Fire Island National Seashore Fire Island, NY 631-687-4750 or 631-597-6171 (when marina open)
Sailors Haven on Fire Island is perfect for boaters, daytrippers, nature enthusiasts and families.
Why it's great for kids: The ferry ride across the bay from Sayville to Sailors Haven is a half-hour of fun before even arriving on the sand. Once at Sailors Haven, the Sunken Forest awaits; it's a maritime holly forest. "The reason it's called sunken is it sits below the dunes, between the dunes and the bay," says Chris Soller, superintendent of the Fire Island National Seashore. "You come up over the dunes and go down into the forest." Sailors Haven has a snack bar, a marina and a visitor's center with exhibits for kids and weekend programs.
Admission Fee: The beach is free, but there's a charge for parking at the ferry in Sayville and for a ferry ticket. Call 631-589-0810 for ferry schedule and 2009 fees.
Why go: There are no residential homes in Sailor's Haven, and that's precisely what makes it so nice. Besides Sunken Forest, it has a great wide beach, several picnic and BBQ areas, and the National Seashore's Sailor's Haven Visitor Center (631-597-6183) which hosts nature exhibits, ranger-led interpretive tours, a marina and gift shop.
This coastal hammock is the island's greatest natural wonder and protected by a beautiful canopy of interwoven branches, made up of old-growth forest knotted with briars and vines. The 1.5-mile round-trip boardwalk trails feature some of Fire Island's best bird- and wildlife-watching (look for Eastern Towhee, Common Yellowthroats, red foxes and Painted Lady butterflies) and interesting habitat, including an exceptional secondary dune system, dank mysterious bogs filled with ferns and swamp maples and a very rare maritime holly forest.
For something different, check out the Enchanted Forest's ranger-led programs on Saturdays at 8 p.m. The free, one-hour tour covers different topics each week, ranging from stargazing to mosquitoes to bedtime stories.
Eat: Pick up some picnic goods and sandwiches at the Sailor's Haven snack bar and convenience store.
The Sayville Ferry offers service to Sailor's Haven; round-trip ticket $14.Season: May 10-Oct. 27 Parking: None. Accessible by boat/ferry only