Winter on the East End of Long Island is filled with many couples and family friendly activities from ice skating and seal watching to igloo dining and touring the East End wineries. Below we highlight some of the best outdoor activities to indulge in this January and February on the North and South Forks of Long Island.
When snow falls on the east end, typically beginning in mid to late January and through the first week of March, grab your skis and head to several points across the North and South Forks that are ideal for cross-country skiing ventures. Once snow falls, destinations for cross-country skiing across the east end of Long Island include Cedar Point County Park, Indian Island Golf Course (around the perimeter), Montauk County Park, and Wildwood State Park in Wading River.
Exploring the State Parks and Nature Preserves
The Hamptons and North Fork have an abundance of nature preserves to explore year round. Starting at the very eastern tip of the South Fork, Montauk has a wide range of beautiful parks and nature preserves. Montauk Point State Park is at the easternmost tip of the South Fork and offers beautiful views of the ocean and Montauk Point Lighthouse. In addition, visitors can take part in several outdoor activities including fishing, photography and stargazing. Hither Hills and Shadmoor State Park in Montauk are also beautiful for exploring in the winter.
Note that it can be quite windy in January and February especially as you get closer to the shoreline, so be sure to layer up and wear a hat and face covering.
On the North Fork, Hallock State Park Preserve is a 225-acre state park and nature preserve with nearly one mile of pristine beachfront on the North Shore of Long Island. Hallock State Park Preserve winter activities include hiking, bird watching, and nature hikes. Please note that no pets are allowed. Orient Beach State Park and Sound Avenue Nature Preserve near Reeves Beach in Baiting Hollow are other great parks to explore during the wintertime on the east end.
Get to Know the East End’s Diverse Wildlife Population
While you are exploring the many nature reserves, be ready to see the diverse wildlife population that inhabits the east end. One of the best places to see the diverse wildlife on the east end of Long Island is the Elizabeth Alexandra Morton National Wildlife Refuge off of Noyack Road in the town of Southampton. Along with the many animals you can see including turkey, deer, and fox, visitors can see bird species including Piping Plovers, Terns, and Osprey.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge off of Old County Road in Quogue offers activities throughout the year to give visitors an opportunity to meet the animals and get to know the region’s wildlife population. The refuge is also a nature preserve with over seven miles of trails. Note that dogs and bicycles are not permitted.
Winter is a great time to witness the bald eagles across the east end. Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, for example, has over 225 acres of gardens, fields and wooded trails and is the perfect destination for exploring the natural surroundings of Shelter Island. You may even witness some bald eagles flying by, so keep those binoculars handy! This historical farm features paths and trails through farm fields and to the marshy area of Gardiners Creek (all walking trails are closed to the public November – January due to participation in the Town-wide deer hunting program).
Hiking the East End’s Vast Trails
If you enjoy hiking with your dog, there are a number of nature trails across the east end that are dog friendly. Some of these trails include the Northwest Woods Trails and Northwest Settlement Ghost Town Hike in East Hampton, Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays, and Pine Neck Sanctuary in East Quogue that is also a nature preserve.
Trails on the North Fork include Cranberry Bog in Riverhead, Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue that encompasses Fort Corchaug, a Native American archaeological site; Sound View Dunes Park that has two main trails, and Inlet Pond County Park in Greenport near the North Fork Audubon Society.
Shelter Island also has some dog friendly trails and nature parks including Turkem’s Rest Trail off of Midway Road, Coecles Harbor Marine Trail off of Hudson Avenue, Bunker City County Park off of Menhaden Lane, Sachem’s Woods in the middle of Shelter Island, and Ram Island.
For hiking groups and clubs on the east end of Long Island that operate year round, look to Friends of the Longpond Greenbelt and the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society.
The east end is home to some fun ice skating rinks that offer ice skating lessons, events, ice hockey, and more. In Southampton off of Montauk Highway, there is the Southampton Ice Rink. Southampton Ice Rink offers public ice skating, lessons, youth hockey, adult hockey, and more.
In East Hampton, there is Buckskill Winter Club that transforms its tennis center into an ice skating rink. Visit for ice hockey tournaments, ice skating lessons, free skating and more. Buckskill Winter Club also has a cozy club house with an open fire. Hot Chocolate, soup, and more are available for purchase.
In Riverhead, there is an outdoor ice hockey rink at Hockey Rink at Stotzky Memorial Park.
The Baker House 1650 in East Hampton off of Montauk Highway offers igloo sessions this winter. RSVP up to 6 people for a 2 hour session. Light bites and a wine list are available, along with daily specials.
Southampton Ice Rink also has igloos available for rent. Their heated igloos include a bluetooth speaker, board games and seating for up to 6 people. Grab a burger and a beer and relax and warm up in between ice skating sessions.
Flora in Westhampton Beach offers igloo dining experiences for guests during the winter. Flora’s Winter Garden has heated igloos that seat up to 7 guests per igloo. Igloos can be reserved for lunch for 90 minutes and for brunch and dinner for two hours. Their full dining menu is available.
Windamere on the North Fork also offers heated igloos which can accommodate up to 8 guests. Guests can order food and drinks from Windamere’s menu and reserve the igloo in advance for up to three hours.
Montauk is perhaps the best destination on the east end of Long Island for seal watching along the beach. Montauk Point State Park in particular is one of the best places to see the seals. Seals are typically spotted on any of the tips of the beaches within the state park. When walking near the Montauk Lighthouse, watch for little black blobs bobbing in the water, or take a short hike to the Montauk Seal Haulout where seals may be sprawled out on the rocks. Orient Beach State Park and County Park on the North Fork is another destination for potential seal spotting.
Looking for a day adventure? Guests can hop aboard the 125-foot Viking Superstar for a ride to Plum Island, Great Gull Island, and Little Gull Island for breathtaking views of Harbor Seals, Grey Seals, and perhaps Harp and Hooded seals as well. Each voyage is narrated by a professional naturalist.
Touring the East End Wineries
The east end of Long Island has a vast selection of wineries and vineyards that are open year round and offer activities and experiences for everyone of all ages. In addition to wine, many of these local vineyards offer non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks including some delectable cheese boards.
Wineries on the North Fork open in the winter include Bedell Cedars, Macari Vineyards, Peconic Bay Vineyards, Jamesport Vineyards and Pindar Vineyards. Vineyards open on the South Fork include Duck Walk Vineyard in Southampton, Channing Daughters Winery, and Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack.