Visit New York City and discover the magic and convenience of nearby ocean beach destinations and stunning state parks. Jones Beach State Park, located on a Long Island coastal barrier island, is especially inviting as it features activities for all ages and enough facilities to support them.
New York residents, especially those who live on Long Island, are very familiar with the park’s layout and write at length on the web about their happy memories of it.
Newcomers and tourists, however, often wonder what all the excitement is about. Yes, it is the most popular beach destination on the East Coast, but there are a lot of beaches along the coast. What makes this one so great?
Jones Beach State Park manages 6.5 miles of Atlantic Ocean beach, with approximately two miles of boardwalk fronting its main swimming areas. Around the perimeter of the park, coastal areas are designated for swimming, surfing, fishing, and boating.
Slightly inland is Zach’s Bay, which provides a stillwater beach (no pounding surf, which is great for toddlers). The Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, which offers many interesting nature programs, is located on the far, west end, and Captree State Park, a fisherman’s “heaven,” is adjacent to Jones Beach on the far eastern end.
Portions of the beach are closed, depending on the weather, season, maintenance, or other factors. For current information, visit its New York State Park Department site at nysparks.state.ny.us.
The park contains stunning 1930’s Art Deco buildings, all large enough to serve your dressing-room, eating, beach supply, beach clothing, beach equipment rental, and shelter needs. The West Bathhouse also contains huge pools for adults and children who may find the surf too challenging, or who simply like to swim. The surrounding landscape art and signs complement the overall Art Deco theme.
Before my first real “get wet” visit, my husband and I had trouble figuring out where to go in the park and what to expect. We briefly visited by car once before and were confused by signs along the Ocean Parkway (which runs through the center of Jones Beach State Park). We didn’t, for example, know what the word “Field” meant, but now know that in Long Island, a “field” is a parking lot. You may see Field 6 mentioned in Jones Beach articles as being very popular. This lot is conveniently located next to the beach by the East Bathhouse. Unfortunately, it is the smallest lot and fills quickly.
Starting Point By Car: We arrived at the park by traveling south on the Meadowbrook State Parkway, then turned left onto Ocean Parkway. No matter where you enter, however, a pass is needed before you can park. To buy a one, enter the sweeping driveway in front of the West Bathhouse and continue driving to a ticket hut at its far, east end. Pass in hand, drive to an open field and park.
If you take public transportation (Long Island Rail Road and bus), you will be dropped off by the East or West Bathhouse, or by the Central Mall.
Approaching the Central Mall
We parked in Field 4, one of two lots near the Central Mall. If the beach is busy, expect a long walk in the lot. Consider shading yourself with an umbrella because the pavement and the sun can combine into a very hot atmosphere. At the southeast end of Field 4 is a tunnel that’s topped with a sculpture of a large shark. Walk through it to the park’s main promenade. The park’s famous water tower will be to your back.
When you emerge from the cool tunnel, you enter a long stretch of garden.
A portion of the garden commemorates seven New York State Park Department employees who lost their lives on 9/11 (9/11/2001), when the World Trade Center in Manhattan was bombed.
At the entrance to the Central Mall is a 90-foot ship’s-mast flying marine signal flags that read “Jones Beach State Park” and “Keep Your Park Neat,” followed by the current year.
For souvenirs, take pictures of all the park’s signs. The one pictured here announces that you are at the Central Mall and it points to the East and the West Bathhouses.
The Central Mall and two bathhouses are commanded by large, Art Deco buildings, each area having a slightly different purpose. All building areas provide beach gear rentals and sales, clothing stores, snack shops, rest and changing rooms, picnic tables, and places to relax in the shade.
In this hot, sunny area, the State Park Department encourages you to rent an umbrella. Good idea!
From the Central Mall to the West Bathhouse
Jones Beach has very loose rules about eating on the beach. Some beaches, such as those on nearby Fire Island, are extremely restrictive. All beaches, however, insist that you clean up after yourself, with Jones Beach supplying a multitude of garbage cans. Those black specks you see in the photo above are garbage cans. (Pictured is a closed portion of the beach, but the cans are placed everywhere people roam.)
Note: As you can see by the boardwalk ramp, Jones Beach is highly accessible for people who are physically challenged.
