Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Brookhaven, NY

  • Published 2022/11/14

The town of Brookhaven comprises nine villages and five unincorporated hamlets, making it a unique place in Long Island’s Suffolk County.

Because of its dozens of incorporated communities, Brookhaven’s total land area stretches from the north to south shores of Long Island.

Many New Yorkers love to retreat in this Long Island town, especially those who yearn for rest and recreation.

This town boasts a countryside appeal with quaint streets filled with turn-of-the-century buildings and architecture.

Moreover, it’s home to dozens of parks, nature preserves, and beaches, making it an ideal travel destination.

Most of the time, your itinerary in Brookhaven focuses on outdoor activities such as hiking, sightseeing, wildlife viewing, and free tours.

Here are the free things to do in Brookhaven, New York, to help you enjoy your vacation in this charming town.

Look on the Horizon at Old Field Point Light

Exterior of the Old Field Point Light

Jay Gao /

Old Field Point Light offers a dramatic backdrop of Stony Brook Harbor.

You can check out this lighthouse along Old Field Road in the hamlet of Setauket-East Setauket.

This lighthouse, completed in 1823, stands at 73 feet or 23-meters above sea level.

It mainly features an octagonal tower with black paint and white stone walls.

Facade of the Old Field Point Light

Maria T Hoffman /

Visiting this lighthouse is fascinating and pleasing, given the gorgeous natural surrounding.

At the same time, you’ll surely enjoy roaming through the quaint local shops and restaurants near this lighthouse.

Although the top of the lighthouse is off-limits to the public, you can still pose in front of the Old Field Point Lighthouse and admire its lovely architecture.

Explore the Past at Longwood Estate

Longwood Estate is on the National Register of Historic Places; you can find it along Longwood Road in the hamlet of Ridge.

It’s the town’s beloved historical treasure and a famous outdoor destination.

Upon arriving in Brookhaven, this place should be your first destination to get acquainted with the town’s laid-back vibes.

At the same time, enjoy wandering through the entire estate’s gorgeous areas.

Check out its well-preserved farmland, ponds, pastures, woodlands, and Peconic River’s headwaters which have existed for more than 200 years.

A visit to this place allows you to immerse yourself in the past, which remains relevant to the town today.

Besides historical tours, you can enjoy a picnic and other activities, such as hiking and fishing at the Longwood Estate.

Rub Elbows with Locals at Stony Brook Village Center

Shops at Stony Brook Village Center

Iracaz at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Stony Brook Village Center serves as Brookhaven’s premier shopping and leisure center with a charming colonial-style village theme.

This famous attraction in Stony Brook hamlet is the creation of philanthropist Ward Melville.

Before creating this attraction, he envisioned a lively business center where locals could enjoy Brookhaven’s best.

Today, the center has a mixture of shops, art galleries, restaurants, and museums.

Over 40 specialty shops, cafes, restaurants, and other businesses thrive at this place.

Spending time here allows you to mingle with locals and see what the town offers best, such as food, arts and crafts, and other products.

At the same time, enjoy the picturesque view of the harbor from a distance.

Don’t miss visiting Stony Brook Village Center for an exciting day of leisure activities.

Swim to Your Hearts’ Content at Smith Point Beach

Sunny day at Smith Point Beach

Dani_King /

Smith Point Beach is part of Brookhaven’s numerous beaches, which offer excellent outdoor recreation such as swimming, fishing, and boating.

This popular outdoor destination in Brookhaven is in the hamlet of Shirley.

This beach is your go-to destination if you want quality rest and recreation.

It boasts a long stretch of white sand, clear waters, and a peaceful ambiance, making it an idyllic location to take a break from your busy life.

If you wish to swim, Smith Point Beach is a popular swimming destination for Brookhaven locals.

It has concession stands, showers, restrooms, picnic areas, and a playground for a convenient beach outing.

At the same time, you’ll enjoy fishing and boating at Smith Point Beach.

Get Active at Diamond in the Pines

Diamond in the Pines is a park that mainly caters to Brookhaven’s sports buffs.

