Beachcombing is an activity you can enjoy throughout the year on Fire Island. When ferry service is limited, you may still drive to either end of the island for access to the beach.
You are allowed to gather and take home up to two quarts of unoccupied seashells per day (for personal use only), although there are few days when you're likely to find such an abundance of discarded shells.
Always check to be sure that your shells—especially the univalves or snail shells—are not occupied by a new owner.
Some of the treasures you find on the beach provide clues to the abundance of life in and on the sea. From marine plants to mollusks and crustaceans, to fish and birds, and even an occasional reptile or mammal. Perhaps your beachcombing will inspire you to learn more about Fire Island's plant and animal life.
Fire Island is a birding hotspot in New York, especially during spring and fall migration. The diversity of barrier island habitats and its location along the Atlantic Flyway make Fire Island National Seashore a great place to find both resident and migratory birds. More than one-third of all North American species have been recorded here, so bring your binoculars on your next visit.
Boating at Fire Island
If floating on the Great South Bay sounds like your kind of fun, there are plenty of boating opportunities at Fire Island. Boating is a relaxing way to get out on the water and see the seashore from a different perspective.
Many people explore the bay on motor boats, sailboats, canoes, and kayaks. Those who prefer paddling may want to consider joining a free, ranger-guided canoe tour of the island’s most extensive salt marsh from Watch Hill.
Boat ramps for private vessels are also available at Captree and several other nearby state parks, and at Smith Point County Marina.
Camping Options: Trailer, Tent & Wilderness
Trailer and tent camping is available and accessible by vehicle at Smith Point County Park. Resident or non-resident County Green Key card passes are required to make reservations. Outer beach camping is not currently permitted at Smith Point. Phone: 631-852-1313
26 sand sites are available in-season for tent camping at the Watch Hill Family Campground, and are accessible by passenger ferry or private boat.
Wilderness/Backcountry camping is available in the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness on the eastern end of Fire Island and is accessible via Davis Park and Watch Hill. Access from Davis Park requires an additional one-mile hike. Reservations are required.
Though some of the best fishing is during spring and fall, fisher folk over the age of 16 can enjoy casting a line anytime on Fire Island with a free, New York State recreational marine fishing registry. (New York State recreational saltwater fishing seasons, size and possession limits apply. Commercial fishing is not allowed within the boundaries of Fire Island National Seashore.)
Surf-fishing is an activity you can enjoy throughout the year on Fire Island. When ferry service is limited or the boating season is over, you may still drive to either end of the island for access to the beach. (Parking fee or recreational driving permit may be required.)
Those who are new to the sport, or have children who are learning to fish, can join surf-casting clinics, seining programs, and the Annual Snapper Derby at National Park Service sites on Fire Island.
Where can I fish?
Striped bass, bluefish, and fluke are the most sought after species and there are plenty of places to fish. Fishing is allowed on private vessels; ocean beaches outside of designated lifeguarded areas; on the bay shoreline; and authorized docks and piers outside of NPS marinas, including Patchogue Headquarters, Patchogue Ferry Terminal, and Talisman Dock. However, fishing is not permitted on the Lighthouse Pier or on a vessel within 300 feet of the pier.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation maintains two artificial fishing reefs in the Great South Bay, and several in the Atlantic Ocean south of Fire Island. Nearby Captree State Park-on the eastern end of Jones Beach Island and north of the Fire Island Inlet-offers access to several charter fishing boats. Boat ramps for private vessels are also available at Captree and several other nearby state parks, and at Smith Point County Marina.
Waterfowl Hunting Permits
Fire Island National Seashore provides limited opportunities for waterfowl hunting. You must first obtain a hunting permit from the Seashore.
Permits are issued at the Wilderness Visitor Center and, when staff is available, at the West District Checkpoint, 631-661-2556.
Please remember to bring:
Valid New York State hunting license
Signed federal "duck stamp" (for hunters age 16 and older)
Valid state driving license
Confirmation number from the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP)
Before you head for the water, be sure to keep these safe swimming tips in mind:
Check current swimming conditions before you head to the beach, or check in with the lifeguard for more information.
Swim between the flags at lifeguarded beaches; and never swim alone.
Stay in waist-deep water.
Fire Island National Seashore offers opportunities to catch glimpses of barrier island wildlife in its natural environment.
How exciting it is to spot a shy fox on the dunes as you hike through the Fire Island Wilderness! Or to spy a seal on the beach as it suns itself on a cold winter day. Strolling along the nature trail at Watch Hill or in the Sunken Forest, you can almost always see some of the park's bird life.