18 Things Long Island is Known and Famous For

Long Island is a place unlike any other. The people who grew up there are loud and proud of their hometown. When you see how much it has to offer, you can understand why.

Long Island is famous for beaches, bagels, and Billy Joel. It’s also home to beautiful sights like the Oheka Castle, Montauk lighthouse, and the Vanderbilt estate. Just like its namesake Long Island iced tea, this place has a lot of different elements all in one place.  

Long island sign

Here’s a look at 18 different things that Long Island is known for.

1. Beaches

A lifeguard boat stands vigilant, ready in the event of an emergency, on a summer's day at Jones Beach in Wantagh, New York
Editorial credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

You can’t talk about Long Island without mentioning the beaches. Jones Beach State Park is one of the more popular summer destinations, with millions of people flocking to its shores every year. It features dozens of local eateries and plenty of white sand to sprawl out on.

Other beaches like Sagamore Hill are known for being dog friendly, while Hither Hills offers unique beach camping opportunities. 

2. The Montauk lighthouse

Montauk Lighthouse and beach at sunrise, Long Island, New York, USA.

While soaking up the shores of Long Island, don’t miss one quaint landmark: the Montauk lighthouse

This lighthouse was built in 1796 and is still operational today, making it the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the country. The iconic maroon and white stripes are a fascinating sight for those of all ages. 

3. The Hamptons

Typical house architecture of Long Island beaches, New York

I know we already mentioned the beaches, but the Hamptons feel like they deserve their own spotlight.

This ritzy area of the South Fork is one of the most exclusive places to summer. Celebrities, socialites, and business moguls alike flock to this tiny peninsula to see and be seen. 

Made up of different villages and hamlets, different parts of the Hamptons have their own unique flair. From farmland to fancy shops, there’s a wide range of things to see in this iconic area.

3. Expensive living

Beautiful oceanfront summer mansions abut the sands of cooper Beach in Southampton, New York.
Editorial credit: James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Speaking of ritzy, Long Island is known for being home to some of the most expensive areas in the country. Fortune recently named the zip code of Sagaponack as the 3rd most expensive, based on the median property sale price. 

Drive past some of the private compounds and gated communities, and you’ll get a taste of the insane wealth in this area.

4. The LIRR

Long Island Railroad train during the morning commute.
Editorial credit: Scott Heaney / Shutterstock.com

For those who can’t afford private limos and drivers, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is the ultimate way to get around. With lines that run from Manhattan to the North and South Forks, it connects the furthest parts of the island with other major railways. 

In addition to providing a vital resource for commuters, the LIRR is also a great way to beat the beach traffic.

5. Traffic

Traffic jam

When taking the LIRR isn’t an option, drivers have to deal with the dreaded Long Island traffic. Since the island is fairly narrow, a lot of the main thoroughfares tend to get jammed up during rush hour.

If you’re trying to make it to the beach after work on a Friday, be prepared to deal with hours of brake lights and honking horns.

6. Oheka Castle

Oheka Castle in New York

When exploring Long Island, there are a few beautiful places you can’t miss. Oheka Castle is definitely one of them. This grand, sprawling estate is the second-largest private home in the country.

Built for investment financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn, the house now serves mainly as a hotel. Its beauty has been featured in countless shows, movies, and music videos. 

7. The Vanderbilt estate

Mansion of William K. Vanderbilt II on Long Island.
Editorial credit: Dariusz Gryczka / Shutterstock.com

Another beautiful property on Long Island is undoubtedly the Vanderbilt estate. It’s part mansion, part museum, and part planetarium, all in one location.

This estate was the residence of William K. Vanderbilt II, a member of the prominent and wealthy Vanderbilt family. His love for travel and the natural world inspired the galleries on display. 

8. Bagels

Variety of assorted authentic New York style Bagels with seeds in a brown paper bag.

I can’t believe we’ve made it this far down the list without talking about bagels. Manhattan gets all the glory, but Long Island is known for having the best bagel shops around. 

