It is hard to imagine any place a dog is happier than at a beach. Whether running around on the sand, jumping in the water or just lying in the sun, every dog deserves a day at the beach. But all too often dog owners stopping at a sandy stretch of beach are met with signs designed to make hearts – human and canine alike – droop: NO DOGS ON BEACH.
This sign is certainly widespread on Long Island. If you were the stretch the Long Island coastline in a single line it would cover 1,180 miles – think about a coastline from New York to Chicago. Surely, there must be a place on the beach for your dog, right? Dogs are generally not allowed on Long Island Sound beaches on the North Shore but you can get your dog into the Atlantic Ocean on the South Shore. Here are some good choices, roughly heading from west to east:
Nassau Beach Park-Lido
Nassau Beach Park was welded together from three swanky private beach clubs in the 1960s. If you have seen Matt Dillon in the Flamingo Kid (1984) you have seen what the beach and cabanas were like. Over the years the beach became run down and "dilapidated" often equals "relaxed restrictions against dogs." Today there is a dog park off Lido Avenue at Nickerson Beach Park and Nassau Beach Park is open to dogs when the birds are not nesting from September 15 to March 1.
Gardiner County Park-West Islip
The Beach Road in this ultra dog-friendly park leads to a sandy beach where your dog can romp in the Great South Bay. Almost any time of year she will find someone to play with in these waters.
Fire Island-Western entrance via Robert Moses Causeway
In 1857 Congress appropriated $ 40,000 for the construction of a 168-foot brick tower lighthouse on Fire Island, The tower stands atop a Connecticut bluestone base salvaged from the island's first tower that was built too short. The Fire Island Light was changed from a creamy yellow to its present day-mark of alternating black and white bands in August 1891. In the1980s the lighthouse was restored to its 1939 condition (when electricity was first insalled) and is still an official aid to navigation. The lighthouse beach east to the village of Kismet is open to dogs between Labor Day and mid-March.
Fire Island-Eastern entrance via William Floyd Parkway
Dogs are permitted anywhere on the wide, dune-backed sands between Labor Day and mid-March when driving is also allowed here. If you have a private boat or take a dog-friendly ferry to the interior of 32-mile Fire Island during the summer, dogs are allowed on any non-ocean, non-lifeguarded patch of sand. Dogs are never permitted on the lifeguarded beaches at Watch Hill and Sailors Haven. Additional area closures can occur at any time due to actively nesting piping plovers. If the pounding Atlantic surf is too intimidating for your dog, you can also find some sandy access along the Great South Bay. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches in the attached Robert Moses State Park on the western tip of Fire Island.
Smith Point County Park-Shirley
The park extends from the east end of the Fire Island Wilderness portion of the National Seashore to the tip of the island at Moriches Inlet. The Smith of Smith Point was William "Tangier" Smith who owned 50 miles of Long Island oceanfront in the 1600s. Most beachgoers walk to the beach through a tunnel under the dunes but dog owners need to walk past the campground entrance to the east. Wooden staircases lead over the dunes and you can take your dog all the way to Moriches Inlet. On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded in mid-air 14 miles offshore here, killing all 230 aboard. A granite memorial featuring the flags from the 14 countries of the victims en route from New York to Paris was dedicated in the park in 2004.
Shinnecok East County Park-Southampton
Shinnecock Inlet did not exist before September 24, 1938 when the "Great New England Hurricane" unleashed its full force on Westhamption. Still the most devastating hurricane to strike the Northeast coast, its lasting imprint here is the inlet cut through the barrier island. There is plenty of off-road activity on this beach and that means dogs can play as well.
This is the main beach in the village that was established in 1640 as the first English settlement in New York. Access can be problematic – and pricey – for non-residents in the summer but the sands spread far and wide in the off-season. Come in December and your dog can join in the annual Polar Bear plunge.
East Hampton Beaches-East Hampton
There are five beaches in East Hampton (only three are life-guarded) and Main Beach on Ocean Avenue is perennially ranked among the best beaches in America. Dogs and permitted on the beach before 9:00 am and and after 6:00 pm daily from the second Sunday in May through September 30. After that your dog is welcome any time.
