Lying just southeast of Manhattan, Long Island attracts a lot of New York City weekenders—and it’s easy to see why. Gorgeous beaches, top museums and attractions, high-quality wineries, and nature preserves are all abundant. Aside from being just a weekend getaway for New Yorkers, Long Island is worthy of a visit for people from all over looking to explore New York’s more peaceful side. These are the top places to visit on Long Island.
Long Island is full of stunning beaches, so it’s hard to choose just one to visit. Really any beach on the island will treat you right, from the family-friendly Jones Beach to the surf-ready waves of Ditch Plains. But Cooper's Beach is quintessential Long Island; with seven miles of pristine sand and ocean in Southampton, you can gawk at mansions and catch some rays—all while enjoying utter relaxation.
Residing in a new Herzog & de Meuron building in Water Mill since 2012, this historic art museum was first founded in 1897. It has a robust collection of works by Long Island artists and contemporary masters like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, and Chuck Close. It also showcases the largest collection of art by American Impressionist William Merrit Chase and post-war painter Fairfield Porter, who lived in Southampton for a time. The museum hosts rotating exhibits as well.
Yes, this is its own island, but it’s still considered part of Long Island. Nestled between the two forks at the eastern end of Long Island, Shelter Island is a more casual beach haven than the tony Hamptons, just a brief ferry ride away. Secluded beaches, nature preserves, freshwater ponds, and rolling farmland are all here, as well as hotels and Airbnbs to spend the night. Bring or rent a bike and pedal the island, swimsuit in tow. Be sure to catch the sunset at the aptly named Sunset Beach.
The towns that make up the Hamptons are all lovely—but the village of Sag Harbor remains a bit quieter, a bit more charming, and a bit more approachable than neighboring Bridgehampton, Easthampton, and Southampton. Head down to the marina, get a classic ice cream cone at Big Olaf’s (or a not-so-classic doughnut at Grindstone Coffee & Donuts), and explore the quaint Marine Park. Next, stop by the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum, catch a performance at Bay Street Theater, and while away the rest of your afternoon on Havens Beach. For dinner, head to Wölffer Kitchen at Wölffer Estate Vineyard, a 55-acre winery in nearby Sagaponack.
A Montauk classic since 2010, Navy Beach offers casual beachfront dining, tasty seafood, and epic sunsets on a 200-foot private stretch of sand overlooking Fort Pond Bay. Boaters can roll up and dock at the bay, a former US Navy site that has two piers. Oh, and the wine list has one of the most extensive rosé selections in the Hamptons.
Standing tall and still shining brightly is this classic red and white striped lighthouse inside Montauk Point State Park. New York State’s oldest lighthouse, Montauk Point Lighthouse is perched on New York’s easternmost tip and surrounded by rocky coastline. You can buy a ticket ($12 for adults, $5 for children up to age 12) for sweeping views at the top as well as entry to the Montauk Lighthouse Museum, home to artifacts like documents signed by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
The North Fork of Long Island is a bit of a different beast than the South, with more farmland, less beaches (although there are still beaches!), and an entirely more laid-back feeling. Most of its acres are taken up by vineyards, but Lavender by the Bay has carved out a photo-friendly and fragrant spot that’s reminiscent of the French countryside. Ever dreamed of running through lavender fields? Now’s your chance (between June and September). After your romp, stop by the shop for dried bouquets, soaps, and other lavender products.
This historic site is the former home of President Teddy Roosevelt, his second wife Edith, and their six kids. Roosevelt, who grew up in Manhattan, fell in love with Oyster Bay as a teen; he bought this home when he was in his twenties and had it until he passed away in 1919. Known as the summer White House while he was in office, Roosevelt hosted many dignitaries here. The gorgeous property is fully restored, and visitors can tour the inside of the house and explore the grounds. Tickets are $10 for adults and free for children under 16.
The Long Island Aquarium is one of Long Island’s top family-friendly attractions all year long. With 2020 markings its 20th anniversary, the aquarium is celebrating with new indoor and outdoor exhibits to explore. There are 20 experiential adventures, including the penguin encounter, shark dive, and snorkel. In the winter, you'll find the Garden of Butterflies and Bugs & Birds exhibits.
North Fork Wineries
The North Fork is bursting with wineries and tasting rooms. Favorites include Pindar Vineyards, a family-owned winery that’s been growing 17 varieties of grape for 35 years; the 38-year-old Bedell Cellars, which has a tasting room inside a barn from 1919; and McCall Wines, which debuted in 2007 and soon garnered acclaim for its wines. Other spots worth checking out are Kontokosta Winery, Macari Vineyards, and Lenz Winery.
Not a wine person? Thankfully Long Island has several breweries as well. We like Blue Point, which has been in Patchogue since 1998. In addition to its flagship favorite, Toasted Lager, the brewery fills their taps with a tasty selection of drafts. Many of these incorporate interesting local ingredients such as seaweed, oysters, and beach plums. In 2018, the brewery got a massive new space with a restaurant and a 60,000-barrel capacity. Cheers to that!
Every beach needs an amusement park and Long Island has several. Adventureland in Farmingdale has been offerings rides, games, and attractions for kids and adults since 1962. Here, you'll find everything from classics (think bumper cars and a ferris wheel) to water rides and roller coasters. There’s even a massive arcade.