As the weather outside gets more frightful, we become more prone to something not-so-delightful: Cabin fever. This year, cabin fever may be even more prevalent as we continue to isolate — after already limiting gatherings and outings for the last several months.
But there’s a safe way to beat cabin fever: A daily walk. Even as the trees sit bare and the water in our favorite beaches and harbors gets too cold to talk about, Long Island still finds a way to sparkle in the winter. Villages, farms and mansions get all dressed up for the holiday season. Beaches and harbors, while chilly, are quieter, providing a peaceful respite from screens and the reality of life as we currently know it.
Consider this guide both a roadmap and Rx for banishing winter blues.
Greenport gives walkers a quaint village and waterfront oasis. The storefronts will be all dressed up and ready to go this year — the Village is holding its Winter Wonderland holiday walk and design contest through the end of the year, and you’re allowed to do your best Heidi Klum impression as a judge. Guests will vote for their favorite storefront and be entered to win a raffle of gifts from village merchants. After casting your ballot, stroll down to Mitchell Park to see the iconic carousel (festively decorated, though currently closed due to Covid) before heading to the harbor. It won’t be alive with boat parties, but the ability to hear yourself think makes up for the lack of people watching.
Cupsogue Beach County Park, Westhampton Beach
Seals love a good Long Island beach day — just not when the tourists and locals are sticking their toes in the sand. And each year, the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI) invites Long Islanders to see some of our chubby seasonal residents. Take an easy 1.2-mile walk around this beach until May and see if you can spot a seal or two. Both adults and children are welcome — and everyone should bundle up!
Port Jefferson Village
This waterfront village is a short ride from the North Fork and provides a similar bucolic feeling. The area offers two connected but distinct backdrops. The first: The village itself. The Main Street and side streets are home to a multitude of mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, like Tiger Lily, Toast and Pasta Pasta. Although the town’s annual Charles Dickens Festival has been called off in favor of a few more low-key holiday events, you can still expect wreaths and strings of lights to line the streets and shop and restaurant windows. A stone’s throw from Main Street, the harbor reminds us every day can be a beach day on Long Island. It’s peaceful in the winter, save for the ferry to and from Bridgeport.
Suffolk County Farm and Education Center, Yaphank
For the first time, this South Shore farm will transform into a Winter Wonderland in December. A lit pathway will lead visitors to the farm, where they’ll see Almshouse Haybarn, festively-adorned with lights. Other photogenic displays to look out for during your walk will include a giant tractor decorated with a wreath and farm animals all dressed up. You can stroll through this display Nov. 28-29, Dec. 5-6 and Dec 12-13. Advanced registration is required.
Montauk State Park
A trip to “The End” seems an appropriate wrap up to a tough year. Aside from the lighthouse — a national historic landmark and favorite backdrop for Instagram photos — the park is home to a beach. Getting down to the water involves a steep downhill climb, but once you’re there, it’s an ideal spot to walk, skip stones or just sit and stare a while. If the weather cooperates, consider a picnic. You’ll get something you can rarely find at this spot on peak summer weekends: Solitude.
Babylon Village’s Main Street and Deer Park Ave. favor small businesses over large chains, giving it an air of local charm and pride. Walkers can window-shop at places like Pandemonium and Thistle & That and enjoy a warming drink at wine bar Barriqque‘s outdoor seating (weather permitting). Lake Argyle sits at the end of Main Street, and there’s a pretty path around the water. Walkers may want to wear something cozy: There’s often a cold breeze in chilly weather, but the air also just feels fresher by the water, and, when not frozen, the steady ripple of the water makes for a serene soundtrack.