Can’t miss attractions on Long Island: Sands Point Preserve, Bailey Arboretum, and Caumsett State Park

 

Sands Point Preserve, Long Island, NY

Since around March of 2022, my wife and I made a conscious decision to visit more of our own back door attractions, that is, around an hour or so drive from New York City.  To that end, we got to explore places on Long Island which we had never visited, even though we grew up around the area.

I always think it’s funny how most people don’t fully appreciate local attractions just because it’s always there, and because it’s something that can be visited at anytime.  Of course, I was one of these people.  I didn’t fully appreciate things nearby, but rather seeking out attractions outside of our usual place.  

Thanks to this newfound desire to visit more local attractions, we got to visit places like Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Planting Fields Arboretum, and Clark Botanic Gardens.  All of these places are absolutely delightful and definitely worth visiting!

During the month of May, we spent a month at our parent’s place in New York City.  We again decided to visit more hidden gems on Long Island.  Thanks to the slowly but surely changing of the seasons, bringing warmer weather and longer days, we got to experience wonderful blooming flowers and plants during the month.  

The three places we visited were Sands Point Preserve, Bailey Arboretum, and Caumsett State Park.  All three attractions feature grand gardens, wide open spaces, and tranquil walking trails.  We loved each one of them as they are all unique.  The fact that our parents loved them made for a more enjoyable experience!

Without further delay, here are our can’t miss attractions on Long Island.

  • Sands Point Preserve 
Sands Point Preserve is the former home of financier Howard Gould, who built the place in 1902.  Situated on 216 acres in the town of Sands Point, it features manicured gardens, grand mansions, walking trails, and beautiful scenery.

My family (my parents, my wife, and I) set out on a beautiful May day to explore this place.  As is customary when visiting the North Shore of Long Island, we took the I-495 eastbound from our parent’s place.  

The heavy traffic until exit 33 gave way to lighter traffic beyond that exit, as usual.  We took the local road going north once we exited out of I-495, which all of us appreciated.  We were again in our element, full of country roads, green spaces, and plenty of trees and flowers.

We arrived at the main entrance after traversing about 30 minutes on country roads.  We paid our entrance fee of $15 and made our way into the preserve.  We found parking directly ahead of us, then saw the gigantic Castle Gould to our right.  

Castle Gould, Sands Point Preserve 

Another view of Castle Gould

Castle Gould is an immense, 100,000 square foot medieval style castle built by Howard Gould to please his actress wife, Katherine Clemmons.  We were totally impressed by the castle as we walked towards it!

We found a visitor center but gave up on going inside it, as we saw a school bus with about 30 students mulling about the place.   We figured we’ll just wing it, then walked towards what looked to be walking trails immediately next to the castle.

Our hunch was proven right when we met a friendly lady walking a dog, who recommended we take the trail to view the Long Island Sound.  We started walking!

About 100 steps later, we saw a beautiful pond to our left.  It was so idyllic and tranquil seeing colorful birds singing, trees swaying, and flowers just beginning to bloom.




We turned left, hugging the pond on our left.  We saw various hiking trails that branch out from the main trail, but we kept to the main trail to see the Long Island Sound.  We marveled at fragrant smells wafting out from nearby plants, appreciating the warmer weather…




We started to see a peek of ocean after about 5 minutes of walking.  We had made it!  It was good to see the wide open ocean again.  We loved the rocky shore with awesome views of cities in Connecticut, across the Long Island Sound.






We had to see the ocean up close, so we walked down, albeit carefully, as there were quite a few slippery rocks near the shore.  We spent few minutes taking in some fresh ocean air, and enjoying the scenery.  

About 100 yards away to our right, we saw a couple with a large retriever.  The cute golden retriever was having the time of his life, busily running around the shore, looking for a stick to play with.  It was just awesome…

After few minutes of watching the dog, we slowly made our way back to the parking lot to check out the Hempstead House, a 50,000 square foot, Tudor-style home.  We drove not more than 2 minutes from the Castle Gould parking lot to the Hempstead House parking lot.

After parking, we walked towards the beautiful house.  We immediately loved the Hempstead House thanks to beautiful blooming flowers in front of the entrance.  We looped around to the left of the house then came upon the manicured gardens, facing the Long Island Sound.  Wow, what a view!







We found a rose garden and walked around it.  Although we didn’t see too many fully bloomed roses, we did see few beautiful ones.  We made our way around to the front of the house to check out the water views.  It was absolutely magnificent!

We imagined what the previous owners would see right in front of them as they get up in the morning.  Some people are just too lucky!

After wandering for several minutes and sitting down at a bench overlooking the waters, we headed back to our car to get some lunch.  Sands Point Preserve turned out to be our favorite place we’ve visited during the month of May!  What a beautiful place!
  • Bailey Arboretum 
Bailey Arboretum is the former estate of horticulturalist and philanthropist Frank Bailey.  Located in Locust Valley of North Shore (Long Island), the arboretum features the world’s largest dawn redwood, as well as beautifully maintained grounds.

We decided to visit the arboretum on a clear, sunny day, eager to make some new memories!  

My parents always love driving on country roads as they’re currently living inside the concrete jungles of New York City, where there aren’t too many wide open spaces nearby, nor green spaces.  Every opportunity to be immersed in nature, to see vast open/green spaces, is something they cherish, as they know it’s not something to be taken for granted…

We enjoyed some scenic country roads yet again, en route to the arboretum.  We arrived after about 50 minutes.  I knew during the month of May, entrance fees are only charged on weekends, so we parked and started our exploration.

