Long Island is New York’s doorstep getaway. This massive, 118-mile long stretch of land spans a breathtaking swath of coast, stretching northeast from New York Harbour to Montauk. The shoreline in between is studded with seaside communities, prime surf spots and sandy beaches to suit every taste.

The sands kick off in Brooklyn at Coney Island, and run in an almost uninterrupted strip to the eastern tip of Long Island, following a series of sandbar islets along the south shore.

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When New York City goes to the beach, it's usually somewhere on Long Island. This stunning stretch of coast has been the setting for dozens of Hollywood movies, from Eternal Sunset of the Spotless Mind to The Wolf of Wall Street and Annie Hall. But with so much shoreline to choose from, which Long Island beaches are the best? We dig in to bring you the pick of the sands.

Cupsogue Beach

Snipped off from Fire Island by a nor’easter storm in the 1930s, Cupsogue Beach County Park features powdery, white sand beaches that sprawl towards the Atlantic from the town of Brookhaven. In warm months, expect to see plenty of beachgoers soaking up the sun, as well as, surf anglers searching for a bite in one of the best spots in New England to catch striped bass.

Facilities are simple; there are toilets, showers, changing rooms and a concession stand, and camping is permitted with a permit. You’ll find this alabaster oasis at the western terminus of Dune Road. Animal lovers may spot humpback whales, dolphins and harbor seals in the area, a reminder of the whaling industry that was once a huge employer along this strip of coast.

Beach access at The Pines
The water is calling at The Pines on Fire Island © Shutterstock / BenjaminCarver

The Pines

Fire Island has served as a welcoming beach getaway for the LGBTQIA+ community for close to a century. Few cities in America can boast such a long-standing legacy of inclusiveness as The Pines, often called New York’s Chelsea, and even fewer can rival The Pines for its enthusiastic queer scene.

A spectacular harbor, waterfront views, dance parties and drag shows await visitors on arrival. This pedestrian-only town has no cars, just boardwalks and people ferrying party supplies and groceries on hand-pulled wagons. To get here, take the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Sayville, then hop on the Sayville Ferry to The Pines; a one-way ticket is $9.50 for adults.  

Surfers at Long Beach
Ocean Beach Park is where the surfers head © Shutterstock / Scott Heaney

Ocean Beach Park, Long Beach

The sprawling stretch of Long Island sand at Long Beach is one of the most popular destinations for New Yorkers leaving the city, and with good reason. At Ocean Beach Park, you can stroll over four miles of soft sands while the sound of free summer concerts rises above the noise of the surf. 

Surfers flock here for big waves and anglers have a home at the purpose-built fishing pier. And, if rollerblading, strolling or cycling is your thing, Ocean Beach Park offers miles of boardwalks where you can roll along, earphones in, enjoying the breeze. Get here on the Long Island Railroad to Long Beach, then head for the shorefront promenade.

Ditch Plains beach in summer
Ditch Plains Beach is one of the most popular spots on the eastern seaboard © lisadimster / Getty Images

Ditch Plains Beach

Two miles past Montauk, at the very edge of Long Island, cliff-side views and swells collide at Ditch Plains Beach. The shore here is one of the most popular surf spots on the eastern seaboard—the well-formed waves were the setting for the very first Montauk Point Surfing Championships way back in the 1960s.

Reef breaks go left and right; expect to find the largest waves in the autumn. Plan to quell your post-surf appetite with sesame noodles, a Greek salad or a poke bowl at the iconic Ditch Witch food trailer behind the dunes.

Hamptons beach house
Enjoy the handsome Hamptons architecture on the Long Island shoreline © Shutterstock / Joao Paulo V Tinoco

Coopers Beach

The perfect beach if you want to relax and unwind, Coopers Beach puts visitors beneath the shadows of sand dunes and swanky Southampton mansions. Luxuries here include a beachside bathhouse, food concessions and umbrella rentals.  And while Coopers Beach comes with a $40 parking fee, non-residents are welcome to swing by to get a glimpse of the good life in The Hamptons. To forgo the pricey beach parking, grab a parking spot in Southampton city center and rent a bike to enjoy a short, two-mile ride to the shore.

Sail boat off Long Island
A sailboat is a perfect way to enjoy Long Island ©Dan Hallman / Lonely Planet

Wades Beach

Nature lovers and kayakers will appreciate the calm vibes at Wades Beach. This quiet retreat rests on the southeast shore of Shelter Island — an island within an island not far from East Hampton. You'll often see the sleek yachts of residents passing by offshore.

Shelter Island's idyllic slices of sand are only accessible via ferry; take the North Ferry from Greenport (on the Long Island Railroad) or the South Ferry from North Haven. Shelter Island is protected by The Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve. Travelers here can explore tidal creeks, oak woodlands and freshwater marshes before making their way to the shell-strewn sands of Wades Beach.

Dune walkway
Sandy walkway cutting through the dunes at Montauk © Dan Hallman / Lonely Planet

Hither Hills

For that 'get away from it all' vibe, camp beside the ocean at Hither Hills State Park. This Montauk-area park has fire rings for campfires as well as tent and RV-friendly campsites, all within steps of a two-mile stretch of powdery sand and grassy dunes.

Hither Hills sits adjacent to a unique Long Island geological feature, the migrating dunes of Montauk, which can reach heights of 80-ft and move forwards 3.5 inches each year. Enjoy a close-up view of this mysterious feature on the Walking Dunes Trail, accessible from the campground.

The beach almost takes second place to the Boardwalk at Coney Island Beach © Guillaume Gaudet / Lonely Planet

Coney Island Beach & Boardwalk

You won’t escape the crowds at Coney Island, Brooklyn's closest beachfront, but the unique collection of nostalgic Americana here is still hard to beat for photo opportunities. The looming amusement park provides the perfect backdrop for beach photography, and Coney Island’s proximity to Midtown makes it an easy afternoon trip for travelers visiting New York City for a short time.

During the summer months, visitors can grab a Nathan’s Famous hot dog and sit beneath the sparkling splendor of free, Friday night fireworks over the boardwalk.

Jones Beach State Park
The over six miles of shoreline mean there's ample room for a little alone time at Jones Beach State Park © Joe Trentacosti / Shutterstock

Jones Beach State Park

One of the most accessible beaches on Long Island, Jones Beach State Park offers parking for just $10, so it's a good bet for frugal travelers. With more than six miles of shoreline to explore, it also spans enough real estate to find your own space to build sandcastles and enjoy a peaceful swim. 

Jones Beach is also a haven for food lovers; you'll find more than 7,000 sq-ft of food and beverage choices at the Central Boardwalk. Meanwhile, an outdoor amphitheater with 15,000 seats draws in major shows and musicians.

Fire island Lighthouse
Early mornings are stunning on Fire Island © Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty Images

Robert Moses State Park

Spanning the most western point on Fire Island, Robert Moses State Park is a gorgeously picturesque Atlantic beach with good surf, a family-friendly mini-golf course, fishing piers and plenty of space for groups to spread out beneath gazebos. It’s a can’t-miss beach that attracts nearly four million visitors each year.

In addition to more than five miles of soft sand, the park offers a nature trail leading to one of the area’s most photogenic landmarks—the Fire Island Lighthouse.

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