Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Fire Island, NY

  • Published 2022/12/10

Fire Island is a famous New York island along Long Island’s South Shore.

Part of Suffolk County, New York, Fire Island comprises several villages and communities that make it a bustling tourist attraction.

There are many things to do here, especially if you’re interested in the beach and outdoor fun.

The experience at Fire Island is also quite different compared to most places in the United States, as there are almost no vehicles that ply this island.

This makes your stay here incredibly serene and laid-back, further accentuated by its passionate communities.

There’s a lot more to unpack on this unique island, so check this list of the best things to do in Fire Island, New York.

Hit the Beach at Robert Moses State Park

People at Robert Moses State Park

Joe Trentacosti /

Named after the master builder, Robert Moses State Park is a beachfront park boasting nearly five miles of fine shoreline.

The park’s white sand beach is famous for swimming, surfing, and boogieboarding.

With lifeguards stationed in all areas, your kids can join in on the fun.

The sands of Robert Moses State Park

Scott Heaney /

You can make a family day out of it with its scenic picnic areas, playgrounds, and concessions.

With a permit from the Park Office, you can also stargaze at night!

You can easily access Robert Moses Park by the end of Fire Island Inlet Bridge.

Pier at Robert Moses State Park

Scott Heaney /

Take in Breathtaking Views at Fire Island Lighthouse

Daytime view of Fire Island Lighthouse

Francois Roux /

Fire Island Lighthouse is one of the Great South Bay’s most distinctive landmarks, having guided transatlantic ships to New York Harbor for over a century.

Today, the tower is no longer officially used for navigation but is a perfect destination for discovering Fire Island’s natural scenery and unique maritime history.

Don’t miss climbing the 182 steps to the top of the tower, where you can take in stunning panoramic views of the ocean, Long Island, and the New York City skyline!

The lamp of Fire Island Lighthouse

Scott Heaney /

A trip here isn’t complete without visiting its Keeper’s Quarters, a two-floor interactive exhibit of the demanding life of lighthouse keepers.

Fire Island Lighthouse is a pleasant 15–20-minute stroll along the boardwalk from Robert Moses Park.

Boardwalk leading to Fire Island Lighthouse

Scott Heaney /

Watch Wildlife at the Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness

As the only federally-designated wilderness in the State of New York, Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness is an undeveloped barrier island stretching seven miles along the Atlantic Ocean.

With its scenic dunes, dense thickets of cat briar, and poison ivy, the wilderness is a popular adventure for its beach, salt marsh, and forest terrains.

This is a scenic spot to watch herons, waterfowl, and even white-tailed deer in the wild.

However, if you prefer angling, you can try to catch bluefish, striped bass, and winter flounder.

You can also choose backcountry camping, which is best in the winter as ticks and mosquitos increase in the summer.

The Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness is open all year round, accessible by car, with parking available at the Smith Point County Park parking lot.

Go Surfing at Smith Point County Park

The waves of Smith Point County Park

Intelligentlove at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As the county’s largest beachfront park, Smith Point County Park is a must-visit for surfers, bodyboarders, and beach lovers.

With its six miles of white sand, big waves, and clean waters, the park isn’t just a picturesque spot for a dip in the ocean.

It’s also host to Fire Island’s only surfing competition!

Boardwalk at Smith Point County Park

Joe Trentacosti /

This is a popular spot for snorkeling and scuba diving if you prefer getting deep into the water.

If you want to try camping by the ocean, Smith Point County Park’s campgrounds are in one of the most spacious areas of the island with full amenities.

Located at the eastern end of Fire Island, Smith Point County Park is a can’t-miss place for beach enthusiasts.

See a Drag Show at Cherry Grove

Flags at Cherry Grove

Curtflirt9, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located between Sailors Haven and Fire Island Pines, Cherry Grove has become one of the most beloved and iconic LGBT resort communities in the United States since before Stonewall.

