners became the incorporated Village of Old Westbury in 1924, and today it’s still the home of one of the richest concentrations of Americans in the U.S. You may not be able to afford an Old Westbury address, but it sure is a nice place to visit.

There’s really no better (or cheaper) way to live like Old Westbury gentry than to spend a leisurely afternoon at Old Westbury Gardens (71 Old Westbury Rd., 516-333-0048, oldwestburygardens.org), the former estate of steel magnate John Shaffer Phipps. Converted to a museum in 1959, it is now open to the public for tours from late April through October. The centerpiece is Westbury House, built in 1906 by designer George A. Crawley, channeling 17th and 18th century English architecture. It is surrounded by 216 acres of landscaped formal and informal gardens, plus fields and woodlands. There’s no better reminder of why the area’s first settlers — up through its residents of today — are happy to call Westbury home.

WHERE TO STAY

Courtyard by Marriott Westbury Long Island
1800 Privado Rd., 516-542-1001, marriott.com

Hilton Garden Inn Westbury
1575 Privado Rd., 516-683-8200, hilton.com

Holiday Inn Westbury – Long Island
369 Old Country Rd., 516-997-5000, holidayinn.com

Red Roof PLUS+ Long Island – Garden City
699 Dibblee Dr., 516-794-2555, redroof.com

Viana Hotel & Spa
3998 Brush Hollow Rd., 516-338-7777, vianahotelandspa.com

WHERE TO DINE

Black Label Burgers
683 Old Country Rd., 516-333-6059, blacklabelburgersny.com

Café Baci
1636 Old Country Rd., 516-832-8888, cafebacirestaurant.com

Pollos El Paisa
989 Old Country Rd., 516-338-5858, polloselpaisali.com

Steve’s Piccola Bussola
649 Old Country Rd., 516-333-1335, stevespiccolabussola.com

Tesoro’s Ristorante
967 Old Country Rd., 516-334-0022, tesorosrestaurant.com

Riverhead: LI’s Breadbasket, And So Much More

Downtown Riverhead during the Reflexions art installation. (Photo by Arthur Rast)

The North Shore Long Island Town of Riverhead gets its name from its location at the mouth of the Peconic River, but some might argue the region is truly defined by its seemingly endless expanse of farm fields. 

Boasting some 20,000 acres of LI’s 35,000 total acres of farmland, Riverhead proudly serves as the island’s “breadbasket,” with vast stretches of apple orchards, pumpkin farms, vineyards, and corn and potato fields. It’s also the gateway to the East End and home to a bounty of attractions and diversions.

“Riverhead is uniquely located at the crossroads of the East End of Long Island,” says Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. “As the gateway to this distinct area of Long Island, Riverhead is home to sprawling farm fields, scenic beaches, a vibrant arts scene, and a different way of life. When you visit Riverhead you get to experience our rustic culture, and discover the pride we have in our special town.”

Riverhead has also played a vital role in LI’s political development. The smaller hamlet of Riverhead was literally put on the map in 1727 with the construction of the Suffolk County Court House, making it the seat of Suffolk government to this day. After the American Revolution, new jurisdictions divided Riverhead from the Town of Southold, making it its own official township in 1792. 

Over the successive centuries, downtown Riverhead has been on a roller coaster of prosperity — blossoming into a commercial hub in the 19th century, then experiencing urban blight in the mid-20th century — but began a recovery in the new millennium that has once again made it one of LI’s most recreationally diverse and culturally rich destinations.

When visiting Riverhead, the seasons will play a large role in how you spend your time, since so many activities there involve the outdoors and nature. What follows is a primer on the perennial draws that make Riverhead a favored community and keep visitors coming back for more:

Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center
The Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead is hosting informative talks, feedings, and a multitude of other sessions with its resident cute and snuggly African penguins, otters, seals, sharks and sea lions!

SLIPPERY WHEN WET

Between its riverfront and oceanfront location, Riverhead is anything but landlocked. Not to mention, there’s also Splish Splash (2549 Splish Splash Dr., Calverton, 631-727-3600, splishsplash.com), Long Island’s reigning water park, which is still the summer’s obligatory place to be when the mood hits you to don a bathing suit and shoot down 20 different water slides. The park also features two wave pools, a large kiddie area, lazy river, tropical bird shows, and the rides Bombs Away and Riptide Racer, which opened in 2018.

