Everything You Should Know About Fire Island National Seashore (+Photos)

Being a New Yorker, the beach is a major part of how we let off steam– be it lounging on the sand on a summer day or combing the shore for shells on the off season. There are tons of beaches to choose from like the Hamptons, Robert Moses and any of the calm North Shore town beaches. But Fire Island has been my steadfast destination in my 20s, 30s, and yup, even in my 40s. It’s got everything you’d want and need in the perfect beach getaway like idyllic beaches, quaint seaside villages, and a killer nightlightlife.

After countless visits to Fire Island, I’ve compiled a bunch of things you should know. This way, you can travel like a local and enjoy every part of this fabulous place.

How To Get To Fire Island

Fire Island Ferry

Hop on a ferry! Fire Island is a barrier island to the south of Long Island. So, to get there you’ll have to cross the Great South Bay, which normally takes about 30 mins. Truthfully, it’s quite liberating to leave your car behind.

Ferries leave from the towns of Bay Shore, Sayville and Patchogue. Each has different destinations along Fire Island, so depending on where you want to land, that will determine what ferry to take.

Most of the time I’m heading to Ocean Beach so I take the ferry from Bay Shore. A few years back I went to visit my sister who had a house-share in Cherry Grove, so I had to get out to Sayville to get the right boat.

Pro Tip: If you’re planning to take the last ferry home at night, be ready for a messy mix of people to be on the boat with you. When I was younger I was fine with people who are still partying to those passed out on the floor. Nowadays, I avoid it at all costs.

Beauty of Fire Island Beaches

Ocean Beach

The main draw to Fire Island are the miles and miles of incredible beaches. With the softest sand, majestic grass topped dunes and wide vistas, you’ll have a picture perfect view just about any direction you look.

Beyond the aesthetics, many of the beaches on Fire Island are outfitted with public restrooms, showers, picnic areas, public marinas, concessions, and lifeguards. Some of the top beaches are Atlantique, Cherry Grove, and Sailors Haven.

Something I had to get used to is that beaches like Ocean Beach have extra rules and restrictions. You’re not allowed to play ball or eat and drink on the beach. Yes, it’s annoying but honestly, after the initial shock I really don’t mind it. I just plan to head to a restaurant for an early dinner before heading home for the day.

Where to Eat and Drink

Robert Moses beach field

When I think about my go-to places in Fire Island for food and drink, it has to be Flynns in Ocean Bay Park and CJ’s in Ocean Beach. Both places have great seafood and cocktails. The key for me is that they’re both super close to the ferry. So this way I can time it perfectly: eat, drink, and float my way home.

The difference between them is that CJ’s is more like a pub and Flynn’s is more of a sit-down restaurant situation. Now, it’s not like a fancy schmancy put on your best attire kind of place, but you are not going to want to be in your bathing suit. Flynns fantastically transitions into a nightclub. So if you’re staying the night, party it up at Flynns!

CJ’s has great pub food and Rocket Fuel to wash it all down. Haven’t heard of it? You will. They go down so easy, but just make sure you’re not driving afterwards.

Check Out the Sunken Forest

Sunken Forest

Don’t miss exploring the Sunken Forest in Sailors Haven on Fire Island.

Not to worry, you won’t be wading through water. Instead, this Sunken Forest is protected from the Atlantic Ocean by two series of dunes. In the forest you’ll be shaded by a tree canopy formed by 300+ year old holly trees – a perfect place to spot wildlife like local deer and birds.

This 1.5 mile walk through the Sunken Forest is accessible to just about everyone. Looping through the area, you’ll be on a wooden boardwalk nearly the entire time.

Pro Tip: Before heading into the Sunken Forest, stop into the visitor’s center to brush up on information and find fun activities for kids.

Fire Island Lighthouse

Fire Island Lighthouse

Forever I’ve seen the Fire Island Lighthouse and thought “It would be cool to go there.” Finally, a few years ago I made it.

To get to the lighthouse you can take the Bay Shore to Kismet ferry. But my friend and I decided to make the walk from Robert Moses State Park. Parking at Field #5 seems like a good idea, but walking in the summer sun is tough. When we finally got there we were exhausted but determined to climb to the top.

From the top of the 182 steps the view is absolutely breathtaking. They say that on a clear day you can see the Manhattan skyline. It was too hazy when I was there, but the view was still awesome.

Where to Stay on Fire Island

Fire Island Hotel

I’m more a fan of heading to Fire Island for a killer day trip. But everyone knows it’s the perfect place to spend a few vacation days. When it comes to places to stay, Fire Island has a number of different options to choose from.

In neighborhoods like Cherry Grove and Ocean Beach you’ll find a number of hotels, apartments, and room shares. Here, you’ll be able to spend your days on the beach and your evenings living it up in the restaurants and bars nearby.

The National Parks Service offers camping and cabins for rent on Fire Island. I’m not the biggest fan of camping but I hear that pitching a tent on the beach is super cool. If it’s your thing, get a permit at Recreation.gov.

Pro Tip: Don’t miss the last ferry of the night! I still have flashbacks to when it happened to me. I ended up paying top dollar for a room that was totally gross. Never again!

Getting Around on Fire Island


There’s something to be said about going to a place where cars don’t exist. This is one of the major reasons Fire Island feels like a true escape from the hustle and bustle of our crazy lives.

So, how do you get from point A to point B on the island? You have 2 options: Walk or Water Taxi. Water Taxis will get you between communities but they’ll cost you. I mean you’re already paying for the ferry, parking, etc. I just save a few bucks and get my steps in. The key is to go at your own pace and enjoy the scenery.

Pro Tip: Since you’ll likely be walking during your time on Fire Island, make sure to leave enough time to get to the ferry. Nothing ruins a perfect day at the beach than running to catch the boat.

Don’t Get Bit!

Beach Houses

With preservation a top priority, Fire Island National Seashore is the protected home to animals like deer and 300+ types of birds. But it’s also the home to tons of pesky bugs!

Sitting on the beach in the ocean breeze is usually safe, but if you’re headed anywhere else on the island you’ll need to be mindful of ticks and mosquitos. So be sure to pack the bug spray and do thorough tick checks. Something I try to do to prevent ticks is to avoid walking among the grass, even the dune grass that sticks through the boardwalk.

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