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striped lighthouse in a state park near new york cityThere are many compelling reasons to visit “The Big Apple,” it’s a top destination spot for millions of people.

With its exuberant energy and cultural diversity, New York has many opportunities for entertainment and adventure.

Offering exceptional culinary and shopping experiences, famous landmarks, museums, art galleries, parks, and historical sites, you’ll wonder why you haven’t visited before and when you’ll visit again to explore what makes this city pulse with energy.

Within the hustle and bustle of New York City and across the state, it’s possible to find peaceful spaces that celebrate nature, the rich history of the area, and a connection to the great outdoors.

New York state parks are excellent places to reset and refresh your soul.

The award-winning New York park system got its start in 1885 when the spectacular and mighty Niagara Falls was recognized as the first state park in the country.

There are 12 state parks in New York City and on Long Island, and we’d like to introduce you to 5 of them; come along as we explore protected tracts of land on the island that offer a link to our natural environment.

Map of State Parks Near New York NY

Here is a map of the New York state parks covered in this post:

List of State Parks Near New York City

Here are each of those state parks with distance from New York City and what is special about each.

1. Robert Moses State Park

Location: 600 Robert Moses Causeway, Babylon, NY 11702

Robert Moses State Park, an hour and a half east of the Big Apple, is an excellent place where you can hang out on a sandy beach at the edge of the Atlantic.

The park is five miles of shoreline, perfect for swimming, fishing, and surfing. Robert Moses is on the edge of Fire Island, one of a series of barrier islands in the southern region of Long Island.

There are four fields (beaches) available for use, and each offers concessions, showers, and first aid/comfort stations. All have seasonal lifeguards, and each field features amenities and character that are a bit different from the others.

Field 2 has an 18 hole putting green, and Field 5 has access to the Fire Island Lighthouse via a ¾ mile nature walk. Fields 3 and 4 are radio free and generally much quieter than the others.

Helpful tip: The Fire Island Lighthouse, at 168 feet tall, is the tallest of the 20 lighthouses on Long Island. Tours are available daily, and from the top, you can view the New York city skyline.

2. Jones Beach State Park

Location: 1 Ocean Pkwy, Wantagh, NY 11793

Less than 20 miles from Midtown, Jones Beach State Park, located next to Robert Moses, is a six-and-a-half-mile stretch of beach that is the second-most visited state park in the state after Niagara Falls.

The main attraction is, of course, the sandy stretch of beach, but it’s hard to miss the tall water tower that stands sentinel over the park. The park was designed with an ocean-liner theme, and you can still see evidence of a ship’s mast and maritime flags.

Jones Beach offers so much more than an opportunity to frolic in the cool waters of the Atlantic; there’s a boardwalk, a Central Mall, a splash pad, an Olympic- sized pool, an iconic band shelter, plus opportunities for snacks and dining.

If you do want to explore nature, there is the Jones Beach Nature Center with trails and activities for all ages. Birdwatching in the fall and spring is popular, with over 30 species of birds to observe.

Interesting fact: Jones Beach is a breeding ground for the horseshoe crab. In the month of May, 1000s of these prehistoric creatures crawl up on the beach to mate.

3. Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve

Location: 25 Lloyd Harbor Rd, Lloyd Harbor, NY 11743

Located on Long Island’s North Shore, two hours from New York City, is Caumsett State Park.

On a peninsula in the Sound, the park is an excellent place to hike, bike, horseback ride, fish, and snowshoe, and cross-country ski in the winter.

There are miles of nature trails that wind through meadows, marshland, woods, and rocky shore.

Interesting fact: Caumsett is a popular spot to scuba dive (with a permit). A big reason divers love to explore Long Island Sound is that there are over 140 shipwrecks on the bottom—earning it the nickname “Wreck Alley.”

4. Hither Hills State Park

Location: 164 Old Montauk Highway, Montauk, NY 11954

If you travel as far as you can from NYC on Long Island along the outer shore, you’ll eventually run into Montauk and Hither Hills State Park.

You can watch the sunrise over the Atlantic from one of the 189 campsites nestled right along the shoreline here at Hither.

The park has 2 miles of beachfront, a playground, and a 40-acre fresh-water lake.

There’s hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and nature trails featuring “walking” dunes and woodlands.

Interesting fact: The “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor are located in the eastern section of the park. The 80′ dunes, assisted by the wind and weather, move about 3.5″ every year and have shifted a mile over the past 100 years.

5. Orient Beach State Park

Location: 40000 Main Road (Route 25), Orient, NY 11957

Along the eastern tip of the North Fork of Long Island, a little over two hours from New York is Orient Beach State Park.

The park along Gardiner’s Bay is a family favorite with activities and playgrounds for the youngsters, swimming, hiking, picnicking, and paddling.

The park, located on a thin spit of gravel and sand, also features a maritime forest with flora that can withstand the harsh conditions of an ocean environment.

Orient Beach State Park was recognized as a National Natural Landmark in 1980 because of its natural beauty, and it’s known for its marine wildlife. Deemed an Audubon Important Bird Area, bird watching is a popular pastime here.

Helpful tip: From the park, you can view four area lighthouses; Orient Point Lighthouse, Plum Island Lighthouse, Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, and the Cedar Island Lighthouse. The Orient State Park is a site for the U.S. Light House Society’s Passport Program—get your passport stamped when you visit.