Paddling on the South Shore

Heading out on paddle boards at Empire Kayaks

Heading out on paddle boards at Empire Kayaks (July 5, 2013) (Credit: Linda Rosier)

Here's how to be a painless philanthropist: Spend a fabulous day kayaking, dining on lobster and sipping frozen drinks -- and, at the same time, help the rebounding economy of Island Park, a South Shore community walloped by superstorm Sandy.

This day on Middle Bay will resurrect memories of nature's fury, as the route hugs homes whose docks and decks are under reconstruction. But beauty abounds as well -- osprey nests, herons and egrets, waving beachgrasses, picturesque nautical sights.

Here's a suggested itinerary:

1. Start at Empire Kayaks (4 Empire Blvd., Island Park, open daily except Tuesdays; 516-889-8300, empirekayaks.com). Co-owners Michael and Gabrielle Fehling -- who, incidentally, lost their home during Sandy -- can explain the itinerary to kayak renters using a laminated map of the area's waters. (Pedal-powered kayaks that leave hands free also may be available.)

2. Paddle about 30 minutes to the Town of Hempstead's Marine Nature Study Area (500 Slice Dr., Oceanside, 516-766-1580). A gravel path along the marshy water provides an easy spot to set the kayak temporarily. Take a walk along the loops of gravel and boardwalk trails; an osprey family goes about its day in a nesting area, and other birds, such as herons, swoop by. Egrets walk the trails.

3. Returning, take time to see the damage to the homes along the water. Construction crews may be repairing docks and rebuilding patios and decks. Some windows are still boarded up, and some houses are still minus siding. Depending on the tide and wind, it may take an hour to get back to Empire Kayaks.

4. If that's enough kayaking, return the kayak now and continue the itinerary by driving (single kayaks are $15 an hour, $50 for the day; doubles are $20 an hour, $80 for the day). But for the hard-core kayaker, 75 more minutes of paddling in the opposite direction yields the lunch destination: Jordan Lobster Farms (1 Pettit Place, Island Park, 516-889-3314, jordanlobsterfarms.com). Pass by the ramshackle remains of waterfront bar Paddy McGees, which won't reopen this season, and pull the kayak up at Jordan's. Order at the bustling window and eat on the patio, or enjoy lobster, crabcakes or shrimp salad sandwiches indoors at the tables added this year.

5. Paddle to Empire Kayaks and retrieve your car. Drive to Pop's Seafood Shack & Grill (15 Railroad Place, 516-432-7677, popsseafoodshack.com) for a well-deserved reward: a frozen drink called Miami Vice that is half piƱa colada, half strawberry daiquiri, served on the waterfront bar's South Beach. The beach area includes a sand floor and a view of the water. Palm trees complete the festive atmosphere. Take a commemorative photo of yourselves seated in the oversized, red "Pops" Adirondack chair.

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