Then there’s the ever-growing Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center (431 E. Main St., 631-208-9200, ext. 426, longislandaquarium.com) which now features more than 80 exhibits, including Touch Tanks the kids will love. Take in regularly scheduled shows in the outdoor amphitheater, and/or pay the extra fee for a tour on the Atlantis Explorer Tour Boat, which takes guests down the Peconic River into Flanders Bay.

You can also work on your tan in Riverhead, and I’m not talking about a farmer’s tan. The town is home to four year-round beaches: Iron Pier Beach (Pier Rd., Jamesport, 631-727-5744), Wading River Beach (Creek Rd., Wading River, 631-727-5744), Reeves Beach (Park Rd., 631-727-5744) and South Jamesport Beach (Peconic Bay Blvd., Jamesport, 631-727-5744). The first three also offer boating access for both residents and visitors.

SHOPPER’S PARADISE

Riverhead’s not just about nature, either. Crowds regularly converge upon the town’s Tanger Outlets (200 Tanger Mall Dr., 631-369-2732, tangeroutlet.com/riverhead), in search of coveted bargains on goods from the likes of Polo Ralph Lauren, H&M, Nike, Off 5th, Williams Sonoma, Banana Republic, Gap, Barneys New York, Restoration Hardware and Coach, among others. There’s also a pretty decent food court, with Italian, Chinese and Mediterranean options, as well as a McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Nathan’s, Charley’s Philly Steaks and more. Shopping is hungry business.

CURTAIN CALLS

There’s an artistic pulse in Riverhead, too. One of its major arteries is the 350-seat Suffolk Theater (118 E. Main St., 631-727-4343, suffolktheater.com), a stunning, lovingly restored Art Deco movie theater dating to 1933. First closed in 1987, the theater was shuttered for nearly two decades, until Dianne and Bob Castaldi purchased it in 2005, breathing new life into the historic building. It now offers a cabaret-style/dinner theater setting, or traditional theater seating, enhanced by a state-of-the-art lighting and projection system. Upcoming performances include Canned Heat, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Yardbirds, comedian Bob Saget and Croce Plays Croce.

NEED FOR SPEED

For a truly iconic Riverhead experience, check out Riverhead Raceway (1797 Old Country Rd., 631-842-7223, riverheadraceway.com), one of the oldest existing stock car racetracks in the U.S. and the only NASCAR stock car track in the New York metro area. Since 1949, generations of speed-junkies have converged there to get their fix, whether from the stands or behind the wheel. Its one-quarter-mile asphalt, high-banked oval track also includes a famed Figure 8 course. It presents multiple racing divisions every Saturday night, with hundreds of cars in the pits, plus special shows like the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, INEX Legends National Qualifier, NEMA Midgets, Enduros, Demolition Derby, School Bus Figure 8 & Demo, Monster Trucks and more.

TAKE YOUR PICK

Pretty much wherever you look in Riverhead, you are reminded of the East End’s deep agrarian roots, even more so come harvest time. In that spirit, devote a morning or afternoon to visiting Goodale Farms (250 Main Rd., 631-901-5975, goodalefarms.com), one of LI’s lone providers of truly local dairy products and pastured meats, continuing a Goodale family tradition dating to the mid-1800s. Bring the kids and feed the farm’s baby pigs and goats, then go home with a trove of fresh milk, cheese, yogurt and other fine delicacies.

You may also feel inspired to dig deeper into Riverhead’s farming history, in which case a journey to the Hallockville Farm Museum (6038 Sound Ave., 516-298-5292, hallockville.com) is highly recommended.  The museum occupies the former Hallock Homestead, first built in 1765. Visiting its remarkably preserved original buildings and viewing the artifacts displayed throughout the museum offer a vibrant glimpse of life on a typical North Fork farm from 1880 to 1920. Its current special exhibit celebrates Hallockville’s first 250 years, spotlighting residents of the homestead and the preservation and foundation of the museum.

And of course, harvest season is all the encouragement one needs to spend a day leisurely picking apples and/or pumpkins, while loading up on pies, cider, cider doughnuts and similarly earthy treats. In Riverhead, a popular oasis for such pursuits is Harbes Orchard (5698 Sound Ave., 631-369-1111, harbesfamilyfarm.com), open from September through October. The 78-acre apple orchard grows 27 varieties of apples, using an innovative trellis system that keeps its tasty fruit within easy reach. Its apple-picking packages also include access to nine acres of on-the-vine u-pick pumpkins, sold by the pound.

