Pelham Bay Park: Orchard Beach and Twin Islands

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Park Drive, Bronx, NY
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Free; $8 parking fee applies in summer
Bathrooms: Nature center; Pelican Playground; pavilion
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at the bathrooms; concessions at the pavilion

This deep-woods retreat can be folded into a day at the beach.

Packed in summer, Orchard Beach is a quiet getaway in the off-season.
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

The Bronx is the only New York City borough on mainland America, and in the 1930s, the continent grew by 115 acres when 3 million cubic yards of landfill were brought in to create Orchard Beach. It was an impressive engineering feat at the time, and the mile-long, crescent-shaped beach—featuring white sand imported from the Rockaways in Queens and Sandy Hook, New Jersey—was given the nickname “The Riviera of New York.”

The beach is divided into 13 sections, designated by signs. This is handy when trying to remember where your blanket is on a hot summer day. The nature center, which is open from 10 A.m. to 4 P.m. on weekends, Memorial Day through Labor Day, is on Twin Islands, across the promenade at the north end of the beach, in section 2. (Twin Islands are no longer actual islands, because of the creation of the beach.)

The trail on Twin Islands, which is not stroller friendly, begins to the right of the nature center, behind an opening in the pipe fence. The wide gravel path gives way to a small dirt path as you enter the woods. The trail is unmarked but easy to follow. It traces the rim of the former island, bringing you up hillocks that overlook Long Island Sound.

After making this loop of about a mile, return to the stroller-friendly promenade and walk the mile-long path to visit the splendid art deco pavilion that looms large in the distance. Two excellent playgrounds are along the way, one at section 6 and the other at section 11. Remember: In May and June, horseshoe crabs come ashore to lay eggs. With their long, pointed tails and tough-looking shells, they can be frightening at first sight.

Plan B:

Bring a canoe or kayak and paddle around the lagoon, to the west of the main beach parking lot.

Where to Eat Nearby:

It is best to pack a picnic.


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