Governor Alfred E. Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Sunken Meadow Parkway and Naples Avenue, Kings Park, NY
Hours:Hours vary depending on activity and time of year. Call ahead for details.
Fee: Fees vary between $8 and $10 throughout the year (free with an Empire Passport)
Contact:; 631-269-4333

Bathrooms: Gazebo in front of the beach
Water/Snacks: Vending machines and water fountains in the gazebo; snack bar on the boardwalk

USGS Northport and St. James

Swim in tranquil Long Island Sound, hike on the Long Island Greenbelt Trail, and learn about the flora, fauna, and marine life of the sound.

Calm waves lap the sand along Long Island Sound.
Photo by: iStockphoto

Governor Alfred E. Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park has a 3-mile beach along Long Island Sound, abruptly interrupted by glacier-formed bluffs. With this in mind, the park was developed as a nature sanctuary and recreation area to teach children about local flora, fauna, and marine life. It is also an access point to the northern terminus of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail, which begins 33 miles south in Heckscher State Park (Trip 77) and offers excellent hiking through the woods on mostly flat dirt trails near the coast. Heading farther inland, trail elevation gain can be moderate at points.

Begin your trip with a visit to the park office in the gazebo north of parking lots 1 and 2, in front of the bathing beach on Long Island Sound. The office has maps of the park, and displays in the gazebo provide information about the types of birds that migrate through the meadow, as well as marine life on the beach. These displays are educational—“Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus). Really not a crab at all, the horseshoe crab is more closely related to spiders…”—and up-to-date; for example, a notice displays how many species of birds have been spotted in the park so far that year. Kids and adults alike are bound to learn something.

The waves at the beach are manageable (those at Heckscher State Park are even more mild) and the three-quarter-mile boardwalk is a lovely place to stroll. Large playgrounds are located near parking lots 1 and 2.

Hiking opportunities abound year round. Whether or not you plan to go the entire 33 miles to Heckscher, the outset of the trail makes for a rigorous out-and-back. To begin your hike, head back south and take your first left toward parking lot 4. You will pass picnic tables and a comfort station as the paved road rises up to where two stone benches mark the start of the trail. The path is slightly rugged, but suitable for young hikers. You can follow it as far as you like, then return the way you came to cool off with a swim at the beach. Remember: Dogs are not allowed in the bathing or picnic areas. Contact the park office for details.

Plan B:

For more rollicking waves and a well-done nature center, visit Jones Beach State Park (Trip 75).

Where to Eat Nearby:

It is best to bring a picnic.


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