Long Island is known for its beaches and summer parties, but most people have no idea what to do there in winter and early spring.
It is too cold for swimming, beaches are too windy to walk and lots of places are closed until the big season kicks in.
If you are a local resident, you obviously have a list of things to do that make you happy but is Long Island a worthy place to travel to during the off-season months?
Our family is always looking for ideas for cold weekends and when we cannot ski, we tend to arrange road trips somewhere new. We’ve been to Long Island many times, and it has always been a struggle to find interesting places to visit.
It is not that there are no interesting places in Long island (there are plenty). It’s just they are well hidden!
If you are planning a road trip and Long Island is a driving distance from you, make sure to have all of these ideas on your to-do list.
Here’s you two- or three-day planner for a trip to Long island in winter or early spring:
Where to Go on Long Island
If you are not a resident or a New Yorker, you may find it difficult to figure out which part of Long Island to stay in. At least I found it difficult at the beginning. So let me make it easier for you.
Long Island is (unofficially) broken up into two big parts: West Long Island (which is closer to New York and struggling with traffic) and Long Island East End (the one that is furthest away from New York).
The eastern part of Long Island is like a different world. Often referred to as the wine country, it is full of gorgeous sights, family-owned restaurants and waterfront properties. It consists of two forks (Northern and Southern Forks), with the famous Montauk Lighthouse in the easternmost part of the Southern Fork.
This is also home for the Hamptons, known for its beaches and summer parties.
Long Island East End is where you want to go.
It is incredibly hard to book anything there during summer but it is pretty available in winter or spring, and it is highly underrated during off-season. And yet, it is gorgeous.
It will take you about two-three hours to get there from New York (depending on the traffic in the eastern part of the island). To avoid traffic, you can take a train but I prefer to have a car when going around Long Island. It gives you more freedom and lets you see more in one day.
If you are traveling from the north, you can take a year-round ferry from New London which departs every 30 minutes.
So now that you have a pretty good idea where to stay, here are 5 incredibly unique things to do in Long Island in winter and spring:
1. Take an Oyster Farm Tour
There are quite a few oyster farms on Long Island but larger ones are going to be closed for off-season. After some searching we did find one that was open, and we were able to arrange a private tour.
Our kids were excited to learn and see how oysters are grown, and we loved the fresh oysters themselves! There is something really cool about eating oysters right from the sea.
Read more about our experience here: Long Island Oyster Farm Tour: As We Went Oyster Picking!
2. Go on a Seal Watching Cruise
Seals arrive to Long Island for winter and leave in the middle of April, so winter and early spring is really the only time to see them.
In fact, seals were the only reason why we decided to go to the island in March, in the first place. All other places we discovered afterwards.
We booked a Seal Watching Cruise from this company and loved them. Check out their website for schedule as the season for seals on Long Island is pretty short. This particular cruise departed from Freeport which is about halfway from NYC to Long Island East End, so it is a good idea to check it out on your way from Manhattan.
The cruise was informational and interesting. There were many people on the boat who were volunteers, answering questions and informing us on their efforts to rescue seals from humans.
The boat approached the seals fairly close but not too close, so that the seals were not too much bothered. Don’t forget your cameras! The seals are absolutely adorable!
3. Eat at One (or Better Several) Seafood Markets
Long Island is full of small seafood markets. In fact, we avoid big or fancy restaurants and only ate at small (often privately owned) seafood places. We were determined to eating seafood only, so we had:
- Baked clams
- Deep fried red snapper
- Baked and fresh oysters
- Soft shell crabs (fried)
When it comes to oysters, they are plentiful on Long Island. You will even see self-serving boxes along the roads where you can grab some oysters and put your money in a box.
Make sure to eat lots of chowders! Every time I come to Long Island, I decide that this is the place of the most delicious chowders out there. Every place here will have all of the three kinds: Manhattan, New England and Rhode Island clam chowders. Try all of them!
4. See the Gorgeous Long Island Lighthouses
There are four gorgeous lighthouses visible from the land in Long Island East End. Three of those are right by the parking lot. So you can see them even if the weather is not permitting being outdoors for a long time. We were not as lucky, so we saw three of those:
1. Horton Point Lighthouse Nautical Museum
Horton Point Lighthouse Nautical Museum is over-facing the Long Island Sound. See 22 more Long Island Sound lighthouses we saw.
The lighthouse is a short walk from the parking lot.
The museum is normally open Thursday – Friday 10am – 4pm, and on Saturday 11am – 3pm. When the museum is closed, you can still enter the grounds and see the lighthouse building (which is what we did).
Make sure to head down to a small beach: There’s a wooden ladder right from the parking lot. That beach is one of the most gorgeous places we have seen. The beach is full of luminescent pebbles and huge sea shells. It is also a great spot to watch the sunset.
2. “The Point” at Orient Point
Orient point lighthouse is located in the Orient Point State Park. It took us a while to find a driveway to the lighthouse, and when we found it, there were some signs alerting us that we needed a permit. Well, the beauty of traveling off-season is that no one cared were we drove, so we proceeded.
The lighthouse can be seen from the shore in the distance. Watch the waves collide in front of the lighthouse. It is the easternmost point of the Northern Fork of Long Island.
3. Montauk Point Lighthouse
The fourth oldest lighthouse in the United States, Montauk Point Lighthouse was opened by order of George Washington to guide ships heading from the North into the New York harbor. It was under renovation when we visited but we could see it right from the parking lot. There’s also a quick path to the sea shore for more great views of the lighthouse.
It is the easternmost point of New York.
5. Check out One of the Museums
We are art lovers, so we find art museums wherever we go. On Long Island we picked Parrish Art Museum which was very close to Hamptons, right on the Southern Fork.
It is small but the grounds are beautiful, and they often run special exhibitions, so check it out!
2-Day Long Island West Trip Planner
- From NYC, go to Freeport to catch your 11 am seal watching cruise. It lasts for two hours. You’ll be done by 1pm
- Have some lunch (the crabshack across the street is pretty awesome)
- Head to Montauk lighthouse and take some pictures by the shore. It’s likely to be quite cold in there, so you’ll probably spend about an hour there.
- Stop by a seafood market for dinner on your way home.
- Go to the Orient Point State Park, spend some time walking around, weather permitting. You can spot some seals on those trails!
- Have some seafood (lots of it)
- Head to the Horton Point Lighthouse, visit the museum. Meet the sunset there.
If you have another day, make sure to stop by Parrish Museum and eat at another seafood market.