- For other places with the same name, see Long Island (disambiguation).
Long Island stretches eastward from New York City in the Metro New York region. The island is approximately 115 mi (185 km) long from Brooklyn and Queens at the western end, to Montauk at the easternmost point. At its widest, the island is about 20 mi (32 km) from north to south. While Long Island geographically includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and the more suburban counties of Nassau and Suffolk, colloquially the term is often applied only to Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York State.
While Long Island is home to seven million year-round locals, many commuting in and out of New York City, the Island is home to a lot of discreet tourism (concentrated in certain towns—Huntington, Fire Island, Montauk) and also serves as the zip code for the vacation homes of many wealthy city dwellers, particularly in the Hamptons.
The part of the island bordering New York City's borough of Queens, which is home to a lot of suburbs, as well as sights like Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, where President Theodore Roosevelt lived; and beaches like Long Beach and Jones Beach
The east end of the island that includes suburbs like Huntington and Islip, the resort town of Port Jefferson, the Hamptons and Montauk, and also the North Fork, home to many vineyards.
Long Island is essentially a suburban area throughout (except for the Twin Forks region, which is rural) and has few major towns.
- 1 Bay Shore
- 2 Brookhaven
- 3 East Hampton
- 4 Huntington
- 5 Islip
- 6 Long Beach
- 7 Mineola
- 8 Ronkonkoma
- 9 Smithtown
From a tourist's point of view, the best times to visit Long Island are the summer for swimming and the fall when the scenery can be most appreciated.
Nassau County and Western Suffolk County are relatively highly developed and densely populated, and are home more to the suburban neighborhoods which Long Island became famous for after World War II, where most year-round residents live (e.g. Levittown and Oceanside). Central and Eastern Suffolk County, however, retain a somewhat rural feel, relative to the rest of the New York area, and are home to agriculture, wineries and beach towns. Many summer homes and hotels are located here, and this is where most wealthy New Yorkers congregate in the summer months when the concrete jungle is too hot to bear. Tourist attractions can be found equally in both counties and throughout the entire island.
Long Island's only downside to tourism is harsh north-eastern winters that make traveling somewhat difficult, and the fact that it is an expensive place to both live as a permanent resident and also as a tourist. There are towns that are more friendly to the wallet than the notoriously expensive Hamptons, or "Gold Coast" North Shore towns; however, Long Island is home to some of the most expensive zip codes in the entire world. Do not expect a bargain vacation when traveling to Long Island.
The Long Island Conventions & Visitors Bureau provides information about Long Island and the places to visit.
- MacArthur Airport (ISP IATA), centrally located in Islip, is the most convenient airport for much of Long Island; however, it only has a few scheduled flights per day. A primary carrier flying in and out of this airport is the low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines, which flies from ISP to Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. Frontier Airlines also has a heavy presence at ISP, with flights to Fort Lauderdale, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Raleigh–Durham, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. Breeze Airways also serves the airport.
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK IATA) is located in Queens. It can be a convenient choice because AirTrain JFK connects JFK's terminals to the LIRR at Jamaica for $8.
- LaGuardia Airport (LGA IATA) is also located in Queens, but it does not connect to the LIRR. However, the Q79 bus route, known as the LaGuardia Link, connects the Woodside LIRR station with the airport and is free.
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR IATA) is located in Newark, New Jersey – a long drive from Long Island. Most United Airlines flights serving the area depart and arrive at United's hub at Newark.
The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) runs from Penn Station and Grand Central in Manhattan, from Long Island City and Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens, and from Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, to various points on Long Island on many branches. Service is not as frequent as the NYC subways but it also runs 24/7. The new line to Grand Central Terminal opened on January 25, 2023. That project, infamous for cost overruns and delays, is called "East Side Access".
