Jones Beach State Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:1 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh, NY
Hours:Hours vary depending on activity and time of year. Check websites for details.
Fee: $10 per car June to September; $8 per car all other times; free with an Empire Passport
Bathrooms: Nature center; along the boardwalk
Water/Snacks: Concessions available at the boardwalk

USGS Bay Shore West, Bay Shore West OE S, Jones Inlet, and West Gilgo Beach

Teach your kids about marine life and the ecosystem of a sand dune, then end the afternoon with a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.

Jones Beach State Park offers over 6.5 miles of beach for families to enjoy.
Photo by: Jerry and Marcy Monkman

Jones Beach State Park is a legendary swimming destination featuring 6.5 miles of Atlantic Ocean beach, another half-mile of beach along Zach’s Bay, and an art deco swimming pool. The park is also home to the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, a fantastic resource for teaching kids about marine ecology.

Start your trip with a visit to the nature center, located at the west end of Ocean Parkway. The highlight of the nature center is a quarter-mile boardwalk leading out over the dunes, featuring exhibits that explain dune ecology. The displays range from the types of grasses and shrubs found on different sections of the dunes to scale models of the birds (such as white owls and bald eagles) that frequent the area.

After a walk around the boardwalk, check out the permanent whale-bone exhibit on the east side of the center. It is stunning to see the ribs tower over young children, with vertebrae bigger than basketballs. Inside the center are interactive displays covering topics ranging from the geography of the ocean floor to the tracks different animals make in the sand. Throughout the year, the center also runs science, art, and outdoors programs for children and families.

During summer, after visiting the nature center, go swimming! The outdoor West Bathhouse pool is between parking fields 3 and 4. Parking field 5, just past the landmark water tower, has both ocean and bay beach access. You can also head to parking field 10, where you can launch your kayak next to the pier on the east side of the picnic area. A small playground is near Zach’s Bay, and a larger one is west of the main pavilion on the ocean side.

Remember: Don’t miss the art deco beach signs along the boardwalk, where children can ride bikes from October through March.

Plan B:

Governor Alfred E. Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park (Trip 78) is a good alternative for hiking, and also offers a calm beach on Long Island Sound.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Several food concessions are on the boardwalk fronting the swimming area.


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