Posts Tagged ‘long island’

Planting Fields Arboretum

September 13, 2013

I seem to find more and more places to explore in Long Island these days. I had never heard of this place until I caught sight of a sign while passing through Oyster Bay one weekend. Planting Fields is considered a State Historic Park, but definitely not a place that I would normally think of as a park. It is more of a horticultural center that happens to be on a vast tract of grassy fields, complete with a mansion to drool over. The property was founded by English tycoon William Robertson Coe, a maritime insurer whose company happened to do the insurance for the Titanic, among other ships. His wife was an heiress of the oil industry.  Certainly, this kind of money allowed for a very impressive abode on the historic Gold Coast of Long Island.

The grounds are 409 acres, but much of what you want to see is a walkable distance from the estate. There are two greenhouses. The main one has various wings that lead you through a sensory overload of colorful vegetation.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

The other greenhouse, called Camelia House, houses camellias, of course. Sadly, they are not in bloom this time of year so all you see are just the green parts of the plants.

Nearby, there are a number of gardens to stroll through. One garden that was particularly beautiful was the dahlia garden. They come in so many different colors – more than I would have imagined!

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Coe Hall, the mansion on the property, is a stunner with a dark, gothic interior and beautiful plasterwork everywhere. The various kinds of glass panes on the windows are also worth noting from room to room.  There are only two guided tours per day. We made do without a tour and wandered at leisure.  In some of the rooms, a staffer kindly told us about the history of the items within.

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Planting Fields Arboretum

Oh how I would love to live in a place where I can summon a butler (or maid) with the press of a button!  These were in one of the bedrooms by the door.

Planting Fields Arboretum

The park is open from 9 to 5 every day. There are two separate fees – the entrance fee is $8 per car, while the fee for the house is $3.50 a person. Admission to the grounds is free in the winter. If music concerts are your thing, they host  the occasional  concert on the grounds – visit their events page for specific dates. No bikes are allowed.

Sands Point Preserve

May 24, 2013

I am not sure how I heard about this place, but once I found out there was a castle on the grounds, my interest was piqued. Castle Gould was built in 1902 by railroad tycoon Jay Gould and modeled after Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. His wife did not care for it, so it ended up serving as the stables and servants’ quarters. Imagine that! A castle just for the servants and horses! The Goulds, instead, made their home in a Tudor-style mansion nearby called Hempstead House. Jay later sold the estate to the Guggenheims, who kept it in the family until 1971, when it was willed to Nassau County as a museum site. The grounds are extensive and look out onto Long Island Sound. You can easily see how this estate was considered a gem along the “Gold Coast” of Long Island. Today, there are a number of trails on the grounds and the buildings are still in good condition.

This is Castle Gould, which is now the Visitor’s Center where they hold educational programs. The castle’s limestone facade contains fossils along its surface.  Quite interesting and worth the look!

Sands Point Preserve

One of the trails leading away from the Visitor’s Center skirts the freshwater pond nearby. It is a nesting place for ducks, but we did not see any that day.

Sands Point Preserve

If you keep walking past the pond, you will hit trail #5 – this will take you to the cliffs and beach along Long Island Sound. Unfortunately, the beach is in bad shape right now, possibly from Hurricane Sandy. There are signs not to enter and broken-up concrete litter the entire beach. You should heed the warning because even the stairs leading down to the beach are not safe.

Sands Point Preserve

This is Hempstead House, a mansion containing 40 rooms!  They were setting up for a wedding reception on the day we were there so we could not go inside. Normally, you can go in and look around, although it is not actually furnished anymore.

Sands Point Preserve

I would not say the trails are all that interesting, but at least they are well-marked and easy to navigate. They would be good for families with children.
Sands Point Preserve

The preserve is in Port Washington, Long Island. It takes about 45 minutes by car from Manhattan. Admission is $10 per car. Dogs are welcome, but bikes are not.  There is a third building that is on the grounds that you can visit called Falaise.  It is a Normandy-style mansion on a cliff that is still furnished appropriate to the period. We decided not to go since we were there very early and the tour hours did not work for us. If you are interested in visiting it, you are required to do the tour – tours start at noon and occur every hour on the hour until 3pm. They will pick you up at the Visitor’s Center and drive you to the mansion. Otherwise, you cannot go there on your own. There is a separate admission charge of $10 a person.

