The ultimate vacation getaway, Fire Island offers pristine beaches without a hint of pretention. Nestled in between the Great South Bay and Atlantic Ocean the Island has been a haven for generations of beach goers, outdoor enthusiasts, and water sport lovers. Free of cars and chaos this unique island seems like a world away 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 finely 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.
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, 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.
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.
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 dress code we are more likely to channel our inner Agassi than stick to those conservative whites.
With the wind at your back, freewheeling across the boardwalks by the beach is a must. Biking is an integral part of every Fire Island community, woven into culture as the primary mode of transportation. Seasoned locals will tell you the more beat-up and rusted out bike the better, and we agree. In the peak season the walkways are crowded, please remember that pedestrians have the right of way. Proper biking etiquette is much appreciated. Use your bell and alert the pedestrian that you will be passing.
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. Abundant and delicious, 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, dig your feet into the sand, and 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.
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 a great high-intensity workout on the ocean side or a calm cruise 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 a popular activity on weekends.
This barrier island set in the Atlantic Ocean has access to some of the best surf on the northeastern
seaboard. The remote location adds to the appeal, as surfers can enjoy a clean wave without the crowd. A series of sandbars and jetties contribute to the island’s varying surf-conditions. The best breaks Sandbar breaks can be found in Atlantique, Point O’ Woods, and Smith Point. For a steeper, faster wave, surfers head to the Ocean Beach jetties. There is an east and west jetty, both with quality waves.
When visiting Fire Island beaches, it’s best to bring a few boards since the conditions change rapidly.
A longboard, fun shape, or fish are best when the waves are small (3′ and less).
When Fire Island waves get big and break on the sandbars, a 6’4”+ surfboard will do the trick. Water temperature in the summer ranges from 50 to 70 degrees.
Local surfers are found belly up at the bars. The summer brings long flat spells and overcrowded beaches. Expect water temperatures in the 60s in June and the 70s in July and August.
Reminiscent of Christmas morning, Mother Nature brings the gift of frequent and exceptional swells as the pleasant autumn air caresses clean tubes and creating warm water temps. The hurricane season brings the best surf on the island in August and September. If you’re a seasoned surfer this is the time to visit Fire Island.
The winter season is reserved for die-hard northeastern surfers who can tolerate the freezing air temps and bone-chilling water temps, sub 40 degrees! If you can stand the brutal conditions then you’re in for the sweet treat of groundswells and uncrowned lineups.
A sealed 5 millimeter-plus suit that has a solid lining with glued not just taped seams is a must as is gloves, boots and a hood.
A mixed bag in terms of waves, the spring season is all about brushing the dust off the board and getting back your paddle. The weather is a toss-up; one day it could be a sunny 70-degree day with swell, and the next day, a gnarly overcast 30-degree day flat as a lake.
Best tide: mid
Best swell direction: SE
Best size: head-high
Best wind: NW
What to wear in the water
May through July 3/2 millimeter spring suit
July through October Surf trunks and a vest or top for windy days
October through November 3/2+ millimeter full suit
November through March 4/3 – 5+millimeter full suit with booties, gloves, and hood
March through May 3/2+ millimeter full suit
If you need wax or equipment you must pick it up on the mainland.
Fireisland.com recommends: Bunger Surf Shop, Babylon, 631-661-1526
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 advanced angler, everyone 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.
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 offers several options for hiking, including shorter (2 mile) stretches of boardwalk at Watch Hill and Sailors Haven, and longer (5+ miles) courses into beach, salt marsh, and forest terrain of Otis Pike. No matter where you hike, please be aware of wildlife species and take all necessary precautions against the sun and heat.
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.
Fire Island Lighthouse
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 Fire Island Lighthouse is the oldest and most significant landmark associated with Fire Island history. This magnificent lighthouse was built in 1857, and served as the guiding light for many European immigrants sailing into New York Harbor. The Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society has restored the lighthouse and it is open to the public as an observatory and museum.
The lighthouse is open from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM daily during the summer and guided tours are available. The Fire Island Lighthouse observatory offers amazing views of Long Island, the Atlantic Ocean, the Great South Bay, and Fire Island beaches. On a clear day, the Fire Island Lighthouse offers views of the New York City skyline – a truly spectacular vista that must be experienced to be believed. For more info visit the links below:
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.If you prefer to sleep under the stars, then Fire Island campsites located at Watch Hill, Otis Pike, and Smith Point are your destination. Just off the beaten path, Fire Island features miles of indigenous wildlife.
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.
The Watch Hill campsite is a ½ mile hike from the ferry. Each of the 26 sites at the Watch Hill
Campground includes a grill, picnic table and nearby water source. Tents must be staked in a sandy area with no vegetation. Since grills are provided at site, wood and open ground fires are prohibited. Pets are allowed, but they must be kept under restraint on a leash no longer than 6-feet and may not be left unattended. Watch Hill is open from mid-May to mid-October. Visit www.watchhillfi.com for more information.
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!
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 activities that are uniquely Fire Island.
Seashell decorating is a time-honored tradition for Fire Island kids. Beached 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 red radio flyer wagon 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. The wagons these days come in all different colors, sizes and types.
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.
Ocean Beach Youth Group
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 Beach. Any seasoned visitor or local would
be able to tell you that Ocean 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.