There are two large beach complexes with various parking fields in this area, all accessible via Ocean Parkway. If you're driving from west to east on Ocean Parkway, the first you'll come upon is Jones Beach State Park and the second is Robert Moses State Park. I don't need to repeat a lot of the information available at these links to explain these two state parks. Suffice to say that there's more than enough information there for you to read....
In a nutshell, these two massive beach complexes each have their own personality. Since Jones Beach is the first complex on Ocean Parkway that people come to (and thus the most accessible), the primary ocean front parking fields tend to fill up fairly quickly on any given summer day. Spillover parking then goes to the non-primary parking lots, which require a short walk to get to the beaches. Jones Beach tends to draw a younger crowd than Robert Moses, and when combining that with the crowd levels that can swell there (especially on weekends!!!), it can be too much for comfort for my beach-going tastes. We only go to Jones Beach when I take the day off from work and we go on a weekday. Weekends should be avoided unless you go early in the morning before the crowds get there and then leave when the crowds start to swell too large.
To avoid some of the crowd levels at Jones Beach, I take the extra 20 minutes to drive further down Ocean Parkway and over the Robert Moses Causeway to the Robert Moses State Park complex. You'll drop some of the crowd just because of the extra drive time and the beaches here are typically a little less crowded than Jones Beach. Robert Moses also tends to be a little more family oriented but still obviously draws its fair share of young people. Some of the beaches at Robert Moses are designated as radio-free zones.
We typically park at Field 5 at Robert Moses, which is the eastern-most field that's right next to Fire Island Lighthouse. The nice thing about this field is its proximity to the Lighthouse, which allows you to take a little walk on a boardwalk through a nature preserve to explore the Lighthouse and the museum at its base. Additionally, it's nice to park at Field 5 because if you take a little walk east up the beach from the parking field the crowds drop off dramatically. Be cautioned that if you walk far enough east and the beach becomes isolated enough, you'll probably bump into some nude sunbathers. Whether or not that bothers you is up to you to decide! :-)
If you do go to Robert Moses and you park in Field 5, I would recommend spending about 90 minutes out of your day to walk to the Lighthouse, climb to the top, take some photos of the great views, and explore the nice museum at its base. It's easy to spend even more time than this while there because there's plenty of history in the museum about Fire Island Lighthouse and lighthouses in general, as well as a gift shop and nice staff that will be more than happy to engage you in a conversation about the history of Fire Island Light.
Depending on where you live and how you go home, a stop in Freeport, NY for dinner is a nice idea. Specifically, there's a street on the waterways there called Woodcleft Avenue that has a long line of waterfront restaurants and bars to choose from. I've eaten at several of them and they're all pretty good, although I wouldn't say any of them are "great". The dinner crowd starts to pick up around 6:30pm in this area and by 7:30pm it starts to get pretty crowded, so make sure you get there before then if you don't want to wait for a table.
With all of this being said, click on the photo below to see a few pictures from a recent day-trip that I took to Robert Moses State Park and the Fire Island Lighthouse with my family. Enjoy!
|Fire Island, NY|