The ultimate vacation getaway, Fire Island, offers pristine beaches without a hint of pretension. Nestled in between the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Island has been a haven for generations of beach-goers, outdoor enthusiasts, and water sports lovers. Free of cars and chaos, this unique Island seems like a world apart from its neighboring New York metropolitan way of life.
A weekend at Fire Island gets you back to nature. With all the biking, hiking, swimming, surfing, beach volleyball, kayaking, and tennis, you can finally break free of that monotonous gym routine. The following are some exciting activities that you can dive right into as soon as you disembark from the Fire Island ferry.
Searching for hidden treasures on the beach never stops being fun. On Fire Island, you can explore all of its incredible beaches year-round for shells, marine plants, and more exotic finds. Be careful not to disturb any shells that might still have living inhabitants. Any shells or interesting finds you make are for personal use only.
Boating and Sailing
With over 101 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that boating is an integral part of the Fire Island lifestyle. Sailing is a Fire-Island legacy that is proudly upheld by clubs in Point O’ Woods, Saltaire, Summer Club, and Dunewood. Bitter rivals, Point O’ Woods and Saltaire compete in the annual regatta for bragging rights over Fire Island sailing mastery.
Fire Island is a boater’s paradise; from motorboats to jet skis, Fire Island satisfies all your boating needs. There are marinas in Watch Hill and Sailors Haven where you can dock your boat overnight. It should be noted, however, that there is a 14-day limit for docking your boat overnight. For smaller boats and personal watercraft, most boaters use Barrett Beach Park to dock and unload. Jet skis are restricted to the island boundaries and are prohibited near the shoreline.
The Appalachian Mountain Club’s “Fire Island Cabin” branch maintains a fleet of boats for member use and hosts sailing lessons for beginners. Contact Captain Michael Miller for more information: 845-494-4093.
Looking for a break from the beach? Locals will have you know there is much more to this island than soaking in the sun. Residents of this eco-friendly island take advantage of country club living without the snob effect. Tennis associations are offered in nearly every Fire Island community, but a 9 am court reservation might be a tall order.
When it comes to a dress code, we are more likely to channel our inner Agassi than stick to those conservative whites.
One of the most common forms of transportation across Fire Island is biking. There are no designated bike paths on the island although there are several off-road vehicle paths where biking is permitted. Biking together is a long-held family tradition within the Fire Island communities.
Be sure to check the biking regulations for each community before going out for a ride.
Clams are to Fire Island what maple syrup is to Vermont. Clams are abundant and delicious, and clamming has become a common practice for islanders. While many use the rake and boat approach, longtime locals are more familiar with the foot and toe method. Just walk out in the bay and dig your feet into the sand. When you feel that smooth, hard rock-like shell, reach down and pull it out. Gather like-minded seafood lovers and cook up mean chowder.
Another popular activity on Fire Island is surf fishing. Year-round, locals and visitors to the island take advantage of the many fishing opportunities on the island. As of late, a no-fee New York recreational fishing registry is now required in order to fish on the island. Commercial fishing remains prohibited. Additionally, horseshoe crabs are not allowed to be harvested within the Fire Island boundaries. Size and possession limitations are enforced.
Fire Island fishing draws anglers from far and wide seeking to haul in their share of bluefish and bass from Fire Island shores. Fire Island fishing, both sport and recreational, does not require a permit. Whether you are a novice bobber or an advanced angler, you can land a lunker on Fire Island. Surfcasting is a popular technique as you can cast directly into the swift-moving schools of blues and stripers right off the ocean breaks.
Though surfcasting is one method, taking a private boat into the bays will yield the best Fire Island fishing results. If you don’t have a boat, there are many charter services that will provide you with excellent offshore fishing around the Fire Island bays. Deep-sea offshore fishing, via charter boat, can yield an exciting array of tuna, shark, and marlin. See the Fire Island business directory for more information on charter boats.
Swimming and Water Activities
During the summer season, Fire Island offers several life-guarded locations for public swimming. Both Sailor’s Haven and Watch Hill are operated by the National Seashore and have ocean beaches for swimming. The town of Brookhaven and Islip also have public beaches with lifeguards during the summer season. Each location can be reached via ferry or private boat. There are few public facilities near the beach due to most visitors living in private homes near the beach, so be sure to plan ahead if you need to take the ferry home.