You can visit this park near the Coram Fire Department Station 2 and Coram’s Movieland theaters.

Locals love to spend their weekends or afternoons at this park playing football and baseball.

It also has a multi-purpose field for other sports like Frisbee and soccer, making it an excellent place to stretch your muscles.

Besides the sports facilities, Diamond in the Pines is also a charming place to picnic with your family or friends.

It has a gazebo, a playground, restrooms, and walking trails for a worthwhile outdoor activity.

Encounter Local Wildlife at the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge

A river at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge

IlyaSukhanov, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge covers over 2,550 acres of protected land on Long Island’s south shores.

You can visit this pristine wildlife refuge along Smith Road in the hamlet of Shirley.

Oak-pine woodlands and grasslands cover this wildlife refuge with vast saltwater wetlands home to diverse wildlife.

If you’re a wildlife enthusiast or a nature photographer, check out the natural beauty of this wildlife refuge.

It’s home to animals such as local bird species, migratory birds, small mammals, and reptiles that thrives on thousands of acres of protected habitat.

There are numerous ways to have a splendid experience at the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

Otherwise, hop on a boat to see the wetlands or hike over six miles of natural trails to immerse yourself in nature.

See Birds up Close at Blue Point Nature Preserve

Blue Point Nature Preserve encompasses 17 acres of protected natural trails and bird habitat.

You can visit this nature preserve along Maple Street in Blue Point.

Many birdwatchers flock to this nature preserve to see up close various bird species that thrive in the area.

If you’re a bird enthusiast or an avid bird watcher, try to spot the rare species thriving at the Blue Point Nature Preserve.

There are various birdwatching spots you can choose from throughout this 17-acre preserve.

Likewise, you can hike through a network of trails or take a break and head to its picnic shelter.

Commune with Nature at the Avalon Nature Preserve

Scenic view of Avalon Nature Preserve

Jay Gao /

Avalon Nature Preserve is another protected natural area that’s equally fascinating to explore in Brookhaven.

You can visit this natural attraction along Harbor Road in Stony Brook.

This nature preserve features various destinations within its premises, perfect for outdoor activities.

One of its main attractions is Mill Pond, home to waterfowl and turtles, which you can see by crossing its boardwalk.

Ducks at Avalon Nature Preserve

Jay Gao /

After checking out the turtles, head to the labyrinth for another round of hiking that takes you to the Paul Simons memorial sculpture.

You can also proceed to the Rhododendron Overlook and marvel at the scenic coastal corridor.

To complete your experience, climb the Hilltop Meadows to get a vantage point of the entire Avalon Nature Preserve.

Amazingly, you can enjoy all of these worthwhile outdoor activities with nature for free at this nature preserve.

Catch the Golden Hour at Scotts Beach

Scotts Beach is renowned throughout Brookhaven for its spectacular sunset view every afternoon.

You can find this beach between Sound Beach and Woodhull Landing.

Many locals, especially couples, spend their afternoons at this beach to catch the golden hour when the sun paints the sky and surroundings with warm hues.

Enjoy the incredible sight of Scotts Beach, especially its spectacular sunset, before wrapping up your day.

Besides the famous sunset, this beach also has a peaceful ambiance, perfect for taking a break and meditating.

Hike through the Southaven County Park

Boardwalk trail at Southaven County Park

Joe Trentacosti /

Southaven County Park has offered Brookhaven’s locals top-notch outdoor activities since the 1960s.

You can visit this park along Victory Avenue in Yaphank.

This park serves as one of Suffolk County’s first parks to open, featuring numerous multi-use trails through the woodlands, camping sites, picnic areas, and a children’s playground.

The most satisfying outdoor activity you can enjoy at this park is hiking through its 4.5-kilometer looped trail.

While hiking, you’ll enter densely wooded areas filled with the local flora and fauna.

It’s a perfect activity for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts who want to see the park’s natural beauty.

During winter, Southaven County Park turns into a winter wonderland as many locals enjoy cross-country skiing and other snow-related activities.

Enter the Sherwood Jayne House

Signage of Sherwood Jayne House

DanTD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sherwood Jayne House has a significant past dating to the 1700s.

