Camp at Fire Island's Watch Hill
New York › Watch Hill Visitor Center
Added by Oliver Jevremov
This adventure is a surprisingly easy way to escape the city, while also getting a truly unique Fire Island experience. It's just you, the sand, the ocean and the birds.
If departing from NYC, catch the early LIRR train from Penn Station (or Atlantic Terminal) towards Patchogue. You may have to transfer at both Jamaica & Babylon, but it's an easy hop across the platform. Trip will take approximately an hour and a half and cost around $15, Off Peak, each way. Make sure to bring breakfast for the journey, there is very little food for the rest of the trip!
Once you arrive in Patchogue, walk the two blocks or so to the Davis Park Ferry Co. terminal. You can buy tickets as you board for around $17 round trip. They are CASH ONLY. Take the ferry towards Watch Hill. Enjoy a lovely morning boat ride across Long Island sound.
Once at Watch Hill Visitors Center, you can check in with the Parks Dept. before heading out into the wilderness. While Watch Hill is a camp site in itself, with amenities such as bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, supply store etc, the real joy of this trip is camping out in the dunes, without all the luxuries. But make sure you have all the water you need for your journey. There is no water out there. Also, you do have to pack in (and out) all of the other supplies you will need. This is wilderness camping after all.
Follow signs to reach the beach area at Watch Hill, descend the steps, take off your shoes, turn left (North-East) and begin your trek. The Fire Island Wilderness area is divided into two sections, a Western and Eastern Zone. When you reserve your overnight permit with the Parks Dept. you will have to choose which zone and which kind of site you would like. Watch Hill is closest to the Western Zone and you can find a camp site anywhere beyond one mile out and past the first set of dunes. Campsites are not assigned, but you must select a suitable site which will not disturb vegetation, dunes, or nesting shorebirds. Your site must also be no closer than 300 feet from other campers. One of the nicest parts of this experience is how few permits are awarded, and thus how few people you will encounter. This adventure is about you and your companions finding your own private beach.
Once you have selected your ideal camping spot, pop your tent, have some lunch, (Open fires are prohibited, so all cooking must be done using a camp stove), take a nap or go for a dip! The beach, and ocean, is yours. And finally, the sunrise is spectacular so make sure to get up early and enjoy it!
The return journey is just the reverse trip. Easy peasy.
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Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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Beach camping by ferry.
The ferry leaves from a Pier adjacent to the Patchogue LIRR station. Campsites on beach (invest in sand stakes). Sites are very buggy; insect repellent is a must (the higher the Deet % the better). You will roast. Don't expect to sleep in a tent once the sun starts baking it. A tarp can provide some shade at some sites, a stand alone sun shade is better. Water spouts among the sites (bring water bottles), and bathrooms with showers. There is a camp store, but when I was there it was nearly empty- it was worthless. There is very good store that carries just about everything about a mile East in Davis Park, which you can walk to by boardwalk. The Marina you arrive at (a short walk from Campground), has a Snack Bar, an Outdoor bar, and a Restaurant. What you need to bring: Each site has a grill, bring a bag of charcoal. Also, a tent with sand stakes, sleeping pad and bag, and camp pillow. Cutlery, dinnerware, cups or mugs, camp soap, and a cooler with food, drinks, etc. (you can carry a small collapsible cart or wagon on the ferry along with your backpack; I lashed gear to a hand truck which is also a recommended way to transport gear). Fires are prohibited. Bathing towels for the beach, along with hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Carry in what you can, everything transported to Fire island goes by boat. You'll pay more for everything you buy on the Island. The Bar and Restaurant are reasonably priced.
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