The following lines have the most service from Grand Central and Penn Station:
- Babylon Branch, which goes to a lot of the South Shore suburbs, ending in Babylon
- Far Rockaway Branch, which goes to some of the southern suburbs before ending at Far Rockaway in Queens
- Hempstead Branch, which goes to Garden City and ends at Hempstead
- Huntington Branch, which goes to the North Shore, as well as to places like Westbury, and Mineola, before ending in Huntington
- Long Beach Branch, which goes to some of the southern suburbs and ending at Long Beach
- Port Washington Branch, which goes to "East Egg"
- Ronkonkoma Branch, which goes to some of the suburbs in Suffolk County, ending at Ronkonkoma
The following line starts from Atlantic Terminal more often:
- West Hempstead Branch, which ends at West Hempstead
The following services usually require a transfer, due to the diesel-operated trains which cannot go into Grand Central or Penn Station:
- Montauk Branch, an extension to the Babylon Branch which goes to the Hamptons and ends at Montauk, although some trains operate via the Huntington Branch instead – change at Jamaica
- Oyster Bay Branch, which goes to the North Shore, in Glen Cove and Oyster Bay – change at Jamaica or Mineola
- Port Jefferson Branch, an extension to the Huntington Branch which goes some the North Shore suburbs before ending in Port Jefferson in Suffolk County – change at Jamaica, Hicksville, or Huntington
- Greenport Branch, an extension to the Ronkonkoma Branch which operates "scoots" which go to the North Fork, ending at Greenport – change at Ronkonkoma
There are several ferry services that can be found on Long Island. Always check their schedules carefully as they may not be available during late night.
Ferry services from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Block Island
- The Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company service from Bridgeport for passengers, motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, and trailers. Children aged 12 and under ride for free, but responsible adults must accompany them. ☏ (1-888-44FERRY).
- Cross Sound Ferry service from New London for passengers, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, campers, and trailers. ☏ and ☏ .
- Viking Fleet Ferry from Block Island for passengers only and bicycles and surfboards are accommodated, no cars. ☏ .
Ferry services to Shelter Island are unavailable during late night, so always check their schedules.
- North Ferry Company is available year-round and allows passengers, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles. ☏ .
- South Ferry, Inc. is also available year-round and allows passengers, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles. ☏ .
Ferry services to Fire Island
- Davis Park Ferry does not allow vehicles and is available from March to September. ☏ .
- Fire Island Ferries does not allow vehicles and has limited services year-round weather permitting. Bicycles are allowed on freight boats with shipping fees paid, not passenger boats. ☏ .
- Sayville Ferry Service does not allow vehicles and is available April to November (May to October to and from Sunken Forest). ☏ .
- There are many controlled-access highways that run through New York City from Connecticut and New Jersey. It is advisable, however, to travel on routes that do not cross Manhattan Island (where traffic is perpetually horrendous). From New Jersey, I-278 runs across Staten Island to Brooklyn where major roads (including State Route 27 and the Long Island Expressway) can be reached. From Connecticut, take I-95 South to I-295 and the Throgs Neck Bridge. Once into Queens, nearly every major thoroughfare is encountered while still heading south on I-295.
- A convenient way to bypass most traffic is to take a car ferry from either Bridgeport, CT to Port Jefferson (on the North Shore in the center of Suffolk County) or New London, CT to Orient Point (on the North Fork), but they do not operate overnight, so always check the ferry schedules.
- The Southern State Parkway (SSP) runs from East Islip to Queens where it becomes the Belt Parkway. The SSP is a very busy thoroughfare during rush hours and connects most of Nassau to each other. The Northern State Parkway connects Queens with the Grand Central Parkway. The Long Island Expressway (I-495), or The LIE is billed as the world's longest parking lot, especially during peak rush hours. The LIE connects Manhattan to Riverhead. Sunrise Highway, or NY-27, as a divided highway goes from Queens along the south shore of Nassau County, becoming an expressway in Babylon, back to a divided highway in Suffolk County and ending at the east end of the island in Montauk.
When traveling along the North Shore, you may take the scenic and relaxing route of 25-A, a single lane road that runs through historic, wealthy towns on the northern shore.
Long Island is 118 mi (190 km) long. It can take hours to travel from one destination to another – especially during morning and afternoon rush hours, when the main roads suffer from high congestion and the trains are crowded.