You can visit this historic home along Old Post Road in the Setauket-East Setauket hamlet.

The entire property encompasses a two-story wooden house with five accessory buildings, picket fences, gardens, and landscape features.

Amazingly, these buildings remain standing despite their age.

The Jayne family built the farm in the 1730s.

Exterior of Sherwood Jayne House

DanTD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1908, Howard Sherwood acquired the property as an addition to his collection of historical artifacts with the help of Joseph Everett Chandler, who restored the buildings.

Visiting this historic home allows you to discover its rich history about the simple life of the Jayne family in the 1700s through walking tours.

At the same time, enjoy wandering through its natural area, which is a favorite destination for hikers, birdwatchers, and joggers.

You’ll be mesmerized by the Sherwood Jayne House’s pristine natural areas filled with local wildlife and scenery.

Buildings around Sherwood Jayne House

DanTD, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Follow the Trails of Brookhaven State Park

The Brookhaven State Park is a 1,638-acre state park along William Floyd Parkway in Ridge.

This former Brookhaven National Laboratory is renowned for its gorgeous trails that take you through numerous hamlets across Brookhaven.

This state park is your go-to place for an outdoor family adventure.

It has five excellent nature trails that take you through various natural areas.

Also, some trails lead you to coastal plain ponds, home to various local wildlife.

If you want a faster exploration of Brookhaven State Park, you can also hop on your mountain bike and traverse its fantastic trails.

Dig Your Toes in the Sand at Cedar Beach Town Nature Preserve

Daytime view of Cedar Beach Town Nature Preserve

Joe Trentacosti /

Cedar Beach Town Nature Preserve is a well-known beach area in Mount Sinai.

This family-friendly outdoor destination is an excellent place to hang out and walk through a long stretch of sandy and pebbly beach while looking into the horizon.

This is an excellent place to visit if you want more beach outings with your family or friends.

Besides its gorgeous beach, it has walking and running trails, concession stands, a basketball court, a fishing pier, a marine, and a children’s playground for everyone to enjoy.

During summer, Cedar Beach Town Nature Preserve becomes lively with musical performances from local bands and singers through several outdoor restaurants and bars.

Stroll through Bellport Bay

Bellport Bay is a tiny hamlet in Brookhaven known for its well-preserved centuries-old buildings and quaint atmosphere.

Many people love to stroll through its streets as they feel they’re like traveling to the past.

At the same time, this hamlet boasts charming storefronts that offer various specialty products, adding excitement to your visit.

Its historic district is filled with century-old clapboard houses and towering trees that line the streets.

If you’re looking for more sights at Bellport Bay, head to its marina and feel the ocean breeze brush against your skin.

Chill at the Frank Melville Park

Swans at Frank Melville Park

Joe Trentacosti /

Frank Melville Park in Setauket-East Setauket is a privately-managed park open to the public.

Constructed in 1937, this park pays tribute to the father of local philanthropist Ward Melville, Frank Melville Jr.

Unlike typical parks, this one has several unique features, such as its Greek revival post office, a working miller, a simulated grist mill, a meeting house, and an early-20th century barn.

In addition, it has numerous 17th to 19th-century houses, mainly listed on the National Register of Historic Places nearby, which you can explore during your visit there.

Stone bridge at Frank Melville Park

Steve Cukrov /

Many locals love to spend their afternoons or weekends at Frank Melville Park to hang out and pass the time.

The park encompasses over 26 acres of natural woodland and the estuary, which is also home to over 200 plant and tree varieties.

If you have extra time to spare during your visit to Brookhaven, don’t forget to drop by this charming park.

Grist mill at Frank Melville Park

Popbot11, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

The peaceful surroundings of Brookhaven, from its sleepy hamlets and communities, will capture your imagination.

Meanwhile, centuries-old historical sites with fascinating backstories will feed your curiosity.

Its parks and natural areas are excellent places to enjoy the outdoors.

You can enjoy plenty of free things to do in Brookhaven, New York, so don’t forget to pin this list as your itinerary.

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