Explore NYC’s Wilderness in Staten Island’s South Shore
With miles of coastline, acres of nature preserves, and a public beach, Staten Island’s South Shore is a great getaway. Whether you’re a local looking to spend a day outdoors, or a visitor from another borough—or parts beyond—natural Staten Island is filled with hidden secrets. Take a quick drive, hop on an MTA bus, or ride the Staten Island Railway, and join us on this tour of New York City’s “south pole.”
Hike through Blue Heron Park
You wouldn’t think, visiting this peaceful 250 acre nature preserve today, that it was once an abandoned dumping ground for cars and waste. Community members reclaimed the area, turning it into a lush haven for local wildlife and migratory birds, and a getaway from busy NYC.
The Blue Heron Nature Center is a good place to begin a tour of the park. For those who like to set off on their own, you can find maps and brochures. For those hoping for a little more guidance, the Rangers stationed here host workshops on local wildlife and lead guided tours. The nature center also hosts cultural events and activities for kids.
Picnic tables, a playground, and a picturesque gazebo lie just beyond the nature center, so parkgoers can enjoy a meal, relax, and plan out the next part of their trip.
Paths and footbridges help you explore Staten Island’s wilder side, leading through the park’s many ponds, like Spring Pond above, which by early summer is filled with waterlilies in bloom. There are eight hiking trails, with paths through the park’s ponds, forest, and wetland marsh. Look for the trail leading explorers right up to the edge of Raritan Bay for an especially lovely view.
The park has some new, and rather mysterious, residents. These Indian runner ducks appeared at Blue Heron several years ago and stay year-round, unlike the other migratory birds and ducks that pass through the park. Visitors can see the ducks, and sometimes even their eggs, at Spring Pond. Other occasional residents include wood ducks, teals, American woodcocks, Northern flickers, and plentiful deer.
Swim in Secluded Wolfe’s Pond Park
Wolfe’s Pond Park is many things – wildlife preserve, beach, playground, dog run, and picnic spot. Wolfe’s Pond was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and longtime residents will be able to note ways in which the park has changed, and ways in which it continues to improve.
Love the ocean but think NYC’s beaches are just too chaotic? Wolfe’s Pond Beach is the city’s best-kept secret, a small, calm, and secluded beach that’s a perfect retreat for those looking to get away from summer’s crowds.
Done with bathing, and looking to explore? Walking along the park’s southwestern edge you’ll see the pond that gives the park its name. The unmanicured body of water is a fantastic place to spot birds, but be prepared – there are mosquitoes near the pond in the warmer months. Farther north in the park are wildlife and plant preserves.
Meet NYC’s Shorebirds at Lemon Creek Park
The peaceful shorefront at Lemon Creek Park offers options for sunbathers and adventurers alike. The park is a kayak launch point, and those with access to boats can paddle off into Raritan Bay from its shores. The sandy shore is also a lovely spot for those looking to soak up some rays or build sand castles, although swimming is not permitted.
Home to New York City’s only purple martin colony, as well as swans, mallards, black ducks, and monarch butterflies, Lemon Creek is a popular spot for birdwatching. Observant visitors may also find fiddler crabs, blue crabs, clams, and fish along the creek.
Take in Views and History at Conference House Park
At the very southern tip of Staten Island is Conference House Park. Make sure to visit in May and June, to see the horseshoe crabs laying thousands of eggs along its shore. Or if you’ve had enough nature for one trip, check out the 17th century historic home inside the park. You’ll be in august company – the house was the site of an important Revolutionary War meeting, when John Adams, Edward Rutledge, and Benjamin Franklin visited the house for unsuccessful peace talks with the British.
Check out our guide to Conference House Park to learn more about this special site.