10 Amazing Places on the East End to Visit Before Summer’s Over

Montauk Point Lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean
Montauk Point Lighthouse. Photo credit: 146960339Sylvana Rega/iStock/Thinkstock

The East End is equipped with unique and remarkable places to explore during the summer season. Locals and tourists alike can enjoy a multitude of scenic spots and exciting activities. Lighthouses, nature walks and parks can all contribute to shaping the most enjoyable summer days.

The following 10 must-visit spots are highlights of the overall East End experience. Whether on the South Fork or the North Fork, quaint towns, gorgeous beaches, and historical landmarks fill the spaces between these amazing places.

Montauk Point Lighthouse
Montauk Point Lighthouse. Photo credit: Jennifer Meihofer

The Montauk Lighthouse, located at 2000 Montauk Highway in Montauk, is the oldest standing lighthouse in the whole of New York State. The lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress under President George Washington in 1792. On June 7, 1796, construction began. The structure was completed in the same year on November 5.

The climb to the top of the lighthouse is one adventure that shouldn’t be missed. The stairs may be daunting but the view at the pinnacle is spectacular.

The museum offers a nice glimpse into the lighthouse’s history. Guests can walk around the property – stroll down by the water or hike on one of the trails. It is also possible to enroll large groups (20 or more) in a tour. Special events are scheduled to take place on the grounds and can be found on their website at montauklighthouse.com.

The museum is open daily during the summer months from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Fridays and from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $4 for children.

Penguins at the Long Island Aquarium
Penguins at the Long Island Aquarium. Photo credit: Angel Li

Looking to enter into a world of exotic animals and sea creatures? The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center at 431 East Main Street in Riverhead is just the place to come face-to-face with sharp-teethed sharks, watch talented sea lions perform, and get your feet wet or, rather, your hands wet at some of the touch tanks. Marmosets are just one new addition to the aquarium. Guests can walk through a butterfly enclosure and interact with birds or they can visit the otter exhibit out back.

The Long Island Aquarium is open Mondays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tickets are $27.95 for adults, $21.00 for children, $23.50 for seniors and free for children 2 and younger. Membership can be purchased, and group tickets are available for parties made up of 15 individuals or more.

Further experiences, including the Behind the Scenes Tour, Penguin Encounter, Pirate Snorkel Adventure and Tour Boat, can be purchased in addition to the regularly priced admission.

With 187 acres of nature and wildlife on a peninsula on Noyac and Little Peconic Bays, Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge (2595 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor) is the ideal place for adventurers. Visitors can look for white-tailed deer, painted turtles, green frogs, chipmunks, songbirds, piping plovers and ospreys while exploring upland forests, fields and ponds. A strong pair of legs and a willingness to get lost in nature can lead to the salt marsh, beach or lagoon. With stone-like patience, visitors may even be able to coax a few chickadees to eat their next meal out of an individual’s hands – there’s nothing like making some feathery friends to conclude the summer.

Fishing is permitted in certain areas and under specific state restrictions. Wildlife viewing stations are scattered throughout the site, and interactive family-oriented activities are usually offered on Saturdays during the summer. Guests are encouraged to bring cameras – luckily nature is photogenic, so even amateur picture-takers may be able to capture the beauty of the landscape, diverse habitats and wide variety of animals they may spot along the way.

Design plan for The Battle of Mutiny Bay
Design plan for The Battle of Mutiny Bay, Courtesy Splish Splash

Splish Splash is the place to be when summer temperatures are at their peak. The waterpark is located in Calverton (2549 Splish Splash Drive), just before the Long Island Expressway. With many tube slides and body slides, Splish Splash is packed with fun water rides and is an instant remedy that will help you cool down.

The waterpark is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer. If guests feel daring they can take a three-second plunge down the 8-story body slide, Cliff Diver, or they could do justice to the namesake of the Lazy River.

There are several selections for admission. The first is general admission for individuals who are 48” and taller at $41.99, and Junior/Senior Admission for individuals who are under 48” tall or those who are age 60 and up at $31.99. A 3-day advance ticket is $39.99 or a 7-day advance ticket is $37.99. Tickets are available at splishsplash.com/plan-a-visit/tickets-and-passes.