And if you find yourself craving the fruit of another vine — like grapes, and more specifically, wine — you’ll be glad to know that Riverhead shares in the East End’s proud legacy of vineyards. There are multiple worthy options here, including Martha Clara Vineyards (6025 Sound Ave., 631-298-0075, marthaclaravineyards.com), Roanoke Vineyards (3543 Sound Ave., 631-727-4161, roanokevineyards.net), Paumanok Vineyards (1074 Main Rd. (Route 25), Aquebogue, 516-722-8800, paumanok.com) and Palmer Vineyards (5120 Sound Ave., Aquebogue, 516-722-9463, palmervineyards.com). A wine-tasting crawl in Riverhead is always a surefire good time; just remember to arrange transportation or a designated driver.

Hotel Indigo in Riverhead
Hotel Indigo in Riverhead

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Indigo Long Island – East End
1830 W. Main St., 631-369-2200, indigoeastend.com

Hilton Garden Inn Riverhead
2038 Old Country Rd., 631-727-2733, hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com

Hyatt Place Long Island East End
451 E. Main St., 631-208-0002, hyatt.com

Residence Inn Long Island East End
2012 Old Country Rd., 631-905-5811, marriott.com/Riverhead

The Preston House & Hotel
428 E. Main St., 631-775-1500, theprestonhouseandhotel.com

WHERE TO DINE

Buoy One
1175 W. Main St., 631-208-9737, buoyone.com

Farm Country Kitchen
513 W. Main St., 631-369-6311, farmcountrykitchenli.com

Jerry & The Mermaid
469 E. Main St., 631-727-8489, jerryandthemermaid.com

Turkuaz Grill
40 McDermott Ave., 631-591-1757, turkuazgrillriverhead.com

Tweeds Restaurant & Buffalo Bar
17 E. Main St., 631-237-8120, tweedsrestaurantriverhead.com

 

Montauk: The End of the World, And You’ll Feel Fine

Visitors at Montauk Point.

Few Long Island destinations are as singularly impressive as Montauk, the easternmost point in New York State, located on the tip of the South Fork. 

As one stands at one of Montauk’s many scenic spots, staring out into the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean, it truly feels like you’ve reached the end of the world. And honestly, that’s just fine. There’s nowhere else you’ll rather be at that moment.

“Montauk is a unique and important hamlet in the Town of East Hampton,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. “With its vibrant downtown business district immediately adjacent to beautiful ocean beaches, the largest commercial fishing port in New York State, and preserved open space that totals 70 percent of Montauk’s land mass, it is a destination for East Hampton residents and visitors alike.”

Already home to multiple native tribes when the Dutch arrived in the early 1600s, Montauk has a long history as a colonial outpost, a center for agriculture and seafaring, a playground for the rich, and a strategic location for the U.S. military. Claiming more world saltwater fishing records than any other port on the planet, today it remains a bucket-list spot for surf anglers and is home to the state’s largest commercial fishing fleet. And for the countless visitors who don’t arrive with rod and reel, there’s also miles of public space — including long stretches of idyllic beach — just waiting to be explored.

Since for most of us, it’s a fairly lengthy drive to actually reach Montauk, you’ll want to make the most of your time there. Here are some highly recommended hangouts:

HISTORY WITH A VIEW

No trip to Montauk is complete without a visit to the Montauk Lighthouse National Historic Monument (2000 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2544, montauklighthouse.com), towering proudly above Montauk Point. The first and oldest lighthouse in New York State (fourth oldest active in the U.S.), it was authorized in 1792 by the Second Congress, under President George Washington, and completed on November 5, 1796. It still aids navigation today, while providing visitors with breathtaking views of Block Island and the Atlantic Ocean. There’s also an excellent museum inside its c. 1860 keepers’ house, featuring historical documents and photographs, whaling artifacts and more, as well as a gift shop inside its Conway Visitor Center.

But your exploration of Montauk history needn’t end there. Another essential stop is Second House Museum (12 Second House Rd., 631-668-2544, montaukhistoricalsociety.org), the oldest structure in the area, built in 1746 and expanded in 1797. Once the home of one of three area shepherds (each with their own house) who collectively tended what was once a vast pasture, Second House now delights visitors with its tranquil gardens and a museum focused on local history, particularly Montauk’s Native American past. It’s temporarily closed for renovations, but is expected to reopen sometime in the near future.