There are two main bus operators on Long Island: Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE, the former Long Island Bus) in Nassau and Suffolk County Transit in Suffolk. Each maintain extensive bus networks throughout their counties. For schedules, fares and route maps for NICE, visit their website. For the same for Suffolk Transit, visit their website[dead link].
The Long Island Rail Road crosses the entire island, with stops in virtually every community of note. As it is designed to take residents into and out of Manhattan, connections between branches are virtually nonexistent. However, with the exception of the Port Washington Branch, every branch does come into Jamaica station in Queens, so if you do need to change branches, Jamaica is where you will likely do it (in fact, many locals will tell you that one of the most infamous terms on Long Island is "Change at Jamaica").
The Port Jefferson Branch goes all the way out to Port Jefferson on the North Shore in Suffolk County. The Ronkonkoma Branch goes to Ronkonkoma, while "scoot" service continues east to Greenport on the North Fork. The Babylon Branch goes to the Village of Babylon, while the Montauk Branch goes to its namesake hamlet on the tip of the South Fork. The Hempstead and West Hempstead Branches go into the heart of Nassau County. The Far Rockaway and Long Beach Branches carry beach goers from the city to the popular beaches on the South Shore. The Port Washington Branch extends to Port Washington, serving communities in the northwestern portions of Nassau County.
For schedules and fares, visit the LIRR website[dead link].
In addition to highways connecting New York City and other points west with Long Island, there are more roads to get around:
The Long Island Expressway (Interstate 495; locally known as the L.I.E.) has high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes in both directions in Nassau and western Suffolk Counties (between exits 32 and 64). On M-F, from 6AM to 10AM and from 3PM to 8PM, the HOV lanes on I-495 can save time for motorcycles (even without passengers) and cars with at least two occupants.
Use an HOV lane if you can. Traffic jams can last for hours and disrupt travel plans. Just make sure that you know what exit you will get off at. There are only certain points at which you can get out of the HOV lane.
The Meadowbrook State Parkway runs from Jones Beach to Westbury, connecting the South Shore towns to Mineola and the Northern State Parkway.
The primary tourist attractions are the large number of excellent beaches along Long Island Sound on the North Shore (the setting of the famous novel and movie "The Great Gatsby", and the more famous South Shore, which is home to the Atlantic Ocean's waves and white-sand beaches.
The North Fork is also home to many wineries, farms and culinary outlets.
Other attractions include North Shore harbor towns such as Port Jefferson, Huntington Village, Stony Brook, and Northport, where a variety of eateries and small businesses thrive in a bohemian atmosphere.
- Take a day trip on the Hampton Jitney.
- Long Island Wine Country on the North Fork.
- The Hamptons on the South Fork.
- Long Island has some great villages, like Great Neck, Roslyn, and Huntington where you can just wander around and see cute little stores and take in nice views.
- Port Washington has a beautiful bay with a public park where you can see all the boats and the water.
- Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society operates a museum in a historic Flower Hill home, in which it has its headquarters. The organization also operates another museum in another historic house in Port Washington.
- Garvies Point Museum and Preserve near Mineola has Native American artifacts, local geology displays, and wooded hikes with sea views.
- Sands Point Preserve. with two castles.
- Old Bethpage Village Restoration: It has a farm, houses and businesses from the early-to-mid 1800s.
- The Village of Roslyn: A historic town on Hempstead Harbor on the North Shore. Homes date from the 17th century.
- Sagtikos Manor in West Bay Shore was built in 1697. It served briefly as headquarters for the British army during the Revolutionary War. Take a tour of period rooms through the Manor House led by costumed docents and stroll through the grounds and nearby Gardiner County Park.
- Vanderbilt Museum
- Stony Brook Village: Visit historic Stony Brook Village, and get afternoon tea.
- Take historic walking tours of local communities. Many communities, such as Flower Hill and Great Neck Plaza have municipal historic walking tour routes with guidebooks, which can be a great activity for children and adults alike, and can be enriching while allowing tourists to remain fit. Likewise, many historical societies offer their own historic walking tours, including the Roslyn Landmark Society.