Caumsett State Historic Park

June 8, 2012

Caumsett offers a little something for everyone. Within this park on Long Island Sound, you will find hills, open meadows, a pond, woods, marshland, and a shoreline. In the 1920’s, the millionaire Marshall Field III bought the land and turned it into a country club and hunting grounds. The Native American name that he chose for his estate means “place by a sharp rock.” His vast estate epitomized a life of leisure, and thankfully, when it was given to New York State in 1961, it was turned into a public park for others to enjoy. Today, you can go fishing, scuba diving, horseback riding, birdwatching, jogging, biking, and hiking within the 1500-acre grounds.

There are certain remnants of the old estate still left, sprinkled throughout the grounds. Near the entrance to the park, you will come across what used to be his dairy farm. If you are interested in seeing more of the old estate, there are ample signs pointing you down the road to his summer and winter cottages. They are not open to the public.

Caumsett

Also near the entrance is an equestrian center where you can take riding lessons. We saw a group riding around the park on the early morning that we were there.

Caumsett

My visit to Caumsett offered a not only a nice 4-mile stroll among the different environs, but also a side trip down memory lane. In sixth grade, my class spent a few days here on a science excursion. We stayed at the mansion at the top of the hill and learned about the ecological history of the Sound. It was an eye-opening experience for a city girl. I believe the mansion is still used for school excursions. However, it is not open to the public.

Caumsett

The best place to picnic here is at the back of the mansion facing the pond and the Sound beyond.

Caumsett

A short downhill stroll from the mansion leads you to the lake-sized pond.
Caumsett

Much of the walk to get to the shore is through shady wood.
Caumsett

Caumsett

The beach is not the type that is good for sunbathing. It is rocky and littered with shells and seaweed. It also smells a little from the drying seaweed, but is worth the stroll for the nice breeze and change of environment.

Caumsett

Caumsett

Caumsett

Caumsett is only accessible by car and is about an hour’s drive from the city. It is located at 25 Lloyd Harbor Road in the town of Huntington. Supposedly, it is open daily from sunrise to sunset, but when we were there last weekend, the sign said the park would close at 6pm. The parking fee is $8. Dogs are not allowed, I think because of the horses, but bikes and strollers are welcome. There are wide swaths of open field with no shade, so bring a hat and/or sunglasses. If you are visiting the marshes, bring bug spray. There are a number of guided hikes offered this summer on the weekends. Check the listing here.

Connetquot River State Park

September 17, 2010

This post is from guest writer Jeff Orlick, sharing one of his favorite outdoor spots in Long Island.

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The entire grounds is huge – almost 3,500 acres of open space with many open trails and habitats. In some other parks, the trails are made for you – created by park rangers or pioneers and their followers hundreds of times. Here, it’s basically an open field, the shrubbery high above your head. It’s great for exploration of nature and yourself.

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There’s also the main building which could be a lot more fun if there were a game room, but it will do as just a gift shop.

twig pencils

There are so many trout here! They catch them about every other time they cast. It looks like so much fun compared to the ocean where we are lucky if we catch one. Do they eat them? They don’t look too appetizing. Slimy things…

At one time they had a hatchery. I’m not sure why, but the effect of it was that it became a haven for rubber boot fishermen. There was a sickness with the fish and the hatching was interrupted. I hope they return soon.

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Directions from western Long Island: Southern State Parkway east to exit 44 (Sunrise Highway), east to the Preserve. From eastern Long Island: Sunrise Highway west to Oakdale. The Preserve is located on the north side of Sunrise Highway, just west of Pond Road.  For more information, click here.