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Empire Passport: Visiting NY's State Parks on a Dime

Looking to have fun in the sun this summer without breaking the bank? Check out the Empire Passport!

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As summer gets into full swing, many tourists will be looking to spend some time at Long Island’s State Parks.What many don’t know is that they can do this inexpensively with the Empire Passport - for less than $75, you can visit all of the NYS Parks at no additional charge for the Season.  New York State Parks are all over the Island, and are very easy to access but can be quite costly. Spanning both the North & South Shores, as well as all the way out East, these parks are great for family outings or just enjoying a day off with your friends. With most of these parks conveniently  located on either the Long Island Sound or the Atlantic Ocean they are ideal places to cool off if you do not have a pool.

With the Empire Passport, you will pay a fraction of the cost of using a public pool all summer and get much more in return. These parks are much more than just beaches - they feature a huge array of wildlife and nature and many are host to educational programs and conservation areas. You can view rare and endangered plants as well as many different native species of animals and marine life. Some of these Parks are even home to historical landmarks such as the Walt Whitman Birthplace and the Planting Fields Arboretum.

Many locals are unaware of the cost-effectiveness of have an Empire Passport, and have never even visited many of the State Parks that are right in our own backyard. The Passport makes it affordable for any family to visit State Parks all summer long, and at $65, you only need to visit a handful of times before the pass pays for itself entirely. The Empire Passport eliminates the need to pay a daily fee for entering the NYS Parks - for a one time fee of $65 you have unlimited vehicle entry to 178 parks through March 2013. This sticker that you put on your car is a season pass - available at park locations, online, by mail, or by telephone.The Passport ensures that you, your friends and family will have an entire summer of fun and learning at an affordable price whether you are interested in hiking, bird watching, scuba diving, history, or just laying out in the sun.

Here are Parks on Long Island that are part of the NYS Parks & Accept the Empire Passport:

Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park
440 Montauk Highway
Great River, NY 11739

Bayard Cutting Arboretum provides a wonderful respite from the summer heat. Offering plenty of shade to relax in, the park is known for its great varieties of trees, flowers and other wildlife.  The park features trails and educational programs.

Belmont Lake State Park
Southern State Parkway Exit 38
North Babylon, NY 11703

Belmont Lake State Park serves as the location of the headquarters for the Long Island State Parks. It also features activities such as boating, fishing, picnicking, biking, horseback riding, hiking and cross-country skiing. Dogs are also allowed in this park.

Bethpage State Park
99 Quaker Meeting House Road
Farmingdale, NY 11735

Bethpage State Park is known for its golf courses, fields and trails. The park features restaurant and catering facilities as well. The Barclays 2012 will also be held at Bethpage State Park.

Brookhaven State Park
William Floyd Parkway
Wading River, NY 11792

Brookhaven State Park is the perfect place for the avid hiker. Featuring over a thousand acres of land in the core of the Pine Barrens this park also includes the Brookhaven Trail.

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve
William Floyd Parkway
Wading River, NY 11792

Caleb Smith Park Preserve is a great place to take the family. Featuring extraordinary wildlife in its Nature Museum as well as its Nature Programs, this park is perfect for children. Not only a summer hotspot, it has seasonal programs and attractions.

Camp Hero State Park
1898 Montauk Highway
Montauk, NY 11954

Camp Hero is known mostly for the previous military base that was once there. But now  you can enjoy some of the world’s best surf fishing, hiking, and impressive plant life. Dogs are also allowed on a leash.

Captree State Park
Ocean Parkway
Babylon, NY 11702

Captree features some of the best fishing on the Island. Located on the tip of Jones Beach Island it’s the perfect place to charter a boat for the day or take a tour on one of its many excursions.

Caumsett State Historic Park
25 Lloyd Harbor Road
Huntington, NY 11743

Caumsett State Historic Park has everything you need for a perfect summer day. Located on the Long Island Sound there are plenty of outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, horseback riding and scuba diving. The Park is also home to the historic Henry Lloyd Manor house and features environmental programming.

Cold Spring Harbor State Park
Harbor Road
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724

Cold Spring Harbor State Park is a great place to relax and take in your surroundings. Featuring extensive wildlife including songbirds, there are an abundance of scenic views of the Harbor.

Connetquot River State Park
Sunrise Highway
Oakdale, NY 11769

Connetquot River State Park is a hikers dream. The preserve features 50 miles of hiking as well as horseback riding and fishing. It is also home to a number of rare plants and birds.

