Escape to Orient Beach

Orient Beach State Park is a good place for a respite from the bustling East End. Independent/Taylor K. Vecsey

Orient Point is known for its lighthouses and perhaps most visited by those getting on and off the Cross Sound Ferry. But there is an even better reason to visit the furthest point east on the North Fork.

Orient Beach State Park offers a treasure trove of recreational activities, all that can be enjoyed in a way that makes you feel like you really are off the beaten path. Orient Beach State Park, a 360-acre park, is located on a narrow peninsula that juts out between Long Beach Bay/Peconic River and Gardiner’s Bay. Most of the peninsula is untouched, but a two-mile road leads to 45,000 feet of beach frontage looking out onto Gardiner’s Island. Bicycling brought us here on a busy Sunday in July. The bike path offers some safety from the dangerous roads on the East End, and the bilateral views cannot be beat; the expansive bay views on one side and the salt marsh water on the other. The sound of the ferry horns as they leave for New London help keep time.

The marsh land is on one side of the peninsula. Independent/Taylor K. Vecsey

There is also a rare maritime forest with red cedar, black-jack oak trees and prickly-pear cactus. Great Blue Herons, egrets, black crowned night herons and osprey call this park home, giving it the title of an Audubon Important Bird Area.

The Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, also known as Bug Light, providing safe passage for mariners at the entrance of Orient Harbor, is located just off the western tip of the peninsula.

While bicycling brought us here on a recent trip in late July, visitors come for a variety of reasons. They hike out to Long Beach Point and picnic in the pavilions. Children can have fun on the playground, while families enjoy beach days on the sand and lifeguard-protected waters. Some rent kayaks or paddleboards from Eagle’s Neck Paddling Company, which has a booth on the loop leading to the parking area. Others just get some exercise walking.

Bicyclists enjoy the quiet road that leads to the beach. Independent/Taylor K. Vecsey

Those looking to extend the bicycle ride can leave the park and visit one of small nearby neighborhoods to check out the beautiful homes and Long Island Sound waterfront or even go west into Orient. We made a 15-mile ride out of it without much effort.

Hungry after a day in the sun? The newly opened Duryea’s Orient Point is right next door to the park’s entrance in a marina. The park does charge to enter per car, $8 or $10 in the peak season. The gate takes credit cards if you are like us and never have cash. A word of advice: Arrive early because the park fills up quickly, especially now when it is relegated to 50% capacity during the pandemic.

Orient Beach State Park is located at 40000 Main Road, also known as Route 25. It is open dusk to dawn year-round and for swimming 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during the summer.

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