Long Island is an island in the eastern part of New York City, and is home to the two largest neighbourhoods of New York, Brooklyn and Queens. This very residential area, which is also home to several commercial zones, is very touristy, thanks in large part to its beautiful sandy beaches 🙂
LONG ISLAND: the Second Largest Island in the United State
Long Island is the largest island in the United States after Hawaii. It stretches east from New York City for over 190 km and is 30 km wide. In addition to Queens and Brooklyn, Long Island is also divided into two additional, much more rural counties: Suffolk and Nassau. In total, nearly 8 million people live on Long Island.
The island, which was occupied by the Dutch and then by the English during the time of the first settlers, has welcomed a growing population since the 19th century. Many freed slaves and immigrants who arrived on Ellis Island decided to move away from New York and settle on Long Island.
It wasn't until the 1930s, with the arrival of the Long Island Expressway, that the island became a popular resort. Since then, tourism has been at the heart of Long Island's economic activity. Some areas, particularly in the Hamptons, are now among the highest cost-of-living locations in the United States.
What to do and see on Long Island?
Each region of Long Island has its own specialities. You can visit some charming towns, see the stars' homes on the Gold Coast, shop, visit museums, spend a memorable day at Adventureland, and of course enjoy the beautiful beaches of the south of the island.
The Main Towns of Long Island
With the exception of the two boroughs of New York, you'll have to head east to the Hamptons to visit the island's most interesting towns:
- Montauk is a popular summer resort and a quiet village the rest of the year. Located at the eastern end of the island, it will take you about 3 hours to get there from Manhattan. It could be the perfect starting point to visit the main sites of the island on your way back to New York. The village’s main attraction is the Montauk Lighthouse, which houses a small museum, and from which you can enjoy a spectacular view of the ocean.
- Southampton is a small but extremely posh town, known worldwide as the home of some of the world's top stars. Southampton is also one of the places to go for shopping on Long Island, if your budget allows. You'll find a lot of luxury shops there.
- Sag Harbor is a small, quiet village, which also has some beautiful homes, some of which are owned by famous people.
- Sagaponack and Bridgehampton are two other small, charming communities with some lovely wooden houses, typical of the area.
There are day trips (from downtown New York) to Long Island. You will leave the hustle and bustle of the city to discover quieter areas where a few wealthy people (such as Paris Hilton or Steven Spielberg) have settled.
You will quickly realise the change of atmosphere from the heart of New York City and will be able to enjoy this new, more natural atmosphere during a tour 🙂 Its programme is rather complete and diversified!
The beaches of Long Island
If you want to visit Long Island, summer is the ideal time. You can get away from the hustle and bustle of New York City and enjoy some peace and quiet and a wide range of outdoor activities, especially on the island's many beaches.
Long Island's beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, surfing and windsurfing:
- Fire Island State Park Fire Island State Park is a beautiful sandy beach, popular with surfers and sports enthusiasts alike,
- Cupsogue Beach County Park is a very pleasant beach, which has the advantage of being constantly supervised by lifeguards,
- Jones Beach State Park is an easily accessible white sandy beach with many activities to enjoy. It's a great place to spend a family day at the beach,
- The beaches on the north side of the island are not very popular as they are more rocky. Sunken Meadow State Park still manages to stand out thanks to its large wooden walkway, which makes for a beautiful seaside walk.
The Museums of Long Island
There are many cultural venues on Long Island, some of which will help you learn more about the history of the area or the lives of great historical figures who have resided on the island:
- Walt Whitman Birthplace is a museum located in the birth home of the most famous American poet. Visitors to the museum can see exhibits on the life of Walt Whitman, as well as a large number of portraits of the artist, and many of his possessions.
- The American Airpower Museum is an aviation museum located in East Farmingdale. There you can see many well-preserved aircraft models and learn a great deal about the history of military aviation since World War II.
- Sagamore Hill was the home of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, until his death in 1919. Located near Oyster Bay in northern Nassau County, the house has remained virtually untouched since then and now houses the Theodore Roosevelt Museum.
- The Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium is a natural history museum, planetarium, naval museum and a 43-acre park. It is located inside the Eagle's Nest, the home of William K. Vanderbilt II, heir to one of America's greatest fortunes.
- The Long Island Explorium is an interactive and educational museum where children can have a great time. Many activities are offered to arouse children's curiosity, involving them in various experiments, such as building games and crafts. At first sight, the place is not that impressive, but at the end of the visit, the hardest part will be convincing your children that it is time to leave.
Long Island is a very expensive place to live, and when you think of shopping there, you first think of the designer shops that can be found on the shopping streets of some Hamptons towns.
But on Long Island, you'll also find two huge outlet shops where you can get your hands on products at particularly good prices. At the Tanger Outlets Riverhead and Tanger Outlets Deer Park, discontinued items from nearly 300 brands are on sale. Converse, Nike, Calvin Klein... all the products of these brands that could not be sold in the classic shops can be bought in these shops.
Adventureland is a theme park that has been one of the island's most popular tourist attractions since it opened in 1962. It is located in East Farmingdale, and has a total of 30 different attractions, including five roller coasters, three of which are water roller coasters.
You can reach the park from New York in just half an hour for a day of family fun. In addition to the thrill rides, the park also offers rides and attractions for younger children.
Adventureland is open all summer. In April, May, September and October, the park is only open on weekends and during holidays.
How to get there?
To get to Long Island from New York, you can take the train, the bus, or a rental car:
- The LIRR is a train line that runs from Manhattan to Montauk, at the eastern end of Long Island, in the Hamptons. The LIRR serves about 30 stations along its route, so you can reach almost any destination on Long Island. This is the cheapest option, but not necessarily the most convenient, as trains do not always run very frequently at certain times of the year.
- There are several bus companies that will take you to all the towns on Long Island. Taking the bus to a very specific location may not be possible or convenient; but these buses, which offer multi-stop routes with organised tours, can be a great way to quickly see some of Long Island's sights.
- A rental car is definitely the way I would recommend to discover Long Island. With a car at your disposal, you can really visit the area at your own pace and customise your itinerary. Driving in the US doesn't really take much getting used to, the main difference being that your car will probably be equipped with an automatic transmission. What's more, if you're travelling with several people, renting a car can even be cheaper than paying for several bus or train tickets.
And that's all for my article on Long Island. Hope you know want to visit the island! If you've already been there, don't hesitate to share with us what you best loved about this island in a comment!