The arboretum is very easy to explore as the parking lot acts as sort of the center of the arboretum.  We headed east of the parking lot, where the sign posts were visible.  On our way there, we stopped to our left, the Sensory Garden, to see beautiful flowers, displaying vibrant colors of the rainbow.







We walked around the circular path, gawking at beautiful flowers.  My mom, in particular, showed much appreciation for these, as she truly enjoys being outdoors, especially one as nice as this arboretum.

After completing our exploration of the garden, we went across to check out the Children’s Habitat.  We loved the whimsical feel of the place.  It was perfect for kids to just be kids.


We came out of the Children’s Habitat, then headed north towards the Upper and Lower Pond.  Along the way there, we couldn’t help but be enamored by incredible looking, impossibly tall trees.  We stopped few times to breathe in some fresh oxygen and to smell the fragrant trees and flowers.

We arrived at the ponds in no time, and we checked out the little observation deck at the Lower Pond.  The scenery almost reminded me of a Monet painting, with its moss covered pond, trees, and shrubbery.


By then, my mom got a bit tired, so we looked for a chair to sit down.  We found one at the Turtle Island on Upper Pond.  We sat down enjoying the scenery, when I noticed a small turtle sitting atop a log, basking in the sun.  It was so small, but I could just about make out its shape.  It was awesome seeing a turtle on Turtle Island.




We all had a kick at seeing that turtle.  After few minutes, we moved on from Turtle Island to explore the other side of the arboretum, heading south.  Past the Children’s Habitat, we ran into planted trees on either side of the trail, creating a canopy.  Under the canopy, temperature seemed lower, so we grabbed a seat on the bench, taking in the environment.  We sniffed the incredibly crisp and fragrant air, just enjoying the moment…



We got up from the bench to continue on the trail, then decided to turn right when we saw a house to our right, the Bailey House and the David ‘Sandy’ Pearson Terrace.  We saw a cute gazebo on our way over to the house, and we went inside it to check out the views from inside it.

View inside the gazebo
Bailey House

We got up after few minutes to see the rest of the arboretum.  We stopped over by the terrace with views of the gardens directly ahead of us.  We continued on to see the the famous tree at the arboretum, the giant dawn redwood!  It was indeed huge and beautiful.  The tree trunks were immense, easily 4-5 feet across!


We all got a kick out of viewing the world’s largest dawn redwood!  What a sight!

On our way back to the parking lot, we stopped by at the Aviary, where we could see birds, like the owl and the hawk.  We missed these birds at first, as they were well hidden behind tree branches inside their cages.  It took a good few seconds to find them!  

The Aviary

Overall, Bailey Arboretum is a wonderful day trip destination full of things to do and explore.  We all got to enjoy the arboretum!
  • Caumsett State Park
Caumsett State Park is the former home of Marshall Field III, who purchased 1750 acres of land in the town of Lloyd Neck, and created the large estate.  The word ‘Caumsett’ means “place by the sharp rock”, and the park features incredible gardens, a mansion, a private stable, and magnificent views of Long Island Sound.

When I was in my 8th grade, I had the good fortune of staying at Caumsett State Park as part of my science class trip for two nights.  Our entire class stayed at the house, sleeping in dormitory style bunk beds (4 per room), and exploring the wonders of the park.  

Our class did several team building exercises as well as fun games and nature hikes which were so much fun.  The trip was incredible, especially for a city kid who rarely ventured out to the wide open green spaces of Long Island.

Since that trip, my wife and I had visited the park together, along with my best friend and his family.  My second trip there brought back feelings of nostalgia, and I was so happy I was revisiting a familiar place.

I’ve been meaning to bring our parents to the park for some time, and May turned out to be that time.  On a rather chilly, windy, and cloudy midweek day, we headed out for the park.

We arrived in about an hour due to Caumsett State Park’s extreme location on the northern most part of Long Island, but we certainly didn’t mind.  Beautiful and scenic roads made up almost half of that hour getting to the park, which all of us enjoyed.







We arrived at the park but noticed there were some changes to the park.  Whereas before we could drive right up to the mansion, these days, you must park at the parking lot near the garden, then walk up. At least they weren’t charging any entrance fees that day…

We felt lucky then proceeded to park our car.  For a cloudy midweek day, we saw plenty of cars already.

We headed to the visitor information signpost with a venue map, then turned right to check out the Walled Garden.  We walked inside and was transported to an almost fairytale setting.  Trees were in full bloom, and they smelled so nice!






We came out to the garden, then proceeded towards the mansion.  We stopped after walking about 10 minutes then turned left to see the stable.  I hadn’t noticed, but the stable is private, and visitors were not allowed in there.  Bummer…

I asked someone who was coming out of one of the stable buildings as to the direction to the Long Island Sound, but she gave us the wrong direction!  She asked to go towards the direction of the visitor center, but it should’ve been to the other direction.

Long story short, by then, my mom was getting tired from seeing the garden, walking around the stable area, then back to the visitor center.  We decided not to push our luck and instead decided to head out for lunch.  

For first time visitors to the park, we highly recommend walking all the way north towards the Long Island Sound for fantastic views.  Be sure to check in at the visitor center for directions!  We didn’t, and we ended up just wandering the park in circles…

We’re sure we’ll revisit the park ourselves to check out the Long Island Sound with its incredible views, sometime in the near future.  

In conclusion:

Long Island is full of so many incredible places that we still haven’t visited, even though we lived nearby all these years.  It’s just amazing how we tend to overlook so many wonderful local attractions.  This is obviously a mistake.

We’re glad we got to visit these local places during the month of May.  All of them are incredibly beautiful, unique, and worthwhile to visit.  We hope you get to enjoy them when visiting Long Island!

Thank you all for reading!


Jake

Wandering Money Pig



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