In the daytime, this laidback community is the perfect place for sunbathing, but while it’s not an official nude beach, clothing is optional here!

Still, the unique destination here is Ice Palace, known for its incredible drag shows and themed parties.

Ice Palace is a nightclub and resort known for its energetic atmosphere, highlighted by its fantastic drag show, Miss Fire Island.

Cherry Grove is only accessible via the Sayville Ferry or private water taxi, as this section of Fire Island is car-free.

Join Low Tea at Fire Island Pines

Located next to Cherry Grove, Fire Island Pines is the origin of the famous tea dance, the inspiration for LGBT afternoon dance parties worldwide.

When it was still illegal for men to dance with men, the night spot Blue Whale allowed the community to line dance together in the late afternoons (at low tea).

Hence, the tea dance was born.

Now going by the name “Low Tea,” the tradition is still alive.

You can still join the fun at the Blue Whale every night in the summer and on weekends in the spring and fall.

If you’re into more high-octane partying, drop by Sip n’ Twirl, Fire Island Pines’ biggest and busiest club!

Catch the Sayville Ferry or a water taxi to reach Fire Island Pines.

Immerse in Nature at the Tranquil Sunken Forest

Welcome sign of Sunken Forest

Michael Carni /

Ranked “globally rare” by the New York Natural Heritage Program, Fire Island’s Sunken Forest is one of the eastern seaboard’s few remaining maritime forests and a must-visit for hikers, birdwatchers, and ecologists.

The Sunken Forest is a sea of 200-year-old American holly, bayberry, blueberry, and sassafras trees that don’t grow taller than the tall dunes surrounding the forest.

This sunken appearance is how it got its name.

Boardwalk of Sunken Forest

Felix Lipov /

The forest has a beautiful nature trail, half paved and half boardwalk, making it an easy hike if you plan to bring your kids!

To learn more about flora and fauna in this ecological gem, you can join a tour led by a Park Ranger from the Sailors Haven Visitor Center.

The Sunken Forest is accessible via the Sayville Ferry to Sailors Haven.

View of the waters from Sunken Forest

Felix Lipov /

Spot Funny House Names around Kismet

Marina at Kismet

Jon Bilous /

Located a stone’s throw from the Fire Island Lighthouse, Kismet is the island’s westernmost community with a tradition of giving houses funny names.

While giving house names across Fire Island is typical, Kismet is known for being incredibly humorous.

For example, you have houses like Margaritaville, Bananas, the Edge, and Life is Better at the Beach.

Beach at Kismet

Jon Bilous /

The atmosphere in this town is relaxed and perfect for exploring at your own pace on foot after hitting the beach.

At night, the community transforms into a party hub with happy hours and disco dancing.

Kismet is accessible by car via the Robert Moses State Park or ferry from Long Island’s Bay Shore.

View of Kismet from across the water

C. Spencer Beggs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sail around Sailors Haven

Fire Island has over 101 miles of gorgeous coastlines to enjoy.

If you want to sail all day through its bright, clean waters, boaters are more than welcome to dock at Sailors Haven.

Located along Fire Island National Seashore, the waters around Sailors Haven are the perfect place to take in natural wonders like the Sunken Forest completely.

After a day of sailing, you and your family can kick back at its white sand beach with its myriad concessionaires and picnic tables and grills.

Day trippers and overnight visitors are free to dock at the Sailors Haven Marina, which has 45 slips, all with electricity and water.

However, note that you are only allowed to dock your boat for up to 14 days.

Ride a Bike around Fire Island from Fair Harbor

A shop at Fair Harbor

Thedjatclubrock, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Free of cars and noise, Fire Island is the perfect place to feel the wind on your back as you bike through its towns.

The perfect place to start is the Fair Harbor community.

Located between the communities of Saltaire and Dunewood, Fair Harbor’s location makes it a great starting point for exploring the island by bike!