Dogs are not allowed at any of the five town-owned beaches during the summer. If you find yourself in town between April 1 and October 1 your dog can experience the big-breaking Atlantic Ocean waves at Peter's Pond and Gibson Beach, located east of Sagg Main Street – only before 9:00 am and after 6:00 pm and only if she stays within 150 feet of the access roads.
The beach at the end of Atlantic Avenue is open for dogs all year but only before 10:00 am and after 6:00 pm between May 15 and September 15. Behind this beach is a rare double dune system that has been destroyed almost everywhere else of Long Island. If you explore the dunes with your dog be on the lookout for Fowler's Toad, America's only marine edge amphibian.
Napeague Harbor-Hither Hills State Park
Your dog is not allowed on the ocean beach at Hither Hills when the park is open but there is a sliver of sandy beach along the east shore of Napeague Harbor that is accessible from the end of Napeague Harbor Road north of Montauk Highway (Route 27) . You can hike the dark brown sands north to Goff Point and Napeague Bay and the swimming is easy for your dog in the gentle waves that lap onto shore.
Napeague State Park-Promised Land
The state park stretches from the Atlantic Ocean across the neck of the South Fork to Gardiners Bay. It is totally undeveloped and looks pretty much as it did when the wetlands here were washed over by the 1938 hurricane. Access to the pristine ocean beach is by four-wheel drive vehicles only and can be closed in the summer for plover nesting. You can also try parking along the Montauk Highway (Route 27) and hike less than a half-mile to the beach on the sand road.
Ditch Plains Beach-Shadmoor State Park
This beach backed by high bluffs can be reached by hiking through the state park or from township parks from Ditch Plains Road off the Montauk Highway. Although there are large cobbles on the beach, this is the last big stretch of Atlantic Ocean sands on the eastern tip of Long Island.
Camp Hero Beach-Montauk Point
The beach below the bluffs in the old military reservation is reached by hiking down via an access road from the main parking lot. The beach is all large cobbles and the rough surf makes this primarily a beach for surfcasters and athletic swimming dogs.
BAY BEACHES AROUND THE LONG ISLAND FORKS
Montauk Point Beaches-Montauk Point State Park
These beaches on the open waters of Block Island Sound are not wide but not crowded either, reached only by hiking trail. Although the cobbles ease up as you move further west, these are not sunbathing beaches. Rather, the dune-backed beaches are ideal for hiking with your dog and fetching in the light waves.
Outer Beach-Theodore Roosevelt County Park
Located at the end of East Lake Road, this beach is fronted by a self-contained camper-only campground. You can also hike to this sandy / pebbly beach from the Big Reed Nature Trail in the park. On the west side of East Lake Road you can pull off the side of the road and toss a stick for your dog in Lake Montauk from a small sandy beach that is an East Hampton Township preserve.
Cedar Point Beach-Cedar Point County Park
Although this beach is mostly cobbles there is more than a mile of frontage on Gardiner's Bay. Stick close to water for easy hiking.
Wades Beach-Shelter Island
Most of the island between the Forks is comprised of the Mashomack Preserve that does not allow dogs. But on Midway Road, to the west of Route 114, your dog can play on 500 yards of soft sand beach on the north shore of Shelter Island Sound.
Long Beach Park-Noyack
With is shallow aqua-tinged water, this long curving beach at the foot of Noyack Bay resembles the edge of a tropical harbor. The gentle waves will entice any level of canine swimmer. Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round in designated areas, usually where the cobbles dominate the sand.
Indian Island Beach-Indian Island County Park
A crescent-shaped strip of thick sand has formed to connect Indian Island to the mainland in Flanders Bay. Some shells and stones mix with the sand and your wave-loving dog will enjoy a frothy challenge here.
Orient Point Beach-Orient
At the tip of the North Fork. Suffolk County maintains a 48-acre open space. This beach and Truman's Beach down Route 25 (East Marion res- idents only) played an important role during the War of 1812. A short half-mile trail leads your dog to over a mile of beach on the Long Island Sound.