Orient Beach has best playground around and other discoveries: Northforker Mom

Evan and Brian Huber

Evan and Brian Huber at Orient Beach State Park. (Credit: Laura Huber)

After a week of tests, science projects and spring colds, the Hubers needed to get out of the house.

We decided it would be a good idea to check out two places we had never been as a family: Orient Beach and Wildwood state parks.

We drove out to Orient on a cool day, but there were plenty of birds in the marshes along the nearly one-and-a half-mile road leading into the park. Brian couldn’t believe how close we were to the osprey nest. Some people had parked their cars along the side and were walking down the shoulder. I thought it would have made a pretty nice bike ride, though I haven’t ridden a bike in so long, I’m not sure I’d survive.

When we got to the end of the road, the boys immediately wanted to get out of the car. One of their favorite things to do is go to playgrounds, and the park has one of the best ones we’ve ever been to. The playground was immaculate, safe and clearly labeled for age-appropriateness. There was so much equipment to play and ride on, and you can swing while overlooking Gardiners Bay. Both kids ran back and forth checking out the playground equipment and pretending they were pirates.

I took a stroll along the shore thinking about how quiet the park was with just a few families on the beach or at the playground. I had visited the park one other time in December, on a quest to find a snowy owl, and saw no one else was walking the beach. I also noticed a plaque I hadn’t seen during my last visit. Orient Beach State Park has been a National Natural Landmark since 1980. According to the National Park Service, that means it received this designation for “outstanding condition, illustrative value, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education.”

During the summer, I figure the park is packed with picnickers and kayakers (you can rent kayaks there). The nice thing about venturing there this time of year is that there is no fee to park in the parking lot, so your visit is free. The state doesn’t start collecting parking fees until around Memorial Day, which was a nice surprise.

On nice days, it’s worth taking the drive, heading out early and spending the day there. On the way home, you can stop in Greenport for dinner and ice cream.

We drove about an hour to get back to Wildwood State Park, located off Hulse Landing Road in Wading River. By the time we got there, the kids were so exhausted that they only wanted to check out the playground and not walk down to the beach. Wildwood had a lot more families visiting and a bunch of people were grilling or watching their kids on the playground.

Brian Huber at Wildwood State Park.

Brian Huber at Wildwood State Park. (Credit: Laura Huber)

Unlike Orient Beach, Wildwood has campsites and permits are offered for fishing, stargazing and metal-detecting. Brian and Evan had a good time continuing their playground adventures, but when they started taking breaks and lying down on benches, I knew it was time to head home.

Wildwood also doesn’t start collecting parking fees until Memorial Day weekend. We’ll go back and explore some more later this spring and check out the beaches after summer starts.

I love taking the kids to all different kinds of places, but I also love discovering cool free and low-cost finds. Driving around, I noticed a couple more places we wanted to check out. Like most families, we’ve been so busy with work, sports and after-school activities, it’s hard to take it all in.

But every once in a while it’s nice to stop, take a look around and remember why we love living here so much.

Laura Huber