Natural Instinct: A Slow Travel Guide to Long Island, New York

Connetquot River State Park is a natural paradise
Connetquot River State Park is a natural paradise | © Joseph Trentacosti / Getty Images
Photo of Doug ONeill
16 September 2021

Soak up the scenery of breakers, beaches and protected parks with yoga classes and kayaking tours on this nature-rich strip of New York State.

A mention of Long Island conjures images of New Yorkers heading for weekend parties on lively Fire Island. In fact, legions of nature lovers visit this Atlantic peninsula for its array of parks – Jones Beach State Park, Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, Montauk Downs State Park and Sunken Meadow State Park, to name a few – plus estuaries, wildlife sanctuaries and secluded bluffs. Here, you can connect with nature, only a ferry ride from the frenzy of the Big Apple.

Gurney's Montauk Resort

Boutique Hotel
4.2/5 (402 Reviews)
Wellth Co Yoga at Gurney's | © Gurney's Resort
Price Drop
Now from $375 per night

Benefit from the curative powers of nature with a wellness class (pilates, vinyasa yoga or boot camp) on a white-sand beach. Gurney’s oceanside resort and spa in Montauk, on the east side of Long Island, is the ideal place to recalibrate yourself. And when you want to shift indoors, there’s a Finnish sauna and a seawater pool to dial up the relaxation even more.

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Connetquot River State Park Preserve

Natural Feature, Park
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Sep 28, 2008 - Oakdale, New York, USA - 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 osp
© ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Long Island parks department arranges guided nature tours for adults and children in the 3,460-acre (1,400ha) Connetquot River State Park Preserve. Each tour focuses on a specific subject, ranging from butterflies and bats to fiddler crabs and dragonflies, and chances are you’ll also spot interesting flora, such as trailing arbutus and pink lady’s slippers. A bonus: the park contains 50mi (80km) of hiking trails, most of them along the river.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Botanical Garden, Forest
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Planting Fields Arboretum Oyster Bay Long Island New York
© Len Holsborg / Alamy Stock Photo

Life coach and forest therapy guide Linda Lombardo leads walks in various Long Island locations, including the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay. Lombardo’s specialisms are nature-inspired healing and wellness walks, often called forest bathing, throughout the 395-acre (160ha) park in the village of Upper Brookville. She also leads therapeutic walks at Prosser Pines Nature Reserve, the only white pine forest on Long Island.

Sound View Greenport

4/5 (230 Reviews)
Courtesy of Sound View Greenport / Expedia
Price Drop
Now from $192 per night

Sound View Greenport, a 55-room waterfront hotel on the North Fork peninsula, encourages guests to embrace nature during their stay. In addition to comfortable digs and locally sourced food, the innkeepers offer a variety of nature-infused programming, such as local farm tours, yoga on the beach and guided meditation walks.

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  • Long Island Whale & Seal Watching

    Sports Center
    Map View
    Humpback whale's tail over the blue waters of Pacific ocean during whale watching in Puerto Vallarta, Bahia de Banderas, Mexico
    © Darya Ufimtseva / Alamy Stock Photo

    Hop aboard Captain Lou’s Atlantic Pearl with Long Island Whale & Seal Watching to see humpbacks – which can grow to 59ft (18m) in length and weigh up to 79,000lb (36,000kg) – and bottlenose dolphins, along with other marine creatures which frequent the Atlantic waters off Long Island. Tours last four hours and start from 111 Woodcleft Avenue.

    Corwith Farmstand

    Yoga Studio
    Map View

    Enjoy the fresh air as you share a yoga mat with a friendly goat at Corwith Farmstand, a fifth-generation family farm in the Suffolk County hamlet of Water Mill. The 60-minute classes involve breathing and movement, along with stretching, strength exercises and relaxation techniques – and all with the participation of Billy the Kid.

    Long Island Canoe Kayak Rental

    Sports Center
    Map View
    Woman kayaking Stony Brook Long Island New York
    © Len Holsborg / Alamy Stock Photo

    Choose a SUP board, kayak or canoe for a guided night-time paddle down the Peconic River – moonlight will assist as you observe marine life after sunset. The river starts in the bogs and wetlands of central Long Island and flows east to the Peconic Bay, so there’s a variety of natural habitats to observe.

    Jones Beach State Park

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    Wood boat on Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County, New York
    © Nano Calvo / Alamy Stock Photo

    Tackle an outdoor obstacle course with WildPlay at Jones Beach State Park. You’ll test your mettle as you navigate from platform to platform on a variety of tightropes, cargo nets, ziplines, rope swings, swinging logs and wobbly bridges. Up for a bigger challenge? Try out the Extreme Course. To cap it off, the backdrop to all this adrenaline-pumping activity will be the white sands of Jones Beach State Park.

    These recommendations were updated on September 16, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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