Walking from the Central Mall to the West Bathhouse, you see the Jones Beach Bandshell, plus a game area that includes a volleyball court, a shuffle board area, miniature golf, a paddle tennis area, and the Saturn Playground.
The Saturn Playground, which is near the West Bathhouse, contains three kid’s gyms, perfect for toddlers and children who require more activity than digging in the sand.
Note: A smaller gymset is located in the Zach’s Bay area.
The West Bathhouse
Approaching the West Bathhouse from the Central Mall is a thrill because the building is beautifully imposing!
At the top of the West Bathhouse’s steps is Friendly’s, a huge ice cream parlor. Buy its crisp, cheese-covered, cottage fries, or creamy ice cream served in souvenir baseball hats.
If you linger in front of the parlor, turn to the right to see picnic tables, then walk to a low wall over which you’ll see two gigantic swimming pools.
In the picture above, the main swimming pool is deep greenish-blue, and the kid’s pool further back is light blue. Just want to watch? Rest on any of the lounges that surround the pools.
The pool area also provides entertainment! Visit the www.NYArts.com site for a list of entertainment at the West Pool Bandshell and at the Boardwalk Bandshell. This organization finds many of the bands that appear here at Samantha’s Li’l Bit of Heaven. Also refer to www.jonesbeach.com for a complete list of Jones Beach venues.
From the Central Mall to the East Bathhouse
Between the Central Mall and the East Bathhouse is a short-range, putt golf course. Northeast of the course is the famous Nikon – Jones Beach Amphitheater.
The East Bathhouse is as imposing as its western sibling, however, its use is different. As you approach the building, you are greeted by a sign announcing the Jones Beach State Park Museum, exhibiting “Castles in the Sand – a Retrospective.” Here you’ll learn how, in the 1930s, the New York state parks located in Long Beach were created and see pictures of Jones Beach during its early years.
Bonus: The museum is highly air conditioned!
Next to the museum is a cute dress shop, and in the middle of the building is a refreshment stand and picnic tables. A pool housed in this building, however, is not open at this time. (2009)
The East Bathhouse also features a long, two-level porch where you can relax in the shade. The lower level supplies lounges, and the upper level, chairs.
Note: Some bird and small animal droppings are present as the porch is completely open and wildlife is free to visit. Although the porch is regularly cleaned, bring a towel to sit on.
Outdoor showers are available along the boardwalk. The one pictured above is by the East Bathhouse.
From the East Bathhouse to Zach’s Bay
Behind the East Bathhouse is a tunnel that leads to the Nikon – Jones Beach Amphitheater, Zach’s Bay, and a children’s play area.
Pictured above is the entrance to Zach’s Bay, a tide-sensitive, stillwater inlet. Unlike the ocean beach, the sand surrounding Zach’s Bay is damp and the area smells slightly damp, too. The bay’s ample facilities provide everything that you could need, including rest rooms, beach rentals, and a snack shop.
This area is safe for small children who cannot play in strong ocean tides and they enjoy their freedom here.
Across from the beach is the famous Nikon – Jones Beach Amphitheater, which features big-name events. Check www.Jonesbeach.com to see a complete list of all events. Access amphitheater parking through Field 5, but if you want a space in that lot, arrive very early!.
Traffic to all of the New York State Parks along Ocean Parkway and the parkways leading to it become jammed on hot weekends and during special events. Try to arrive very early to avoid frustration, or pack plenty of snacks and relax in your car as it crawls along. You will eventually arrive at your destination, so chill.
To use public transportation, take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) from Pennsylvania Station in New York (between 31st and 33rd Streets) to Freeport, Long Island. From there, catch a bus to Jones State Park. Make sure you check for special deals before buying your ticket.
- LIRR: www.mta.nyc.ny.us/lirr/html/ttn/freeport.htm
- Freeport: www.longislandexchange.com/towns/freeport.html
- The MTA bus route in Freeport is N88. Its schedule is linked to the LIRR page as well as on the MTA’s Long Island Bus Route page.