Heckscher State Park
Heckscher Parkway Field 1
East Islip, NY 11730

Located on the Great South Bay, Heckscher State Park is a great place to picnic and swim. Featuring 3 pavilions and 20 miles of trails it is also attractive to bikers. There is also a boat launch ramp. Dogs are allowed.

Hempstead Lake State Park
West Hempstead, NY 11552

Hempstead Lake State Park features a great selection of activities. There are ponds, trails and lakes for fishing as well as tennis courts and playgrounds for children. This Park is also home to a historic hand carved wooden carousel that can be rented.

Hither Hills State Park
164 Old Montauk Highway
Montauk, NY 11954

Hither Hills State Park offers the opportunity to camp on the beach. With an ocean beach, fire pits and picnic areas it is a great place for the family. The park also features unique walking dunes and trails

Jones Beach State Park
1 Ocean Parkway
Wantagh, NY 11793

Jones Beach is home to some of the best surf swimming and fishing on the Island. Also housed in the park is the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center where you can find educational programs about the shore. There is also a two mile long boardwalk down the beach.

Montauk Downs State Park
50 South Fairview Avenue
Montauk, NY 11954

Montauk Downs is best known for its world class golf course. The Park also features a driving range, swimming pool, and a large catering facility.

Montauk Point State Park
2000 Montauk Highway
Montauk, NY 11954

Montauk Point State Park is home to the historic Montauk Lighthouse. It also features some of the best surf fishing in the world and you can even spot seals lounging on the rocks offshore. There are also nature trails for hiking.

Nissequogue River State Park
799 Saint Johnland Road
Kings Park, NY 11754

The Nissequogue River State Park is a great family destination. With a large variety of wildlife and trails you will never find yourself bored. A section of the park is also a designated State Bird Conservation Area. A Kayak and Canoe launch is also available.

Orient Beach State Park
Route 25
Orient, NY 11957

Located right on Gardiner’s Bay, Orient Beach State Park has a bunch to offer. With its rare maritime forests and environmental tours, this park is a great place for the family.  There are also nature trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and fishing available.

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park
Oyster Bay, NY 11771

Voted as Best Public Garden by Long Island Press, Planting Fields Arboretum is a beautiful estate with over 400 acres of picturesque landscape. The Park features nature walks and extensive collections of floral life as well as Coe Hall; a Tudor Revival Mansion. 

Robert Moses State Park
Robert Moses Parkway
Babylon, NY 11702

Robert Moses is one of the Island’s best beaches. Located on Fire Island, this ocean beach spans for five miles. There is also a fishing pier and boat basin as well as an 18-hole golf course.

Shadmoor State Park
900 Montauk Highway
Montauk, NY 11954

Just outside Montauk Village, Shadmoor State Park features beautiful bluffs, freshwater wetlands and hiking trails. Saltwater fishing and bird watching are also popular activities. The park as contains rare foliage and two World War II bunkers.

Sunken Meadow State Park(Governor Alfred E. Smith)
Rte. 25A and Sunken Meadow Parkway
Kings Park, NY 11754

Sunken Meadow State Park has a large variety of activities for the whole family. Located on the Long Island Sound, this park is home to large glacier formed bluffs, three miles of beach and a variety of flora and fauna. It is also the northern starting point to the Suffolk County Green Point Trail. Kayaking, canoeing, and windsurfing are also popular activities.

Trail View State Park
25 Lloyd Harbor Road
Huntington, NY 11743

Located on the Atlantic Flyway, Trail View State Park is a favorite spot for bird watchers on the island. The park also serves as the link between the Nassau/ Suffolk Greenbelt Trail. Encompassing 7.4 miles the park features hardwood forests and marshes as well as trails for hiking and biking.

Valley Stream State Park
Valley Stream, NY 11580

Valley Stream State Park is an excellent place to get some exercise. With recreational sports, hiking trails, and a walking course, the park is an ideal place to get some fresh air.

Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site
246 Old Walt Whitman Road
Huntington Station, NY 11756

A lovely example of American Architecture, this history site is where one of Americas greatest poets was born. Built in 1819 by Whitman’s father, it has been recently restored and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are onsite tours, films, and a gift store.

Wildwood State Park
Wading River, NY, 11792


Wildwood State Park features great campsites, cool waters, and playgrounds for children. Overlooking the Long Island Sound, the park is located on a bluff with 600 acres of hardwood forest. There are trailer and tent sites available.

For a list of all of the Parks throughout New York State that accept the Empire Passport, click here.

(Jones Beach Photo Courtesy of Hannah Moire, Empire Passport Photo Courtesy of NYS Parks Department.)