Fire Island National Seashore

Fire Island National Seashore is a United States National Seashore in the state of New York in the United States of America. Most of the Fire Island N.S. is located on Fire Island with one section located in the hamlet of Mastic Beach in the Town of Brookhaven on Long Island. Fire Island is a barrier island protecting Great South Bay and a portion of Long Island to its north.



In the mid 17th century Fire Island was used as a base for whaling. Whalers would watch for spouting whales from towers, then launch their boats after them. The island also has a bit of pirate history as pirates were known to build fires on the island to attract passing boats on which to prey.

The Fire Island Lighthouse was first built in 1826 at a height of 74 feet due to the large number of shipwrecks. In 1868, a new lighthouse was built to a height of 168 feet, 100 feet from the old. The foundation of the original lighthouse can still be seen today. For many immigrants the lighthouse was their first sight of land when arriving to America. In less than a century four miles of sand accumulated between the lighthouse and the western tip of the island. The island still grows at its western end and is constantly reshaped.

The state set aside part of Fire Island as a state park in 1908, making it the first state park on Long Island. In the 1920s Fire Island began its life as a Bohemian beach community. By the 1950s real estate was booming as the island became a fashionable retreat from the city. In 1964 the rest of the lands were designated the Fire Island National Seashore. In 1980 Congress set aside 1400 acres as the Otis Pike Wilderness area.


All barrier islands are shaped to some degree by the ocean, and that certainly applies to Fire Island. The Sunken Forest area is the result of high dunes built up on both sides of the trees which protect them and allow their protected growth. Swamp species such as red maple and sour gum are then able to thrive there. On the west end of the island new land has formed at the rate of 50 meters a year. In some areas dunes are whipped into low cliffs in one season and the cliffs later dissolved to sloping beach.

Flora and fauna

From the unassuming insectivorous sundews lurking in swales to the tops of the wind-pruned trees in the Sunken Forest, Fire Island is a varied and most interesting barrier beach ecosystem. This makes taking in a ranger-led interpretive program or tour a must. The Sunken Forest area in particular is a somewhat unusual barrier island situation with several bogs, complete with sphagnum, ferns, mosses, cattails, rushes and other wetland species.

The island is also a wonderful birdwatching (and listening!) venue. Catbirds and eastern towhees keep the music playing and yellow warblers and yellow bellied sapsuckers keep it colorful. Fire Island is a popular rest stop for migratory birds with over 300 species have been recorded here -- over one-third of the birds in North America.

There is a full array of beach dwellers as well and fishing is excellent, particularly in Great South Bay.


Fire Island has a temperate climate with expected highs in the 80s and 90s in summer and lows in the 20s and 30s in winter. The park's air temperature may be slightly cooler in summer or warmer in winter than on the mainland of Long Island. Check the weather before leaving for Fire Island as poor weather may change ferry schedules.

Get in

Fire Island is accessible almost all year. Most travelers visit during the summer, from May through September, when the weather is the best for beach-related activities. At other times public transportation to the island may be limited, and some island services are unavailable. Ferries run regularly to the island in the summer months but are limited in the off-season. Be sure to review the train and ferry schedules in advance, and pay particular attention to the return schedules.

By ferry

Most people get onto Fire Island by boat. Ferries to Fire Island are passenger ferries only. Ferries operate on a full schedule during July and August, with fewer ferries in spring and fall. The ferry terminals on Long Island can be reached by car, bus, train, taxi or shuttle van.

By car

By bus

By plane

By train

By boat

Many Fire Island sites can be reached by private boat from the Great South Bay, with marinas at Watch Hill, Sailors Haven and some island communities. The bay is shallow, and boaters do occasionally moor offshore near park sites.


Get around




Sailors Haven and Watch Hill visitor centers have small places to buy food. There are no "sit down" restaurants within the park. See Fire Island for places to eat outside the park.



The National Seashore offers no lodging other than campsites. See Fire Island.



Camping in summer can be challenging due to higher temperatures, ticks and mosquitoes.

Stay safe

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.