New York City is not exactly known as a paradise for nature lovers. Most New Yorkers spend their days surrounded by skyscrapers and gray sidewalks, interspersed with only the occasional tree or flowerbed. Yet, the city is full of unexpected, secluded plots of nature so calm and secluded, you won’t even believe you’re still in one of its five boroughs. The importance of getting into nature – especially to counteract the constant city buzz in which we live- cannot be overstated. Here are some NYC places you can go when seeking a respite in nature:
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Image: Flickr, Christopher Eliot
The city’s pigeons don’t make for varied bird watching. What your local park may lack in snow geese and owls, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge has in spades. Spanning 9,000 acres of open fields, ponds, and marshland, this refuge is home to hundreds of species of shorebirds, butterflies, and more. Once you’ve checked out the wildlife, you can relax in the park’s Southern Garden and listen to the sounds of cicadas.
Address: West Pond, Broad Channel, NY 11693
Phone: (718) 318-4340
Long Island City Boathouse
If you’re looking for something more nature-intensive than boating in Central Park, the Long Island City Community Boathouse has you covered. Along with the nearby Socrates Sculpture Park, the Boathouse organizes free boating excursions on weekend afternoons. They lend visitors canoes and kayaks, and volunteer guides lead boat trips down Newtown Creek and the Bronx River.
Address: 46-01 5th St, Long Island City, NY 11101
Pelham Bay Park
Image: Flickr, Kristine Paulus
At first glance, this park may remind you of a serene New England Coastline. But make no mistake, Pelham Bay Park is located square in the heart of the Bronx. Take a walk on its 2-mile long, looping Kazimiroff Nature Trail, and immerse yourself in the meadows, woods, and oceanside views. Bring along your bike and cycle the park’s path to the nearby City Island or Orchard Beach.
Address:1 Orchard Beach Rd, Bronx, NY 10464
Phone: (718) 430-1890
Pack up your beach umbrella and a cooler full of snacks, and head to Fort Tilden, the famously-secluded beach that is anything but a tourist zone. Offering the closest thing you’ll have to some alone time in New York City, Fort Tilden is typically calm, serene, and uncrowded. As you catch some rays, you can gaze out at the rugged Jamaica Bay with the certainty that your phone won’t interrupt this R&R, because the beach famously doesn’t get cell service.
Address: Fort Tilden, Rockaway, NY 11239
Phone: (718) 318-4300
Think of Brighton Beach as the calm neighbor of nearby Coney Island. That, along with the vast expanse of warm, soft sand, makes it the perfect place for some summer sunbathing. After you’ve enjoyed a few lazy hours, go ahead and explore the surrounding neighborhood of Little Odessa, home to delicious Russian and Ukrainian restaurants.
Address: Coney Island Ave & Brightwater Court, Brooklyn, NY 11230
Phone: (718) 891-0800
The Greenbelt Conservancy
Located in Staten Island, the Greenbelt Conservancy is an expansive park with plenty of hiking trails ranging in length and intensity. If you’re feeling ambitious, take the Blue Trail, which leads hikers along the highest natural hilltop in the city. For an equally scenic route, try the Red Trail, which takes you past the park’s original lighthouse, dating back to 1912. Other trails lead through the park’s fern and wildflower gardens. Special events include park movie nights, evening yoga classes, and even frog-watching excursions.
Address: 200 Nevada Ave, Staten Island, NY 10306
Phone: (718) 667-2165
Alley Pond Park
Alley Pond Park isn’t just a vast expanse of wetlands and meadows. It’s also a geological artifact: 15,000 years ago, this park was an actual glacier. You can still see debris left behind from that glacier, as well as the diverse wildlife that now lives there. If you’re a bit of a daredevil, you’ll want to check out the park’s high ropes adventure course, the largest of its kind in the Northeast.
Address: 225-1-225-99 76th Ave, Oakland Gardens, NY 11364
Phone: (212) 639-9675