While visiting that lighthouse in Montauk, it is the perfect opportunity to take a side trip to Hither Hills State Park (Old Montauk Highway) as well. The stunning views have been enjoyed by locals for years. Fire pits and picnic areas are available to make the outing last all day. Take a trek to the eastern portion of the park to locate the sand dunes and explore the woodlands that consist of Russian olive, oak and pine trees. The wide stretch of sandy beach provides room for sport fishing. Anglers with permits can even go on night excursions to catch their fish. Playing fields and a playground are perfect for energetic children.

The park is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Permits and registration is required for access and can be found at http://nysparks.com/parks/122/fees-rates.aspx.

Marisa Nelson and Hooter from Quogue Wildlife Refuge
Marisa Nelson and Hooter from Quogue Wildlife Refuge.
Photo credit: Courtesy Scarlett Magda

The Quogue Wildlife Refuge, located at 3 Old Country Road in Quogue, is a nonprofit nature preserve founded in 1934. With 300 acres of land, Quogue Wildlife Refuge offers seven miles of walking trails and an outdoor wildlife complex for injured wildlife that need human care to survive. The housed animals include a bobcat (a favorite with many visitors), owls, falcons, a bald eagle, foxes and other animals indigenous to New York. Educational programs are available to learn more about the environment and certain species. The trails span through beautiful green woodland and open out on several ponds and bodies of water. Visitors are also given the opportunity to pass through the Dwarf Pines in the Pine Barrens.

Admission is free and the facility and grounds are open every day of the year from dawn to dusk. Admiringly ogle at the spectacular nature along the many paths or encounter the native species of animals in their outdoor enclosures. Either way, this is a retreat that shouldn’t be passed over.

Horton Point Lighthouse.
Horton Point Lighthouse. Photo credit: Nicole B. Brewer

Searching for more lighthouses? Horton’s Point Lighthouse (3575 Lighthouse Road) is a historical structure located in Southold that was completely renovated between 2005 and 2006. The 8-acre park provides plenty of open space for picnics with a view that looks out on the Long Island Sound. Across the water, guests can spot Connecticut. If eager to take the descent, climbing down 120 steps can lead visitors to the beach. Nature trails are spread around the park for those who want to tour the property.

The lighthouse has several new exhibits and rare historical items for guests’ perusal. Weather-dependent craft demonstrations take place on the front porch during Sunday afternoons. The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults and free for children 12 and under.

Orient Beach State Park is prepared to make the most of summer days. Based at 40000 Main Road in Orient, the state park has 45,000 feet of waterfront on Gardiner’s Bay. The natural woodland of the area contains red cedars, black-jack oak trees and prickly-pear cactus, which gives this park a unique atmosphere to explore. Guests can swim in the bay, fish from the shore, kayak, windsurf or take a hike or bike ride around the trails. Playgrounds, picnic tables and pavilions, available for party rentals, are all at the disposal of visitors.

The state park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Entrance fees include a Regional Driving Permit Vehicle Registration which for NY residents costs $65 and for out-of-state costs $110. Vehicle entrance is $10 for cars, $35 for nonprofit buses and $75 for commercial buses. Kayak rentals are also available.

On the drive there, be sure to take a brief break at the Candyman (22350 Main Road, Orient) and pick out a savory treat to bring along on the trip.

When looking for nice spots to watch the sunset, swim or absorb the rays of the sun while stretched out on a towel, consider stopping at Iron Pier Beach in Jamesport (Pier Ave). The shoreline allows for fishing and jet skiing and has a boat ramp. A playground offers a fun space for children. Nearby picnic areas allow beachgoers to enjoy a brunch, lunch or early dinner as well. The beautiful views can add another superb beach day to the summer experience.

The beach is open to the public with a parking permit and a permit for 4×4 access. It is also handicapped accessible with wheel-chairs for the beach during the summer season. Outdoor showers and restrooms are available.

The Antique Carousel in Greenport is in the center of the village on Front Street in Mitchell Park. Originally down the road next to the old movie theater, the carousel was relocated several years ago to its new home in the glass pavilion in the park. The structure is about 100 years old and the vintage painted horses are still looking good.

Guests can go for a spin on one of the bobbing ride horses for $2. The visitor who catches the bronze ring during their round will receive a free ride, so be sure to snag a seat on one of the outer horses.

The Carousel is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer. After the ride, enjoy a walk along the boardwalk, take a picnic at the park that overlooks the harbor or explore nearby shops and restaurants. Monday nights, carousel visitors might find another treat: Dances in the Park is held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. so after dismounting a painted steed enjoy live music and dancing as well.

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