And for a truly unique experience that fuses history with pop culture and nature, spend a day exploring Camp Hero State Park (1898 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-3781, camphero.net), occupying a stunning 754 oceanfront acres, including a portion of the former Montauk Air Force Station, decommissioned in 1981. Conspiracy rumors regarding the base have circulated for decades — including tales of strange Cold War-era time-travel experiments conducted underground in a vast network of tunnels and bunkers — partly inspiring the hit Netflix horror/sci-fi series Stranger Things. You can see remnants of the facilities today, notably a massive radar tower that still stands, while also enjoying picnic areas, a beach, and trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing, plus world-class surf fishing.

18 HOLES IN HEAVEN

Fishermen aren’t the only sportsmen who drool at the thought of a Montauk vacation. We’d be remiss to not mention that for golfers, there’s Montauk Downs State Park (50 S. Fairview Ave., 631-668-3781, parks.ny.gov/parks/29), including an 18-hole championship course, driving range, tennis courts, swimming pool and restaurant. Originally developed in 1927 by Carl G. Fisher as a private course, everyone can now enjoy Montauk Downs, consistently rated as one of America’s top public golf courses. Be prepared for a challenge, though: The course is one of the windiest locations in the country and weather conditions can make the play different each day.

SAND AND SURF

As you might imagine, all forms of saltwater pursuits are the dominant activities in Montauk. For surfers and bodyboarders, paradise can be found at the always-popular Ditch Plains Beach (18 Ditch Plains Rd.), where one can typically hang ten and find great waves. Multiple local surfing businesses offer gear rental and lessons at Ditch Plains, and there are public restrooms and outdoor showers, as well as food trucks. Parking can be tricky, since it is limited and by permit only, so it’s better to park at the nearby Montauk Lighthouse and walk.

You may, however, prefer to watch the surfers, rather than actually jumping on a board yourself. In that case, spend an hour or two hiking the trails at Shadmoor State Park (900 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-3781, parks.ny.gov/parks/16), which lead to majestic cliffs overlooking Ditch Plains. It’s a relatively quick (10 to 15 minutes) and easy walk, and the views from the top are some of Montauk’s best.

Another great option for enjoying the Montauk beaches, without paying excessively to do so, is to visit Hither Hills State Park (164 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk; 631-668-2554; parks.ny.gov/parks/122) which costs just $10 per car, or is free with the Empire Pass. There’s a lovely beach and playground, a huge oceanfront campground, biking and hiking trails and the popular “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor. It’s also a beloved surf-fishing spot that’s open year-round to anglers.

That’s only scratching the surface of Montauk’s bountiful beachfront. Locals and regular visitors all have their favorites, so you may want to try a few different options, depending on crowds, parking and related fees. Popular spots include Gin Beach (East Lake Dr.), Kirk Park Beach (95 S. Emerson Ave.), Amsterdam Beach Preserve (Montauk Hwy.) and Atlantic Avenue Beach (south end of Atlantic Avenue off Bluff Road).

ON THE WATERFRONT

After basking on Montauk’s vast stretches of pristine, unspoiled beachfront, you may feel the urge to return to civilization, even if just briefly. For this purpose, and perhaps to consume some fine seafood, head over to Gosman’s Dock (W. Lake Dr, 631-668-2549, gosmans.com), founded in 1943 by fish vendors Robert and Mary Gosman at the entrance to Montauk Harbor. You’ll love the oceanfront ambiance of the place, as well as the variety of shopping and dining options, including a fish market and the ever-popular Gosman’s Seafood restaurant, once just a humble dockside chowder stand.

In addition to filling up on lobster rolls and steamed clams, you may be inspired by Montauk’s picturesque scenery to seek out an experience suitable for the silver screen, as you gallop along the shoreline on horseback. To make this fantasy a reality, visit Deep Hollow Ranch (8 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2744, deephollowranch.com), the reputed “birthplace of the American cowboy” and oldest working ranch in the U.S., founded in 1658. The ranch offers trail rides for all ability levels, including waterfront rides along Block Island Sound, plus its Summer Pony Camp for kids aged 7 to 12. If you’re going to ride off into the sunset, this is the place to do it.