You can rent a bike and have it ready for you when you arrive through stores like Corliss Bike Rentals and the Fire Island Bicycle Company.

Before you set out, check out Fair Harbor itself.

This community is a quiet sanctuary for those seeking to escape the urban grid.

This also has a small downtown district with an upscale food market and free-spirited vintage stores!

Ferry services to Fair Harbor are available from Bay Shore.

Watch or Play Trangleball at Ocean Beach

Known as the unofficial capital of Fire Island, Ocean Beach is home to many bars, restaurants, and boutiques.

It’s also the hometown of Trangleball.

You’re likely to spot a group of six furiously bouncing a ball off a pyramid-like structure without letting the ball fall to the ground.

Invented by handball hobbyist Mark Miller in 1992, Trangleball continues to be popular on the beaches of Fire Island today.

Now, even players from Japan and the Czech Republic enjoy the game!

Ocean Beach continues to hold Trangleball Tournaments in the summer.

Whether you’re watching or joining, it’ll surely get your blood pumping!

Ocean Beach is accessible only by the Ocean Beach Ferry or by water taxi.

Other Things to Do Nearby

See a Play at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater

Exterior of Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater

Scott Heaney /

A 22-minute drive from Fire Island Lighthouse would take you to Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in the hamlet of Wantagh, New York.

This is one of the most famous attractions near Fire Island, where people congregate to enjoy various concerts.

The state-of-the-art outdoor amphitheater that overlooks Zachs Bay makes the lively concerts here even more memorable.

A concert at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater

Debby Wong /

Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater also allows tailgating in their parking lots if you plan to do it with friends and family.

As one of the best places to see famous musicians playing island escapism music, Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater is a fantastic addition to your itinerary.

Guitar player at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater

Debby Wong /

Experience the Nightlife at Cedar Beach Marina

If you want a blast with fellow tourists and locals by the beach, Cedar Beach Marina is only a 12-minute drive from the Fire Island Lighthouse.

Located in Babylon, Cedar Beach Marina is known for two things that separate it from other beaches: live music and beach volleyball.

There’s a festive atmosphere at night due to the bands, complemented by bars and restaurants.

Volleyball nets are also present throughout its shoreline, adding another way for you to mingle with fellow tourists.

Of course, Cedar Beach Marina also has fantastic ocean views and great beach amenities.

Go Fishing at Captree State Park

A marina at Captree State Park

James Kirkikis /

A three-minute drive through the Fire Island Inlet Bridge from Robert Moses State Park will lead you to Captree State Park.

Also located in Babylon, Captree State Park is a great fishing destination, especially crabbing.

They have a dedicated fishing pier where you can get all sorts of saltwater fish.

Fishing at Captree State Park

James Kirkikis /

However, blue crabs are easily the most popular critter here.

The island also has a ton of fishing charters if you want to rent a boat and seek assistance.

Even if you’re not into fishing, their beautiful pier makes for a great stroll or photo opportunity during your trip.

Bait and tackle shop at Captree State Park

JaysonPhotography /

Trek the JFK Wildlife Sanctuary

If you want a rustic wilderness experience, JFK Wildlife Sanctuary is only a 20-minute drive from Fire Island Lighthouse.

Located in Massapequa hamlet, JFK Wildlife Sanctuary is a hidden gem near Fire Island, boasting serene marshlands.

The unpaved trails are rugged but scenic, giving you an authentic wildlife preserve experience.

You can find various migratory birds, small mammals, and butterflies.

However, you need a permit to enter this sanctuary, so keep that in mind if you plan to go.

Final Thoughts

Fire Island is a unique place in the United States where you can have a complete island experience without going far.

It’s also a welcoming place that embraces people from all walks of life, making this one of the best places to mingle and have a good time.

From beach parties to wildlife sanctuaries, tons of outdoor immersion are present on this incredible island.

Use this list of the best things to do in Fire Island, New York, as your go-to travel guide!

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