Having lived on Long Island my whole life and being a day trip lover, I can seriously say that we have some AMAZING towns around here. We don’t have to head to the Jersey shore or the Caribbean for a beautiful beach. You can support local tourism and local small businesses AND feel like you are on vacation too. No matter what the season, Long Island and all of the shore towns we have are simply beautiful. Have you explored them yet?
Here are just a few of my faves in Suffolk County:
Port Jeff is one of my favorite towns. Since I live 15 minutes away, we are there quite a lot. The kids enjoy it as much as I do and when we don’t have money for a vacation, often a day and night in Port Jeff makes us feel like we spent time away from it all. It does attract a lot of tourists from the North via ferry and is a hustling bustling town especially in the summer months. Quaint and artsy and chock full of hidden gems around every corner.
There are delightful little breakfast eateries, many sit-down speciality restaurants, a great healthy bohemian cafe, new age gift shops that even offer reiki and other classes, funky educational toy stores, gift shops, antique shops and much more, Port Jeff is loaded with enough to explore that you can take a full day there and then some. On top of that, there’s a great children’s hands-on museum called the Maritime Explorium that kids just love to explore. Right on the water there’s a lovely park to stroll or play frisbee at, a playground for kids, a village center with rotating artwork, an ice rink in the winter, and a theatre offering live shows. Then there’s the water, the center of it all. The docks, the boats, the ferries , the view and the sunsets. Magnificent sunsets. We go often to enjoy them with a short stroll and an ice cream. Plenty of choices to grab an ice cream or frozen yogurt there. Port Jeff also offers many year round events like a Dickens festival , a Halloween festival and doggie parade, a 4th of July parade, movies on the harbor and farmer’s market to name a view.Learn more about the town and see a full listing of events here.
Take the train or a wonderful meandering car ride toward the end of the North Fork and make Greenport a final stop. I can’t say how many times I have taken the kids there, both by car and by train. We all just love it! There’s a great antique merry-go-round that they can ride over and over again ( $2 a ticket or grab the brass ring and get a free ride). There’s the water and grassy areas and mini beach to play on. The stores to peek into and browse. Tons of great restaurants like the famous Claudio’s. And just a great feeling that you’ve gotten away from it all, that you are on vacation and able to relax and enjoy. The village has a site to learn more and keep up on events.
This shopping mecca before the forks split has become a popular day-trip destination. Because I live less than 20 minutes away, I’m in Riverhead often. One of the main attractions is Splish Splash water park. It’s a fantastic fun day for anyone who loves water, like this family. It can get really crowded so we get the season membership and go for shorter times more often. This way we don’t have to pack it all in in one long day. And there is QUITE A LOT to pack in. Lines can get long but rides are so much fun! The park is clean and heavily treed.
Our other favorite attraction in Riverhead is the Long Island Aquarium. Again, the membership, if you will go often enough, pays for itself on the 3rd visit. We love the aquarium year round but particularly in the summer where we can meander outside. Not only do they have the typical fish and water creatures, but monkeys and various other surprises. Kids can take shoes off and wade in a salt marsh. There’s a simulator ride and a large outdoors sky ride with an expansive view of the water. The sea lion show is short but quite cute. Nothing like a boogeying sea lion to get the family laughing! My kids love the arcade outside and they have to climb the rock wall every visit!
Riverhead also has a Tanger outlets which can take up another whole day shopping. A few new large hotels are in town so a 2 day excursion is made convenient. There’s another fun place called Out East Family Fun with a giant hippo slide and water wars in the summer and mini golf weather permitting.
For weekends, we like to take 2 hours or so playing hands-on games and activities at the Long Island Science Center. It’s learning while having fun and they have some changing exhibits that are seasonal for the kids.
Riverhead also is home to Hallockville museum farm and Indian Island county park, where you can camp for a night or more and enjoy some nice Long Island wilderness along with gorgeous views.
And though this family is not into car racing, the Riverhead Raceway packs out on race nights with racing fans and is the only local raceway I know of.
Stony Brook has a wonderful family fun spot called Avalon Park and Preserve. We go and feed the ducks often, check out the grist mill and then take a scenic hike around the pond and through the woods. There’s also a quaint village with nice shopping, a small beach that clammers love, an Educational and Cultural center that holds events, the Avalon Sky lab – for space viewing- and a wetlands cruise. On top of all that, Stony Brook is home to a large University that holds events and shows at it’s Staller Center. There’s also a nice set of museums where visitors can check out carriages through the years and view art and history . Stony Brook really has the North Shore and old-fashioned feel which I really like. Check out the village site to learn more
I can’t leave out my favorite town of all. Though it’s a bit of a far ride and hell on summer weekends to get there, Montauk is like being world’s away. My father is a fisherman there and I spent plenty of childhood summers exploring the beaches, hiking the dunes and just relishing in the salty air.
Now that I take my family, we also explore. I love to start with the town, full of great little surf shops, souvenir shops, clothing stores and food joints. Then we take a ride over the the lighthouse, maybe walk the paths down to the beach, or climb to the top of the lighthouse (for a fee).Then I can spend an afternoon over at Gosman’s docks. Between watching the fresh catch of the day come in on the hundreds of fishing boats, walking the jetty, poking into all the stores and shops, grabbing lunch at Gosman’s restaurant and just watching the boats come in one by one, in an almost non-stop parade, we can spend the entire day there.
But there’s a lot more too! There’s Deep Hollow Ranch and Rita’s stables for animals and horse rides. There’s hiking and biking and seal-watching.There’s state pars, walking dunes and sand dunes.There’s night life and culture. Surf lessons. paddle board lessons. Mini golf. Book shops and bike shops and hotels , motels and resorts galore along the sweeping sand dunes that run from the Atlantic Ocean and wrap around to the bay. Does this already sound like some tropical island? Well, it IS like being on vacation and you really need a few days to explore all there is to do in Montauk. Do not miss at least a day out in Montauk! You’ll remember it forever. A great site to learn more is OnMontauk
What’s your favorite Suffolk County Long Island town? Which one have you never been to that you will visit this summer? I know I will be back at them all plus a few more awesome ones that I’ll highlight in a few months…. Stay tuned! We are ready to hit the shops and beaches soon!
Find out about More Suffolk County Towns for Families!