Where To Stay 

Aqualina Inn Montauk
20 S. Elmwood Ave., 631-668-8300, aqualinainnmontauk.com

Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa
290 Old Montauk Hwy., 631-668-2345, gurneysresorts.com

Montauk Blue Hotel
108 S. Emerson Ave., 631-668-4000, montaukbluehotel.com

Montauk Manor
236 Edgemere St., 631-668-4400, montaukmanor.com

The Ocean Resort Inn
95 S. Emerson Ave.; 631-668-2300; oceanresortinn.com

Where To Dine 

Gosman’s Restaurant
500 W. Lake Dr., 631-668-5330, gosmans.com

Harvest on Fort Pond
11 S. Emery St., 631-668-5574, harvest2000.com

Joni’s
28 S. Etna Ave., 631-668-3663, jonismontauk.com

Muse at the End
41 S. Euclid Ave., 631-238-5937, museattheend.com

Naturally Good Foods & Cafe
779 Montauk Hwy., 631-668-9030, naturallygoodcafe.com

Ocean Beach: Fire Island’s Summer Playground

Downtown Ocean Beach offers small-town charm a short walk from the shore. (Photo by Lauren Chenault)

The 30-mile-long, half-mile wide stretch of Long Island barrier beach known as Fire Island is divided into some 17 communities, many with their own unique identities, and Ocean Beach — Fire Island’s largest village — is no exception. 

For many, Ocean Beach is the heart of Fire Island, a bayfront paradise where sun and surf offer endless relaxation. A sizeable assortment of restaurants, bars and boutiques give visitors a great reason to reach for their wallets.

The incorporated Village of Ocean Beach was first formed in 1921, when the John A. Wilbur tract merged with Stay-A-While Estates. Previously, in 1918, Ocean Beach had already become home to Fire Island’s first elementary school, and the village seems to have grown, while retaining its character and charm, ever since. Over the years, numerous celebrities, including Fanny Brice, Carl Reiner, and Mel Brooks, have made Ocean Beach their vacation haven of choice, while a good number of locals still remain all year. You can hardly blame them.

Whether you’re a Fire Island “noob” or veteran, time at Ocean Beach is always time well spent. Here are some crucial ingredients for an Ocean Beach getaway across the bay:

GETTING THERE

To reach Ocean Beach, you’ll likely need to zip across Great South Bay on a private boat or water taxi, or hop on one of the ferries that make daily 30-minute trips back and forth from the Bay Shore ferry terminal (99 Maple Ave., Bay Shore, 631-665-3600, fireislandferries.com/schedules/ocean-beach). It’s a quick cab ride from the Bay Shore Long Island Rail Road train station if you’re arriving by rail; for drivers, there’s daily, overnight and long-term parking at the terminal, as well as additional parking at the end of Maple Avenue.

SUN & SAND

Of course, the main draw at Ocean Beach is the beach. You’ll find perfect oceanfront scenery wherever you roam at the village’s namesake Ocean Beach (Ocean View Walk), where paths, boardwalks, docks and a glorious stretch of sand await. Many of the local restaurants, bars and shops line the border on the bay side, providing the ideal respite from working on your tan on the oceanfront. Stroll along the boardwalk promenade for a superb view of Great South Bay, perhaps while taking in a picturesque sunrise or sunset.

Deer are not afraid of people on Fire Island (Getty Images)

ON TAP

When not swimming and sunning, Ocean Beachers can often be found at one of the village’s popular watering holes, which provide another classic Fire Island diversion. A perennial favorite among these decadent haunts is CJ’s Restaurant & Bar (479 Bay Walk, 631-583-9890, cjsfireisland.com), where tight surroundings make it all the easier to make new friends. CJ’s has become legendary thanks to its house drink, a frozen concoction known as the Rocket Fuel, which is essentially a piña colada with additional shots of amaretto and overproof rum, like Bacardi 151. The beverage is so popular it’s also made elsewhere and is considered Fire Island’s signature drink.

Another always-booming hangout is Housers Bar (785 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-7805, housershotel.com), which offers a comfy surf-shack vibe you can enjoy even when the place is bursting at the seams. The key here is that they do the basics right, from the finely curated summer music selection to its backyard “beach” hideaway, where you can step outside and relax. There’s also some killer food for hungry patrons, including a 1 ¼-pound lobster special. Although not as famous as the Rocket Fuel, their special drink is the refreshing Zippy Cooler. Housers is also the only bayfront bar in Ocean Beach with a sandy beach out back.

You may also crave a “locals” night spot; you know, the kind of place where people “in the know” kick back. In Ocean Beach, that esoteric place is Matthew’s Seafood House (935 Bay Walk, 631-583-8016, matthewsseafood.com), a small restaurant, fish market and waterfront bar where you can lay low and sip a few on the deck to properly start off the evening. Wednesdays are Wine & Tapas Night, Thursday offers late-night Margarita Madness and Happy Hour Fridays feature drink specials and live music.

