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Hustle, bustle and traffic can feel like they define life for Long Islanders — especially for those who commute to New York City during the week. It’s nice to slowdown, stop and smell the roses. As the weather warms, explore Long Island by foot. From harbors and shorelines to gardens and Gold Coast mansions, these are Long Island’s greatest walks.
Old Westbury Gardens
This is a stroll that gives guests a chance to enjoy the beauty that surrounds them today, as well as get a glimpse of Long Island’s past. Two hundred acres of formal gardens surround this Charles II-style mansion, which was once home to U.S. steel heir John Shaffer Pipps. Though the iron gates no longer shield the property from public view, getting past them still feels special. Once there, beauty is something to behold. The grounds are lush, perfectly landscaped and full of blooms in all shapes and sizes. Guests can wander the grounds, complete with ponds, lakes and woodlands, or saunter inside the old residence. There, they will spot fine English antique furnishings and decorative arts from more than 50 years of the family’s time in the mansion.
Old Westbury Gardens is open for the 2019 season on Saturday, April 20.
A quick jaunt from Sag Harbor or Greenport, Shelter Island is home to the jewel of the Peconic. Mashomack Preserve extends more than 2,000 acres, claiming about a third of the island, and has trails ranging from 1.5 to 10 miles. Hikers can peep anything from ospreys to piping plovers. Good news for summer visitors: It’s a predominantly shaded area, making it an ideal activity for a particularly scorching summer afternoon. Mashomack Preserve also hosts events and workshops for adults and children throughout the year.
Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
This popular arboretum and state park covers more than 400 acres in the Village of Upper Brookville. The former estate of insurance magnate William Robertson Coe Standard Oil heiress Mai Rogers Coe, it houses the former residence (Coe Hall) as well as a horticulturist’s dream of trimmings. A pair of greenhouses, the Main Greenhouse and Camellia Greenhouse, are two popular spots. Depending on the season, guests can spot Easter lilies, chrysanthemums and coleus in the Main Greenhouse, and Camellia Greenhouse lays claim to the largest collection camellias under glass in then Northeast from December through March 31. A sensory garden invites guests of all ages and abilities to experience florals in any and every way they can through the five senses. Planting Fields is open every day from 9 a.m. 5 p.m. The greenhouses are open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunken Forest on Fire Island
This rare maritime forest sits beyond a second set of dunes close to the Atlantic Ocean. Listed as imperiled by The Nature Conservancy, Sunken Forest is covered by 200-year-old trees, which twist around one another. The understory, covered in leaves, vines and freshwater bogs, is home to white-tailed deer, birds and a variety of reptiles and amphibians.
Move over, New York City — at 930 acres, Eisenhower Park, formerly known as Salisbury Park, is larger than Central Park. It’s also the spot of the finish line for the Long Island Marathon (Central Park, of course, is where runners New York City Marathon). Those who prefer a more relaxing walk have plenty of reason to veer off the Hempstead Turnpike. Eisenhower is home to the Harry Chapin outdoor theater, which has shows worth walking into during the summer, and three 18-hole golf courses. And of course, there’s ample room just to walk, people watch and take in a beautiful day on the Island.
Sands Point Preserve
The Hempstead House, a Tudor-style castle on Sands Point Preserve known to have inspired The Great Gatsby, embodies Gold Coast opulence. Tours are available and recommended. But sometimes, being on the outside looking in is the way to go. On a sunny day, the grounds glitter like Gatsby gold. The Great Lawn doubles as a beautiful park — expect to see revelers sprawled out taking in the pristine grounds together. Behind the Hempstead House, a garden with more than 1,500 roses is a site for romantic eyes. Much of the rest of the area is a bucolic scene. Six marked hiking trails weave through more than 200 acres of natural and landscaped areas. Woods, mile-long beach and cliffs, lawns, gardens and a freshwater pond give plans and animals a place to call home — and guests a chance to see something new.
Downtown Sag Harbor
Downtown Sag Harbor has a certain charm. The old churches, including Old Whalers built in 1844, give visitors a sense they have strolled back in time, and the seaside views are a breath of fresh air after months of hibernating. It makes it a fun place to walk. A dog-friendly town, it’s hard to go a few feet without seeing a small pup happily walking alongside a loving pet parent. Havens Beach, a small, laidback spot open to the public, has a playground to keep the tykes busy during an early-season day by the sea. It’s hit or miss who is open in the offseason, but it’s worth wondering into one or two shops on Main Street.