Fees change from year to year, as do special discounts. Always check with the park for exact amounts, including seniors’ rates. A short list of this year’s fees are: Pool – adults $3, kids $1. Paddle Tennis and Shuffleboard – $2 per equipment. Mini Golf – $5 per 18 holes. Pitch Put Green – $7 green’s fee, $2 club rental, plus small deposits.
Entertainment fees also differ. Check websites for ticket prices:
Ask Karen at Karen@littleviews.com. Article and photos by Karen Little. Originally published in 2009, but up-to-date as of summer 2017. All rights reserved by Littleviews.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, my husband saw an article on proton radiation therapy, which is supposed to be gentler than photon radiation. Currently, there are around 25 proton radiation centers in the USA and fortunately, one is in New Jersey where I live.
We didn’t think more about the subject until my breast surgeon and oncologist insisted that I have radiation therapy after the mastectomy. Luckily, the surgery was done at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the oncologist there (Dr. Oron Cahlon) was one of the directors at ProCure, the very proton therapy center we read about.
My first of 30 days of radiation therapy began on March 8, 2017.
Upon entering the facility, I clipped on a name tag that had a bar code on the back. Once registered, ProCure’s staff knew I was in the facility and called me when my appointment was ready. Once called, I stripped to my waist and slipped into a cotton gown.
Prior to my first day, a mold of my torso was made from foam that turned hard within 15 minutes of being activated. When placed on a table in the proton therapy room, was covered with a white sheet.
The picture below shows the position I took when laying in the mold.
Below is a picture of the therapy room. On the far left, you see the mold’s shape under a white sheet. The blue wedge (middle of the picture) was slipped under my knees after I mounted the table.
Behind the blue wedge is the proton machine’s “snout,” which is what focuses and delivers the proton “beam.”
To the right of the picture are brass disks that feature a cut-out designed by the radiologist in charge, which in my case was Dr. Cahlon. When attached to the snout, the hole guides the proton beam to exactly where it is needed on the patient’s body.
My radiation involved at least two disks that targeted my left chest wall, my left arm pit where lymph nodes were removed during the mastectomy, lymph nodes under my left collar bone, and surgical incisions.
Once the procedure began, I was left alone with the snout while the radiation staff disappeared into a control center. All but 26 procedures required that I be under the beam for four times during an hour session, with the last three sessions only two times. My husband, meanwhile, spent 30 days in the waiting room reading USA Today (when available) and cruising the web.
I started therapy on March 8. By April 1st, I was confident that I’d breeze through these therapy sessions, even though I was told I would receive a skin burn mimicking what I might receive on a hot, sunny beach at high noon. At this time, my skin was just beginning to turn red and I felt there was nothing to worry about.
Ten days later, on April 10th, however, my skin turned a leathery deep red.
(Note that the picture below is a mirror reflection. The treatment is on my left side.)
Shortly after I took the above selfie, my skin began to split and peel, much to my alarm. Within the last 7 days of my therapy, I stayed in constant contact with my doctor and the radiation nurse questioning whether my experience was normal. Quitting the therapy was constantly on my mind.
Everyone, including the therapy room staff, told me that I was the poster child for “normal outcomes.” OMG! Frankly, the treatment itself did not hurt, nor did I get any side effects that kept me from living a “normal” life. It was only the gigantic burn, splitting skin, and pain from splitting skin that concerned me.
I did, however, have pain-controlling creams and took ibuprofen as needed, so did not become crippled, but I was, quite frankly, fearful for my life. Being systematically roasted by a proton beam produced results far different than getting a sunburn at high noon. Not only was my skin burned, so was all tissue beneath it.
As it turned out, my skin re-grew. In the picture above, which looks grizzly, the bright red skin is new and the brown is falling off. Although my torso looked awful, I was ready for “therapy graduation” on April 19th, which marked my 30th day under the snout.
For the graduation, I wore my Aztec goddess T-shirt adorned with female warrior Aztecas. Her strength and healthy left breast inspired me!
Graduation – Cancer Therapy Is Over
ProCure hosts regular therapy graduation events in which a guest speaker (who’s been there and done that) leads the ceremony, graduates give a short talk, and everyone dines on excellent sandwiches.
In summary, here’s my short talk:
When I was told I had breast cancer, I had to choose between life that included a lot of scary therapy and death. I chose life. During the past 12 months, I have had my cecum (area of the bowel) removed, experienced four chemo treatments, was hospitalized for salmonella poisoning, had my left breast removed, and had been roasted for 30 days under the snout.
