Yes, I did it. I called in sick to work, carefully not telling them what, precisely, I was sick of. It was a golden Indian Summer day here on Long Island yesterday, with the sun gilding everything it touched. I know that when January is slushing its way into February, I will NOT be wishing that I spent more time in the office. Smart folks will follow my example on the handful of these days we have left. I wanted one more last hurrah at the beach before saying a sad goodbye to summer.
If Robert Moses State Park is a lanky, outdoorsy, Kennedy-esque rugby player, then Jones Beach State Park is his pretty little sister, done up in Mom's pearls. See my review of Robert Moses State Park at http://www.epinions.com/content_25669242500. Jack, my new partner, had contrived to live 36 years in the New York Metropolitan area without ever setting foot on its sand. It was high time they met.
I met Jack at the train station, his NYPD cap on backward, unshaven, and his warm brown eyes lit up with "There you are! Let's get up to no good!" Off to Jones Beach we went. He seemed to be paying particular attention to his backpack - more on this later.
Getting there - 8 out of 10. It's a piece of cake. Both the Meadowbrook and the Wantagh State Parkways terminate at Ocean Parkway. Buses run every hour or so from the train station in Wantagh, as well as other points in Nassau County. There is also a train/bus package for NYC dwellers who want to enjoy the sea and surf; contact the Long Island Railroad at 516-822-5477 for details.
Parking is available for an $8.00 fee, but an Empire Passport ($49.00) is definitely the way to go, as it affords you use of ALL New York State parks for a full year. On hot summer days, the parking fields closest to the seaside fill up early. Field 6 is the most popular, as it provides the shortest walk from parking to beach. If you are stuck parking at Field 4, you have about a 15 minute walk from your car to the shore. It's pretty, though - formal plantings line the pedestrian paths with magnificent, colorful flowers.
Cleanliness and Natural Beauty - 10 out of 10. Physically, Jones Beach is a barrier island off the mainland. The sand stretches for six miles - on clear days it seems endless. It is cleaned by machine several times a season to remove seaweed and other debris. The water sparkles a deep, New England aqua. Dunes (fenced off to protect plants and wildlife) bloom with fragrant beach roses and sea grass. Dozens of species of birds make the dunes home, though they nest in a protected area on the bay side. Of course, there are also rabbits, who seem to know that people pose no real threat to them. All in all, it is a beautiful place, where Man's "improvements" can actually be considered improvements.
Amenities and services - 10 out of 10. Jones Beach is like a very posh country club, except for two things: it's public, and it's not expensive. The park was designed in the early 1930s, when ocean travel was the mode of transit for the wealthy. The two-mile boardwalk resembles the deck of one of those ocean liners, with its nautical railing and the trashcans disguised as deck openings. Two bathhouses, East and West, and a tall water tower (see photo, right side)are Art Deco in style, constructed of stone and brick. There is a definite Frank Lloyd Wright influence to the architecture, and they have aged well. The bathhouses are places to change clothes, shower, and use the rest rooms. First aid is available here, as well as umbrella rentals, and assistance for the handicapped.
Dining can be fancy at The Boardwalk Restaurant, or casual at one of the many snack stands along the boardwalk. To burn off those calories, you can swim, play tennis, shuffleboard, basketball, or golf on the small jewel of a golf course, all for a nominal fee. Or you may bring your own goodies, as Jack did.
People watching - 10 out of 10. Long Islanders and their out-of-town guests, are among the most entertaining folks to watch. We took a seat on one of the many benches that line the boardwalk. What did we see?
There was the athletic 20-something lady, rollerblading down the boardwalk like it was all business, with nary a pad or a helmet in sight. As she sailed by in her expensive-looking outfit, yelling into her tiny cellphone, her burnished chestnut hair flapped behind her like a flag. I grinned and so did Jack; she was so Long Island.
Then there was the elderly couple. Well into their 70s, they actually held hands as they strolled along in their matching yellow cardigans. Near a bench they stopped. He ran a well-worn hand over her impeccably layered silver hair. They kissed. Everyone within a 50 foot radius smiled and said "Ahhhhh."
Two young mothers sprawled on a huge blanket, engaged in animated conversation with their bundled babies sleeping between them. All four were sporting matching red, white and blue ribbons on their chests. Jack's NYPD cap earned him a round of applause from one and a thumbs-up from the other.
Romantic possibility - Off the scale. When I complained of hunger and suggested getting a hotdog from one of the concession stands, Jack held up a finger and grinned. He proceeded to achieve the impossible: rendering me speechless. From within his green backpack (which I shall now always think of as his Bag Of Tricks) he produced a split of champagne and two napkin-wrapped glasses. (NOTE: Alcoholic beverages are NOT allowed on the beach, but Jack's a cop. No one bothered us.) Next came a small tray of shelled shrimp, lemon wedges and a Tupperware of cocktail sauce. A round of Boursin cheese, toasted baguette slices, and fresh sliced veggies completed the feast. Dessert was a single Godiva truffle each, and the last of the champagne.
What a man!!! I kept looking at his handsome, open face. Strength balanced with kindness. Unpretension mixed with gentility. Intellect balanced by humor. I turned to the beach. Sand and sea. Sun and sky. Nature and Man. Yup, we were definitely in the right place. He drew me to him, and proved me right once again.
I love this place. And Jack, you can bet I love you.
Do yourself a favor - the next nice day that comes along, grab your Significant Other and head outside. You won't regret it.
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Best time to go: Anytime
Recommended for: Anybody
Review Topic: Overview