Long Island is full of stunning natural beauty that continues to attract nature enthusiasts from across the globe. From Pine Barrens to tidal pools and forest trails, its landscapes are some of the most beautiful in the world, and when paired up with the region’s diverse terrain, they offer an oasis for reptiles and amphibians, birds, marine animals, and plants that struggle to survive elsewhere.

The region is also home to white sandy beaches, breathtaking cliffs, sublime sunsets, fields of bloom, great dunes, hiking trails, and plenty of green spaces and picturesque vistas. Listed below and broken down by region are the best places to take it all in. The best part? Many of these areas are close to a Long Island Rail Road station.

Gold Coast

Aerial View of Hempstead House at Sands Point Preserve
The Hempstead House and its grounds at Sands Point Preserve. (Sands Point Preserve)

On the Gold Coast, a short train ride from NYC, you’ll find miles of trails and a beautiful garden at Sands Point Preserve. Walk the grounds, which includes a mile-long beach and cliffs, and tour the castles while enjoying the view of the Long Island Sound.

Nearby in East Norwich is the Muttontown Preserve, a 550-acre nature preserve that includes miles of well-marked hiking trails (main loop trail measure 2.5 miles), woodlands, fields, glacial kame, and kettle ponds. Also on the property sits the historic Chelsea Mansion, and while the mansion is not open for tours, it does make for a terrific backdrop.

Farther up north from East Norwich, not far from historic Oyster Bay, Bailey Arboretum is a stunning estate that focuses on the connections of people and the natural world through their living collections and interactive educational programs on the wildlife and plant life on the North Shore. Learn about the famous Dawn Redwood trees that are scattered throughout the property that were thought to be extinct at one point and ease your way through the beautiful nature trails for more woodland knowledge.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Port Washington Branch to Port Washington or the Oyster Bay Branch to Oyster Bay.


Port Washington

Oyster Bay

Take LIRR to Port Washington station or Oyster Bay station

Plan Trip

North Shore

Avalon Nature Preserve Stony Brook DLI
The Avalon Nature Preserve in Stony Brook. (Discover Long Island)

Also on the North Shore, you’ll discover sites like the Avalon Nature Preserve. This year-round nature park in Stony Brook village features four distinct and beautiful hiking trails perfect for a casual stroll or day of birdwatching. Explore age-old ponds, the rolling hills crafted by glacial boulders, wildflower meadows, woodland forest canopies, and an abundance of history.

You can also check out Caleb Smith State Park Preserve. Located in Smithtown, the preserve offers 543 acres of woodlands with marked trails that are great to explore and take in the amazing views of high tree lines, marine ecosystems, and indigenous wildlife. While here, make sure to stop by the Nature Museum on the premises that showcases natural history exhibits relating to Long Island.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Port Jefferson Branch to Stony Brook or Smithtown.


Port Jefferson

Take LIRR to Stony Brook or Smithtown station

Plan Trip

South Shore

Manor House at Bayard Cutting Arboretum
Daffodils in full bloom in front of the Manor House at Bayard Cutting Arboretum. (Discover Long Island)

On the South Shore, home to iconic locations like Jones Beach and Robert Moses, is one of the best-kept secrets in southern Nassau: The Norman J. Levy Overlook Park and Preserve in Merrick. It’s home to a land conservation project, gravel walking paths surrounded by trees and shrubbery, turkeys, peacocks, and goats.

In Seaford is the Tackapausha Preserve, a historic and beautiful 84-acre sanctuary of oak forests, ponds, streams, small mammals, and scores of bird species, all of which can be viewed via five miles of clearly marked trails. Birdwatchers often hike the trails, with lawn chairs in tow, seeking out species commonly found at the preserve, such as the ruby-throated hummingbird. In all, more than 170 bird species have been identified within the preserve, along with raccoon, muskrat, gray squirrel, and opossum.

Explore the “museum of trees” at Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Oakdale. The arboretum has 690 acres of lawns and open meadows, a wildflower garden, a marshy refuge, and many nature trails for bird watching.

The 17-acre Tanglewood Preserve in Rockville Centre features nature trails that swoop around ponds and other fantastic natural landscapes, ideal for families of all ages. Exotic species, native reptiles, birds, mammals, and amphibians are presented in realistic indoor and outdoor environments.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Montauk Branch to Oakdale or the Babylon Branch to Merrick or Rockville Centre.




Take LIRR to Oakdale station, Merrick station or Rockville Centre station

Plan Trip

Fire Island

Fire Island Sunken Forest DLI
One of the boardwalks at Fire Island's Sunken Forest. (Discover Long Island)

Off the coast of the South Shore of Long Island is Fire Island, where Sailors Haven is home to one of the coolest areas of Fire Island National Seashore — the Sunken Forest. This one-and-a-half-mile long trail takes visitors on a boardwalk journey through a rare natural wonder: a forest setting that’s flourishing in a maritime climate. The area truly lives up to its name, with shrubbery, trees, and other native flower species spawning from seaside cliffs and, when the tide is high, seemingly below sea-level. You can easily make a weekend stay out of it, as this charming community is also home to a visitor center, shopping, picnic tables and grills, public marina, restrooms with showers, and lifeguarded beaches in the summer.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Montauk Branch to Sayville station, where you will access the ferry terminal.



Take LIRR to Sayville station, where you can get the ferry to Sunken Forest

Plan Trip

Central Island

Long Island Game Farm
Sheep friends at Long Island Game Farm. (Discover Long Island)

Centrally located on Long Island is the Holtsville Ecology Site & Park – a great option for an amazing animal experience. At this park, you can see bobcats, buffalo, an eagle, black bears and more, and take in the other amenities such as their greenhouse, picnic area and ecology exhibits and tours.

As a wildlife park and children’s zoo on Long Island, the Long Island Game Farm offers families a natural environment where they can learn about wildlife and animals through observation, education, and entertainment. Get up close and personal by petting and feeding their animals including baby goats, sheep, deer, and more.

Another family-friendly place for the little ones to interact with animals is White Post Farms in Melville. Visit the animal farm for a great day of family fun or meet Long Island’s only two resident giraffes: Patches & Ollie. Feed colorful birds in two bird aviaries and give a treat to the playful marmosets, squirrel monkeys and lemurs in the monkey barn.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Ronkonkoma Branch to Ronkonkoma or Farmingdale.



Take LIRR to Farmingdale station or Ronkonkoma station

Plan Trip

East End

Check out the Quogue Wildlife Refuge on the East End, a 305-acre facility featuring over seven miles of walkable trails that wind around diverse habitats throughout the Preserve. The Charles Banks Belt Nature Center offers spectacular views of Old Ice Pond as well as a variety of wildlife exhibits, live animals, a nature library, and gift shop.

Try out the 8.2-mile point-to-point Southampton Bay to Bay Trail in Hampton Bays, the perfect hike for long-distance travelers interested in local bird and mammal species. The red hiking markers will lead you south from the trail head through woodland to its end in Pine Neck Sanctuary which faces the Shinnecock Bay.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Montauk Branch to Hampton Bays.



Take LIRR to Hampton Bays station

Plan Trip