Some people know just how to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of their retirement years. When we were younger and not so limited in what we could do, like boating or walking the beaches, we would often see two elderly sisters sitting at the end of a road enjoying their lunch and the water view. What a great idea for those of us who don’t get around as much as we used to. We decided to take a ride and see just how many places are still available where we can get to our Sound beaches by car.
We found if you have the proper permits you can get to both Sound and bay beaches. Always check with the town clerk’s office to make sure you have the right permits, as the fines are not as small as they used to be.
We’ll start along the north shore at the Mattituck Breakwater park area, which has ample parking and beautiful vistas. The fenced-in area is for Mattituck Park District residents only with a parking permit. Along the fence and along the inlet side there is parking if you have a Town of Southold parking/beach permit. It’s a great place to watch the boats, both private and commercial, that use this waterway — the only harbor between Port Jefferson and Orient on the Sound.
As we sat there, nodding heads of Queen Anne’s lace greeted us. Terns were working in the water and, of course, the herring gull patrolled the beaches, scavenging for bits of leftover sandwiches and other forgotten tidbits.
Bailie Beach Park, on the east side of the inlet, gives you great views and requires the town permit for parking at the beach and along the road.
Heading east, you can drive down to Duck Point Pond, once a quiet, lonely end of the road where families went to have clambakes, fish and walk the beach. Today there’s a motel there and the place has been “found” by many fishermen and families. Nevertheless, you can sit at the end of the road and enjoy the Sound. From there, you can see Connecticut, approximately 13 miles away, without getting out of your car.
You can watch sailboats making their way around the Sound on a lovely sunny day or see beautiful sunsets all year long at the beach, where the big rock is typical of the area. Many of our town residents today cannot take advantage of beach walking but can enjoy the same sights and sounds and smells of our local waterways from the comfort of their cars.
As we work our way east, Goldsmith’s Inlet in Peconic has a shallow opening along the Sound; it’s another nice place to sit and watch fishermen along the shore and out on the rock jetty. This is a great spot for those who can’t get out of their cars, for there’s an area where the endangered piping plover nests. It is here we see the good work that people have done by marking these nesting areas with keep-out signs and information about the birds. Most years, the shallow inlet area fills in and has to be dredged out by a clamshell bucket.
This shallow inlet area is a great place to see parents with their children, for here the kids can romp and play in tidal water moving in and out while exploring the marine life of the area. There’s a spot across the inlet where years ago you could see an osprey nesting. My son once rescued an osprey that was hanging there, caught up in monofilament fishing line. I remember it was in pretty bad shape so we took it to Dr. Bill Zitek, who took good care of it.
Kenny’s and McCabe’s beaches in Southold offer great views from the car of the beach areas as well as views across the Sound. Here you can always tell if the fish are in by the number of cars and trucks in the parking lot and fishermen lining the shore.
Of course, the one big beach visited by locals as well as visitors is Town Beach in Southold (here again, be sure to check if you have the right permit before heading there). This most-used town beach includes restrooms, a playground and a picnic area. There are lifeguards and beach attendants on duty. This is one place it would be possible to get out of your car and spend a little while enjoying the picnic area with its tables and benches.
While the beautiful weather is with us, do as we do: Get up and out and enjoy all that you are capable of doing, even though perhaps today you are somewhat limited. We hope you will find it as worthwhile as we do.