- Swim at any of the great South Shore/Ocean beaches. Jones, Hamptons, Montauk, Robert Moses, Smith's Point.
- Splish Splash water park in Calverton near Riverhead
- Sky Zone Deer Park. — in Deer Park Long Island.
- Bar hop through Huntington, Port Jefferson, Smithtown, Babylon, Bay Shore, Farmingdale, Garden City, Mineola, Rockville Centre, Long Beach, Patchogue, Riverhead, Montauk, the Hamptons, Great Neck, and other locales.
- Strike Go-Karts/Bowling/Arcade in New Hyde Park.
- ICE Nightclub in Farmingdale.
- Jones Beach and Captree State Park.
- Visit the Saint James General Store off route 25A in Saint James.
- Visit "Polish Town" in Riverhead.
- Explore Italian-American culture — go to Uncle Giuseppe's Market - trademark stores in Smithtown on Route 111, in Port Washington on Route 101, and in East Meadow on Route 24.
- Drive around Old Westbury and the Brookvilles and look at how gigantic the houses are.
- West Meadow Beach in Setauket
Long Island is also the home to Stony Brook University (with campuses in Stony Brook and Southampton), one of the top-100 Universities (U.S. News & World Report), which is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, providing a very academic and international community within central Long Island. Brookhaven National Laboratory, affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is also located on Long Island. Both labs are affiliated with Stony Brook University.
Other notable institutions of higher learning on Long Island include, Hofstra University (Hempstead and Uniondale), Adelphi University (Garden City), Long Island University (Brookville, Brentwood, and Riverhead), New York Institute of Technology (Old Westbury and Central Islip), SUNY College at Old Westbury (Old Westbury), Farmingdale State College (East Farmingdale), Polytechnic Institute of New York University (Melville), Five Towns College (Dix Hills), Nassau Community College (Uniondale), Suffolk County Community College (Selden, Brentwood, Riverhead, and Sayville), Briarcliffe College (Bethpage and Patchogue), Molloy University (Rockville Centre), Saint John's University (Oakdale), and Saint Joseph's College (Patchogue).
Long Island has many shopping malls, including:
- Tanger Outlet Deer Park in Deer Park.
- Tanger Outlet Riverhead in Riverhead.
- Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City.
- Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove.
- The Americana Manhasset, popularly considered the centerpiece of the Miracle Mile, is located in Manhasset. Some of the richest people on Long Island shop in this stretch of conspicuous consumption, beautiful store layouts, and mind-boggling prices.
Long Island is a lot like New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, in the sense that there are a lot of-24 hour diners that serve pretty much anything whenever. Young people congregate in these diners at odd hours, and they can be found spread out on the major roads like Jericho Turnpike or Sunrise Highway. There are also many seafood restaurants (especially with local clams and mussels-local Long Island specialty foods). Because there are so many local restaurants (many Zagat-rated), with influence from European families and the nearby international cuisine of New York City, a Long Islander wouldn't recommend to eat at a chain restaurant that could be found anywhere.
The bagel shop is a Long Island institution, and while nearby New York City is better known internationally for its bagels, they're just as good here. It's very likely that a great bagel shop is just a few minutes by car from wherever you are, and while you'll always find the standard sesame-seed bagels, plain cream cheese and smoked salmon, many offer a dizzying array of bagels and fillings, in addition to bagel-shop staples such as black-and-white cookies. You can't do any better for a quick breakfast or lunch.
Be sure to visit a local farm stand, especially those out east and on the North Fork (i.e.: Briermere Farms). Local produce and farming is a major industry on Long Island – especially on its eastern end.
The well-known cocktail, the Long Island Iced Tea, was created on Long Island. One of the most celebrated local beers is named Blue Point, named for the town of the same name.
