Winter Activities on the East End

Embrace the winter wonders on Long Island’s East End with a plethora of activities catering to couples and families alike. From the enchantment of ice skating and seal watching to the cozy allure of igloo dining and exploring the vibrant wineries and craft beverage scene, there’s something for everyone. Here, we spotlight outdoor activities to elevate your winter experience and cast away the seasonal blues on both the North and South Forks of Long Island. 

Exploring the State Parks and Nature Preserves

Discover the wealth of nature preserves throughout the Hamptons and North Fork, offering year-round exploration opportunities. At the easternmost tip of the South Fork, Montauk boasts scenic parks and preserves, including Montauk Point State Park with its breathtaking ocean views and iconic Montauk Point Lighthouse. Engage in outdoor activities like fishing, photography, and stargazing while exploring Hither Hills and Shadmoor State Park during the winter months. Keep in mind that January and February can be windy, especially along the shoreline, so dressing in layers with a hat and face covering is advisable. 

On the North Fork, Hallock State Park Preserve presents a 225-acre haven with a mile of pristine beachfront, offering winter pursuits such as hiking, bird watching, and nature hikes (please note, no pets allowed). Orient Beach State Park and Sound Avenue Nature Preserve near Reeves Beach in Baiting Hollow are also excellent options for winter exploration on the East End.

Get to Know the East End’s Diverse Wildlife Population

As you venture through the numerous nature reserves, anticipate encountering the diverse wildlife that thrives on the East End. A prime location for observing this rich array of fauna is the Elizabeth Alexandra Morton National Wildlife Refuge, situated off Noyack Road in Southampton. Amidst the captivating landscape, visitors can spot turkeys, deer, foxes, as well as avian species like Piping Plovers, Terns, and Osprey. 

Quogue Wildlife Refuge, located off Old County Road in Quogue, welcomes year-round activities, providing a chance to meet various animals and familiarize oneself with the region’s wildlife. Boasting over seven miles of trails, the refuge serves as a nature preserve, with a gentle reminder that dogs and bicycles are not permitted. 

Winter unfolds a splendid opportunity to witness the majestic bald eagles across the East End. Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island encompasses more than 225 acres of gardens, fields, and wooded trails, offering a perfect backdrop to explore Shelter Island’s natural beauty. Keep those binoculars handy, as you might catch a glimpse of bald eagles soaring by. Please note that walking trails are closed to the public from November to January due to the Town-wide deer hunting program.

Hiking the East End’s Vast Trails

If you enjoy hiking with your canine companion, there are numerous dog-friendly trails across the East End. Explore trails like Northwest Woods Trails, Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays and Pine Neck Sanctuary in East Quogue, a designated nature preserve.

On the North Fork, enjoy trails such as  Cranberry Bog in Riverhead, Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue (which encompasses the Native American archaeological site Fort Corchaug), Sound View Dunes Park with its two main trails, and Inlet Pond County Park in Greenport near the North Fork Audubon Society

Shelter Island offers its fair share of 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. 

Stay active with  year-round hiking groups and clubs on the East End, including Friends of the Longpond Greenbelt and the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society

Ice Skating

Experience the joy of ice skating on the East End with a variety of rinks offering lessons, events, and more. In Southampton, along Montauk Highway, you’ll find the Southampton Ice Rink, providing public skating, lessons, youth and adult hockey, and even igloos for rent. These heated igloos, equipped with a Bluetooth speaker, board games, and seating for up to 6 people, offer a cozy space to relax and warm up between skating sessions. 

Head to East Hampton’s Buckskill Winter Club, where the tennis center transforms into an ice skating rink. Enjoy ice hockey tournaments, skating lessons, and free skating, complemented by a welcoming clubhouse with an open fire. Treat yourself to hot chocolate, soup, and more available for purchase. 

Venture to Riverhead for the Peconic Ice Rinks, a new indoor rink at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. Opened in November 2023, this facility offers public skating, hockey, lessons, classes, and various clinics, including popular events like Teen Skate Nights, Adult Open Hockey, and Freestyle Skating.

Seal Watching

The East End stands out as a premier destination for seal watching from November to April. Long Island’s shores provide refuge to five native seal species, including Harbor, Grey, and Harp seals. Encounter the commonly seen, such as Harbor and Grey seals, while the Ringed and Hooded seals prefer Arctic seas and are less frequently spotted.

Join the New York State Office of Parks’ guided hikes at  Montauk Point State Park for a two-hour, three-mile scenic beach hike led by a naturalist, offering opportunities to observe, photograph, and learn about Long Island’s seals and marine geology. Reserve your spot, as space is limited! 

Additionally, the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI) offers 1.5-hour, 1.25-mile guided seal walks at Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton Beach throughout the season, often free of charge with donations welcomed. For cruising enthusiasts, CRESLI provides two-hour excursions in Shinnecock Bay; reservations are required for both walks and cruises.

Check the East End Getaway calendar for hiking dates and cruise availability.

Remember to Visit the Wineries, Breweries and Restaurants

Explore the extensive array of year-round wineries, breweries and distilleries on Long Island’s East End, making it effortless to include a stop during your visit.  Offering activities for all ages and a variety of experiences, you can tailor your outing to your preferences. These local establishments also provide non-alcoholic beverages and tempting snacks!

Craving outdoor dining in the midst of winter? The East End has you covered. Despite the chill, you can still enjoy outdoor dining with igloo reservations at certain restaurants, adding a touch of fun to your winter culinary experience. A few to not miss are The Baker House 1650 in East Hampton, Gurney’s Resort in Montauk, Flora in Westhampton Beach and The Menhaden on the North Fork. 

For a list of wineries, breweries, distilleries and restaurants, visit eastendgetaway

*photo courtesy of Quogue Wildlife Refuge

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