After basking in the hot sun, plunging into the cool Atlantic waters on Fire Island is incredibly refreshing. Please use discretion and swim in lifeguard-surveyed zones. Sea kayaking and canoeing can offer great high-intensity workouts on the ocean side or calm cruises on the bay side. Take advantage of the easterly winds and head out windsurfing in the Great South Bay. Waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding behind a private boat are always popular activities on weekends.
During any time of the year, visitors to the island can partake in ranger-led programs to help you learn more about the island and the National Seashore. Tours focus primarily on the natural and cultural features available at each of the visitor centers scattered over the island. Most of the programs are free to enjoy; however, some of the special events can have a minimal fee attached.
Be sure to visit the National Seashore website to receive the most recent news about upcoming tours and events.
Fire Island is one of the best places in the New York metro area for bird watching. Its diverse habitats support a great variety of birds throughout the year, and it is a prime “rest stop” for birds on migration. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded on this thin strip of land, around 1/3 of all the birds found in North America!
Tent camping is a popular family activity available year-round on the island. The National Seashore has a designated campground at Watch Hill. Back-country camping is also available within the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness.
Fire Island Light House
If you’re visiting Fire Island for the first time then you need to make the Fire Island Light House one of your first stops. This unique location is rich with maritime history in that it is one of the first pieces of evidence that man crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in America. Visitors can visit the lighthouse year-round to experience a guided tour of this incredible monument. The lighthouse is located on the west end of the island and standing at 168 feet tall, it can be seen from more than 20 miles away.
The Sunken Forest in Sailor’s Haven is one of the few remaining maritime forests on the eastern seaboard and spans over 40 acres of wildlife. Serious hikers, bird watchers, and ecologists find this part of Fire Island to be absolutely fascinating. The forest features holly, bayberry, blueberry, sassafras, and shadblow trees that are estimated to be well over 200 years old and have been twisted and shaped by the constant salt spray. Maintained by the Fire Island National Seashore, Sunken Forest earned its name because it appears to be below sea level. Guided tours are available during the summer months.
Wilderness Visitor Center
Located at the southernmost end of William Floyd Parkway, the wilderness center is the main entrance to the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness. The center includes a ranger contact station, a viewing area, and exhibit space. You may explore the wilderness at your leisure or by participating in one of the many ranger-led programs offered. If you have children, be sure to check out the Seaside Stories and Crafts program, a classic family favorite.
Be sure to check the calendar for concert information. Several of the local bars offer live music and, during the summer months, famous entertainers visit the island to give performances. From electronic to folk music—Fire Island has it all.
The best shopping location on the Island is easily Ocean Bay Park Beach. Any seasoned visitor or local would be able to tell you that Ocean Bay Park Beach has everything you could possibly need. Whether you are looking to purchase liquor or find memorabilia to take home, you can find it all in one location. For a further look at which stores you should shop at on the island, check out our business listings page.
Just for Kids
Here on Fire Island, summer is synonymous with the sound of a slamming screen door. Both kids and adults agree Fire Island is a giant playground with an endless amount of freedom. Friendships are forged building sand castles on the beach, boogie boarding, and bike riding. Though kids are quick to find their own entertainment at the beach, here are some kid-friendly activity that is uniquely Fire Island.
Seashell decorating is a time-honored tradition for Fire Island kids. Beach treasures are snatched up, decorated, and sold out of red Radio Flyer wagons in town. This has been a long-standing Fire Island pastime and is the root of some of the most original souvenirs.
Fire Island is famous for the Radio Flyer wagon trademark used to haul all goods from the ferry to the house. If you’re new to the ways of the island, don’t sweat it. Local kids will schlep your stuff in their wagons in exchange for a few bucks. It’s our small-town way of teaching these kids the value of a dollar.
Youth Group and Camps
Fire Island offers several children’s camps and youth groups. The most widely recognized Fire Island camps are the Ocean Beach Youth Group and Saltaire Summer Camp. These camps offer instruction in sailing, swimming, windsurfing, canoeing, arts and crafts, and wildlife exploration. For contact information, see the FireIsland.com business directory.