When I left the facility, I then rang a brass bell three times to announce that I was cancer free.
At the graduation ceremony, I received a magical “Hope Blossoms When It Is Shared Coin,” symbol of all the good work done. The number 2563 indicates that I was the 2563rd patient at ProCure who made it through radiation and kept on smiling. Hopefully, this article will help others.
. . . oh, and about my hairdo. I love it and plan on keeping it short forever after, but I do hope my eyelashes grow out.
Thanks to . . .
I appreciate all of medical professionals that I met at the Hackensack Radiology Group, the Hackensack University Medical Center and Dr. Marson Davidson, who spotted my potential colon cancer, the Holy Name Regional Cancer Center, and ProCure, the proton radiation center, all in New Jersey. I also greatly appreciate everyone at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.
Also a big thanks to Dr. Ronald Weiss, founder of Ethos Health, who recommended the book I follow, “How Not to Die,” and Dr. Luke Eyerman, a family practice physician who made all the above medical connections for me.
This diary is written by Karen Little and recounts her experience with cancer treatment. All photography on this page is by Karen and Philip Little. Published as a series starting in October 2016. All rights reserved by Karen Little and Littleviews. Questions? Please contact Karen at Karen@Littleviews.com.
I had my mastectomy on Friday, January 13, 2017.
I was brought up to believe that Friday the 13th represented a day of change and because many people are afraid of change, having anything done on this day is to be feared. In my case, it was clear that having a mastectomy marked a great change in my life, so I accepted it on a surgery date
The surgery was performed in the year-old Memorial Sloan Kettering Josie Robertson Surgery Center, a truly stunning hospital behind the bank of large, silver windows seen below.
Located at 1133 York Avenue at 61st Street in New York City, all windows framed the majestic Queensboro Bridge and cable car. The picture below was taken around 7:30 AM in the main waiting room.
Unlike general hospitals, this facility is designed for in-and-out cancer-related surgery. I arrived early and was scheduled to leave the next day by 11 AM. I was ushered in to a single room where I met the surgical team. The anesthesiologist told me that once I was put under, my body would be placed on life support with equipment doing the living for me. When I woke up, I’d have no memory of the event.
When I did wake up, I repeatedly asked my two nurses whether the surgery took place. All I remember was being wheeled into the operating room and covered in a warm, bubble-wrap blanket. The picture above is me after surgery. I have no idea how I had the presence of mind to put on my wig.
Phil stayed overnight in my room. In the morning, he was taught how to tend to my Jackson-Pratt drainage system, we eat breakfast, then headed home.
The picture below was taken three weeks after the surgery. The two round spots are from where lymphedema fluid drain tubes were attached to me. The straight line is where my breast was removed, and the curved line, where lymph nodes were removed from under my arm. Out of the 12 found, six showed a trace of cancer that probably had been eradicated through chemo, and one contained a cancer cell.
From this time forward, I must be very careful that I do not allow lymph fluid to collect in a condition called “lymphedema.” As of late April, that has not happened.
The picture above was taken around two weeks after surgery and around a month after my last chemo therapy period. My hair and eyebrows are but fuzz and I lost my eyelashes. Still, other than having tubes attached to me via pockets in a special garment which I’m wearing in this photo, I had very little pain after the surgery.
Technically, at this point I became cancer-free. Unfortunately, one more step was needed to really stamp out those cancer cells, radiation, which will be the subject of my next article: Radiation – Karen’s last cancer treatment
My oncologist is Dr. Karleung (Sammy) Siu, who practices at Holy Name Regional Cancer Center in Teaneck, NJ.
My surgeon and radiologist both practice at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. They are Dr. Andrea Veronica Barrio, breast surgeon, and Dr. Oren Cahlon, radiologist.
This diary is written by Karen Little and recounts her experience with cancer treatment. Except for the picture of the Memorial Sloan Kettering facility, all photography is by Karen and Philip Little. Published as a series starting in October 2016. All rights reserved by Karen Little and Littleviews. Questions? Please contact Karen at Karen@Littleviews.com.