Drinking on Long Island is tough because you need a car to get around. Bearing this in mind, use the Long Island Rail Road to your advantage. Take it from town to town, or take it into the City for a night out. At night, there is little public transportation besides the LIRR, but there are taxis. The South Shore in Nassau County has some good bars (with a somewhat rowdy crowd, however). Long Beach in particular has a bustling bar scene, particularly in the summer, when day trippers flood the city for its gorgeous beaches and college students pack themselves into rented bungalows. The city's West End has the greatest concentration of bars and is entirely walkable, though it's a bit of a hike from the train station without a taxi or bus ride.
On the North Shore you will find a buzzing college-bar scene year-round, mostly for those college students and other 20-somethings looking for a night out that doesn't involve a dorm party, frat or sorority or an expensive trip to NYC. The most popular towns for this kind of bar-scene are Huntington Village, Port Jefferson, (both along Route 25A) and Smithtown along Jericho Turnpike/Route 25, which has a bar scene by night despite their charming shopping and family-oriented atmospheres by day.
Be smart: don't travel to communities with a lot of crime at night. These communities include Roosevelt, Hempstead, North Amityville, North Baldwin, Wyandanch, Rosedale, North Bay Shore, Central Islip, New Cassel, Brentwood, Green Acres, Uniondale, and northern Freeport. In the daytime, these areas are generally safe.
Other than those towns, which most locals could tell you is where most of the dangerous crime occurs, crime on the rest of Long Island is related to drug-arrests and burglaries of high-end neighborhoods and of cars that remain unlocked or have their key fobs left inside of them at night. Most robberies are related to hired help, and are low-profile crimes. However, there is an epidemic of heroin use among Long Island teens, particularly of wealthier neighborhoods along the North Shore. Generally, this should not be a problem for a tourist.
One of the biggest safety hazards Long Islanders face when preparing for natural disasters such as hurricanes is the lack of ways to get off Long Island. There really is only one immediate way out via car, through the highly congested bridges of New York City. You may also exit via ferry to New England, take the Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan and transfer to New Jersey Transit or Amtrak, or fly out of one of the three major airports. Fortunately, dangerous hurricanes are very rare for Long Island; however, even moderate storms often down power lines, causing outages that can last for a week or more and hindering driving. Also watch out for flooding in coastal and low-lying areas.
If you plan to hike in areas with undergrowth, watch out for deer ticks that can cause Lyme disease. You will also want to use insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes if you plan on being on Fire Island near twilight - they are unlikely to spread disease but will bite you in many places.
In the even you require medical treatment, a good hospital is never far away on Long Island. In fact, some of the best hospitals in the entire country are located here. These include (but are not limited to) St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill, North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, Good Samaritan University Hospital in West Islip, and St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.
- The daily, Island-wide newspaper is Newsday, which also provides a detailed history of the island[dead link].
- News12 also covers local news, and is the main cable channel for local news.
While the typical Long Islander is friendly and enjoys a good conversation, there are certain topics which are very sensitive to many locals. You should be careful discussing these topics or avoid them altogether.
Long Island was devastated by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – especially in terms of lives lost. The memories are still very upsetting for many and it is an understandably-sensitive topic. It is best to ask first and not make any comments that could be disrespectful. If someone would rather not talk about it, it is proper to respect that and avoid the topic. You will also find dozens (if not hundreds) of 9/11 memorials across Long Island.
Many Long Islanders – especially those living on the South Shore and barrier islands – were impacted severely by Hurricane Sandy, and the memories for some are still very raw and heart-wrenching. It is wise to ask first before asking a local about it, and if someone would rather not talk about it, it is polite to avoid the topic.
Farther afield are Northern New Jersey, Westchester County and other areas west, north or south of New York City that require either several changes of public transportation line to get to or a risk of tie-ups getting through large parts of the New York Metro Area and the city itself by car.
Try to avoid rush hours (~7-9 AM toward New York City; ~4-7 PM toward the suburbs) if possible, as peak train tickets (see here) cost more on the Long Island Rail Road and may require you to stand in a crowd for an hour, while if you are driving, it's not for nothing that the Long Island Expressway has been called "The World's Longest Parking Lot".