Although Coleridge’s infamous Ancient Mariner wasn’t a fan, don’t leave Ocean Beach before hanging around for a spell at Albatross (320 Bay Walk, 631-583-5697, dontswingthelights.com), where it’s all about mood lighting. Take note of the lanterns above the bar; they start to spin as the night progresses, and it’s not because you’ve had too many! The food is also first-rate and the bar serves drinks until 4 a.m., in case you’re in for the long haul.

And if you do find yourself staying after the last ferry and closing down the town, you can’t go wrong by wrapping things up at Maguire’s Bay Front Restaurant (1 Bungalow Walk, 631-583-8800, maguiresbayfrontrestaurant.com), which is a storied Fire Island last-call meetup spot. Scores pack the place by day for the killer grub, but nighttime is all about the party, beginning with its Countdown to Sunset Happy Hour, held Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

RETAIL THERAPY

When you eventually rise the next day from your post-bar-crawl slumber, it’s always fun to spend the daylight hours shopping at some of Ocean Beach’s fine shops, boutiques and souvenir stands. For starters, Fire Island visitors of the female persuasion frequently rave about Bambootique (318 Bay Walk, 631-583-5180, fireislandapparel.com), primarily a women’s clothing, footwear and accessories shop. The kiddie clothing here is also a big hit.

Fire Island’s women also love the Ocean Beach installment of Ooh la la Boutiques (621 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-8590, oohlalaboutiques.com), which prides itself on helping its clients develop their own one-of-a-kind look. To achieve this, shoppers can mix and match from a range of items and styles, from vintage to modern, dressy to casual, sexy to feminine and modern to classic. There’s truly something for all here, so don’t be shy about asking.

If your fashion tastes range more toward the tropical, pop in at Hanalei & Kula’s (472 Dehnoff Walk, 516-220-1903, hanaleiandkulas.com), where “Hawaii meets Fire Island.” There’s everything from island-themed tops, bottoms and dresses to wellness products and perfume oils, sure to move you — or your significant other — into a happy place. Mahalo.

In some families, it’s a cardinal sin to leave a vacation destination without souvenirs, and customized apparel is always a sound choice. To this end, Ocean Beach visitors of both sexes can find some quality threads at Fire Island Outfitters (637 Ocean Breeze Walk, 631-583-0146, fireislandapparel.com), especially if you’re in the market for souvenir Fire Island hats, hoodies, T-shirts and sweats. There’s also a solid selection of beachwear, and the end-of-season closeout sales are not to be missed. Fill up a bag, head to the ferry, and dream of your next Ocean Beach visit.

With no cars on Fire Island, wagons are a common sight, as are kids selling trinkets and painted seashells on the streets. (Getty Images)

Where To Stay 

Blue Waters Hotel
642 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-8295, bluewatershoteloceanbeachfireisland.com

Clegg’s Hotel
478 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-9292, cleggshotel.com

Housers Hotel on the Bay
785 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-8900, housershotel.com

The Palms Hotel Fire Island
168 Cottage Walk, 631-583-8870, palmshotelfireisland.com

Seasons Bed and Breakfast
468 Dehnhoff Walk, 631-583-8295, bluewatershoteloceanbeachfireisland.com

Where To Dine

Albatross
320 Bay Walk, 631-583-5697, dontswingthelights.com

Bocce Beach
927 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-8100, boccebeach.com

CJ’s Restaurant & Bar
479 Bay View Walk, 631-583-9890, cjsfireisland.com

Castaway Bar & Grill
310 Cottage Walk, 631-583-0330, castawaybarandgrill.com

Hideaway Restaurant
785 Evergreen Walk, 631-583-5929.

Housers Bar
785 Bay View Walk, 631-583-7805, housershotel.com

The Island Mermaid
780 Bay Walk, 631-583-8088, islandmermaid.com

The Landing at Ocean Beach
620 Bayberry Walk, 631-583-5800.

Maguire’s Bay Front Restaurant
1 Bay Walk, 631-583-8800, maguiresbayfrontrestaurant.com

Matthew’s Seafood House
935 Bay Walk, 631-583-8016, matthewsseafood.com

Rachel’s Bakery and Restaurant
325 Bay Walk, 631-583-9552, rachelsfireisland.com