Five Beautiful LI State Parks to Visit This Spring 

Heather Sheridan, Reporter

On March 20th, 2021, the sun, moon, and Earth reached one of their two annual equinoxes, officially marking the beginning of Spring 2021. Having been in the house for so long due to COVID-19 and the winter temperatures, chances are that like many, you’re antsy to reconnect with the outdoors. Here on Long Island, nature is your playground with a myriad of state parks only short drives away, so you can enjoy the outdoors once again without a puffer jacket or snow boots weighing you down! For anyone who wants a fun adventure in the sunlight, here are five unique nature destinations to explore this spring.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum, a 409-acre estate, is rich with history, beautiful landscaping, and handsome architecture from the early 20th century. Founded by William R. Coe in 1952 and now in possession of the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, this Oyster Bay gem is a great place to go for diverse gardens originally landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers and rolling grounds to explore. When Coe Hall, the historic and long-standing mansion at the heart of the estate, is open to the public, it is a wondrous place to explore; it makes you feel as if you’re stepping back in time with its commissioned ironwork and American aesthetics. On top of the history, there are also woodland trails to explore, two breathtaking greenhouses, and various classes/events hosted to the public through their various Thrive programs (check out their calendar here). This destination is about 17 miles/26 minutes away via car on the Wantagh State Parkway.

Sunken Meadow State Park

Boasting beautiful views of rolling hills and calm Sound waters, Sunken Meadow, a popular picnic destination, is for sure worth the drive it takes to get here versus simply going to Jones Beach. Sunken Meadow is the northern terminus of the Long Island Greenbelt trail for hiking and a ¾ mile long boardwalk runs along soft shores and hills crawling with vegetation. Field 3 is a launching destination available for windsurfing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and canoeing. Nearby is a golf course designed in the 1950s with views of the Long Island Sound. Pack a lunch and some snacks and enjoy the calm water with friends! This destination is about 27 miles/30 minutes away via the Southern State Parkway and Sunken Meadow State Parkway. 

Sagamore Hill

Nicknamed the “Summer White House,” this historic landmark was the summer home of the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, from the late 19th century until his death in 1919. With 83 acres of surrounding nature and several buildings to explore including Roosevelt’s main house, this is truly a beauty to explore when open to the public. Although tours of the buildings have been cancelled due to COVID-19, picnic areas, beach areas, and pathways are still open. To plan your visit, visit the Sagamore Hill website here. This destination is about 20 miles/30 minutes away via the Wantagh State Parkway.

Orient Beach State Park

Orient Beach State Park is located on the tip of the north fork; it’s a perfect opportunity to make a day out of a trip to this destination. This rare waterfront destination sports a maritime forest with red cedar trees, black-jack oak trees, and prickly-pear cacti. It’s been a National Natural landmark since 1980 and is an Audubon Important Bird Area due to its population of great blue herons, egrets, ospreys, and more. Swimming, fishing from the shore, kayaking, hiking, and biking are some of the popular beach activities available to visitors. If you’re looking for lunch at the beach, Fork and Anchor, a deli/supermarket 14 minutes from the park in East Marion, is a great place to buy picnic foods (their Dill Potato Salad is especially delicious!). This destination is about 85 miles/1 hour 40 minutes away.

Tobay Beach

For a smaller and nearer option than Orient Beach, look no further than Tobay Beach! It’s only four miles north of Jones and features two restaurants as well as a spray park and playground. It’s quite a small beach situated on a bay with calm waters, making it a great place to swim, play, and relax. After 6:00, admission is free to the general public. For a more intimate and quiet alternative to Jones Beach, Tobay is a beautiful place to visit for the evening to enjoy a meal and the sunset. This destination is about 12 miles/15 minutes away.