THE TEN ‘MUST SEE’ NATURE PRESERVES.
Long Island has no shortage of various wildlife ecosystems and habitats. This is perfect for nature lovers, those looking to get away from a hectic schedule and reconnect with nature or anyone looking for cheap or free activities to enjoy with their friends. Explore the many wonders of the wild at any of these Long Island parks and nature preserves. Visitors will find all sorts of trees and plant life, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and more, all indigenous to the Long Island environment. A number of these preserves also have ecological education centers and museums where visitors may gain knowledge of Long Island’s natural habitats and history.
1. Avalon Park and Preserve
Avalon Park and Preserve, 200 Harbor Road, Stony Brook 11790 – (631) 689-0619, avalonparkandpreserve.org
One of the best kept secrets in the Three Village Area of the North Shore of Long Island is Avalon Park. It is located on the west side of the Mill Pond, across the street from the Grist Mill. It is owned and operated by the Paul Simons Foundation. The Foundation honors the memory of Paul Simons and celebrates his love of the outdoors. The Park and Preserve combined with the Nature Conservancy’s East Farm Preserve provide over one hundred forty acres of natural habitat to enjoy. Highlights include a large duck pond, a boardwalk, footpaths and a labyrinth.
2. Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center
Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center, 134 Cove Road, Oyster Bay 11771 – (516) 922-3200, centers-sanctuaries-chapters/theodore-roosevelt.
The Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary & Audubon Center, located in Oyster Bay, was established in 1923 as the first Audubon Songbird Sanctuary in the nation. Twelve acres were donated by W. Emlen and Christine Roosevelt in memory of their cousin, the late Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. The Sanctuary’s original purpose was to provide a protected environment for songbirds whose populations were declining due to habitat loss. Today, it is a vibrant resource offering a wide variety of activities, including environmental education, wildlife research, and conservation advocacy.
3. Cranberry Bog County Nature Preserve
Cranberry Bog County Nature Preserve, Edwards Avenue South, Riverhead 11901 – (631) 854-4949.
This 165 acre preserve is part of the drainage system of the Peconic River and serves as a natural reservoir for our fresh water supply. It allows for hiking that includes sights of the Little Peconic River, various plants, birds, reptiles, and other wildlife creatures. Within the preserve lies Sweezy Pond and Cheney Pond, which is surrounded by a White-Cedar swamp with trees as large as 16″ in diameter. It is a haven of natural, unspoiled beauty on the edge of a rapidly growing urban center.
4. Caleb Smith State Park Preserve
Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, 581 West Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown 11787 – (631) 265-1054, nysparks.com/parks/caleb-smith.
Nestled in the heart of Smithtown, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is one of only two state nature preserves on Long Island. Within its 543 acres are a variety of habitats offering guests picturesque views that change with the seasons. Caleb Smith is a passive use park. This not only helps protect the local plant and wildlife populations but also allows visitors to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy the quiet serenity that can only be found in nature.
5. Connetquot River State Park
Connetquot River State Park, Sunrise Highway, Oakdale 11769 – (631) 581-1005, nysparks.com/parks/connetquot-river-preserve.
Connetquot River State Park Preserve maintains 3,473 acres of land and water for the protection and propagation of game birds, fish and animals. Deer and waterfowl are numerous, rare nesting birds, including the osprey, are present and there are numerous rare plants, and other interesting flora, such as trailing arbutus and pink lady’s slipper in their natural habitats. The preserve also has 50 miles of hiking, horseback riding, cross-country ski and nature trails, as well as fishing (by permit only) on the Connetquot River.
6. Welwyn Nature Preserve
Welwyn Nature Preserve, 100 Cresent Beach Road, Glen Cove 11542 – (516) 676-1474 attractions/welwyn-nature-preserve.
A sprawling 204-acre preserve located at Crescent Beach and New Woods Roads, Welwyn is the former estate of Harold Irving Pratt, heir to an oil fortune. The densely wooded preserve has four marked nature trails that provide access to a magnificent wooded stream valley, fresh water ponds and swamps, a coastal salt marsh, and a stretch of Long Island Sound shoreline. More than 100 species of birds and a variety of small native mammals, reptiles and amphibians inhabit the preserve’s grounds. The preserve also plays host to the Holocaust Memorial & Educational Center, which offers exhibits and other educational programs. 531-572-0200. Cresent Beach Rd. Over 200 acres of nature trails. Open daily, 9:30-4:30 p.m.
7. Tackapausha Museum and Preserve
Tackapausha Museum and Preserve, Washington Avenue (at Merrick Road & Sunrise Highway), Seaford 11783 – (516) 571-7443 friendsoftackapausha.org/.
An 84 acre sanctuary, is one of the more popular preserves on Long Island. Located in Seaford, it is rich with oak forests, ponds, streams, small mammals and many bird species. The five miles of marked trails make for wonderful and scenic hiking.
8. Sands Point Preserve
Sands Point Preserve, 127 Middleneck Road, Port Washington 11050 – (516) 571-7900 sandspointpreserveconservancy.org/.
The Sands Point Preserve on the original Guggenheim Estate embodies the grandeur and elegance that define the Gold Coast period of the early 20th century, when prominent American families built great mansions on large estates as summer retreats along the Long Island Sound. Sands Point was the famed “East Egg” of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Today, the magnificent 216-acre park, including its historic mansions and the Phil Dejana Learning Center, is owned by Nassau County, NY, and is maintained and operated by the Sands Point Preserve Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, formerly the Friends of the Sands Point Preserve. The Conservancy provides year-round educational and cultural programs, seasonal celebrations, mansion tours, fitness activities as well as private/corporate event services and film/TV location facilities.
9. Massapequa Preserve
Massapequa Preserve, Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue, Massapequa 11758 – (516) 571-7443 /massapequa-preserve-bike-trail.htm.
Consists of 423 acres of land divided into three sections, intersected by major roadways. The Preserve is home to many rare and endangered Long Island plants and is home to the beginning of the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, the longest hiking trail in Nassau County. A license is required to fish in the various lakes and streams within the preserve.
10. Muttontown Preserve
Muttontown Preserve, Muttontown Lane, East Norwich 11732 – (516) 571-8500 nassaucountyny.gov/2839/Muttontown-Preserve.
The Muttontown Preserve is Nassau County’s largest nature preserve and certainly one of the most sublime settings on Long Island, spanning over 550 acres of fields, woodlands, ponds and estate grounds, including the Chelsea Mansion and Nassau Hall. The Preserve has plenty for all to do and see! In the winter, visitors can make use of the cross-country trails and during the warmer seasons take in the scenery with local wildflowers and trees, birds, reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife. Maps and brochures are available for self-guided tours. Chelsea Mansion is available for private and special events. During the winter it is also an excellent location for cross-country skiing.