Ask a group of Long Islanders about their favorite bagel place and an argument is bound to ensue. Each person swears their local spot is the best. When it comes to bagels on Long Island, it’s hard to find one you won’t enjoy.

9. “On” never “in”

Aerial drone image of Long Island at sunset

If you’re ever trying to impress someone from the area, make sure to mention that they live “on” Long Island, not “in” Long Island. Due to its unique nature as both an island and a general area, locals have always chosen to refer to their residence in this way.

While it may sound strange to people not from the area, it’s a specific trait that makes people from Long Island special.

10. Confusing geography

Confused man

Once you get past the whole “on/in” controversy, you’ll have to deal with the fact that Long Island is not actually considered an island. Even though it’s completely surrounded by water, the Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that it’s a peninsula that’s part of the New York mainland.

It’s a confusing decision that lawmakers and geologists do not agree on, but it’s still a fun little piece of quirky Long Island history. 

11. Unique names

Massapequa. New York. USA on a geography map

Unique town names and pronunciations are another strange thing you might discover about Long Island. With towns like Hauppauge, Quogue, Ronkonkoma, and Massapequa, Long Island locations can be a mouthful.

These unique names are not just meant to be tongue twisters, they actually come from Native American languages and have their own meaning.

12. Native American heritage

Native American on a flag USA

It’s impossible to talk about Long Island without mentioning its Native American history. Native tribes inhabited this land for thousands of years before European settlers arrived. 

While scholars still debate on the exact number of tribes, it’s been said that there were 13 Algonquin tribes all across what we call Long Island. Today, the Native American population lives mainly on the Shinnecock and Poospatuck reservations.  

13. Haunted history

Haunted room

With such a long history, it’s no surprise that Long Island comes with its fair share of horror stories. There are accounts from all over the island of unexplained footsteps, ghostly apparitions, and spooky noises. 

From Native American spirits in Montauk to Revolutionary War soldiers in Oyster Bay, the spirits that haunt Long Island are said to be from many different decades. 

14. Long Island Medium

Psychic medium
Editorial credit: Victoria Denisova / Shutterstock.com

With so many spirits wandering about, celebrity psychic medium Theresa Caputo definitely has her hands full. Recognizable by her signature giant blonde hairdo, she first rose to fame with her TLC show “Long Island Medium.”

While the show doesn’t really have anything to do with the island itself, Caputo shows her Long Island roots with her accent, hairstyle, and flashy fashion.

15. Accent

Long Island man on phone

Besides a Southern accent, the Long Island accent is probably the most recognizable American accent. It has long been featured and sometimes mocked in popular culture. 

Long Islanders will take a “wawlk” to grab their “regulah” “cawfee.” Or maybe they’ll “cawl” and “tawlk” about their neighbor’s “lawst” “dawg.” If you can hear those sentences clear as day, then you may have run into someone from Long Island. 

16. Billy Joel

Singer Billy Joel performs
Editorial credit: Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com

Of the many famous Long Islanders, Billy Joel may be the most popular. The Grammy-winning musician was born in the Bronx but grew up in Hicksville, Long Island. 

Joel’s first solo album is even called Cold Spring Harbor, after the Long Island hamlet. He has played in venues across the globe, including the Nassau Coliseum that’s located just miles away from his hometown. 

17. The Belmont Stakes

Bugler sounds call to the post before the third race at Belmont Park
Editorial credit: Dennis W Donohue / Shutterstock.com

If you’re more into racing than records, then you may know Long Island as home to the Belmont Stakes. This third and final leg of the Triple Crown takes place every June at Belmont Park.

Since it’s the longest track of the three races, the Belmont Stakes is known as “The Test of the Champion.” Many horses have won and lost at Belmont, but only 13 have been named Triple Crown champions. 

18. Long Island iced tea

Two Long Island Iced Tea cocktails shot on a bar counter.

One last thing Long Island is known for is its signature drink consisting of vodka, tequila, light rum, triple sec, gin, and cola. If you’ve had one of these potent cocktails, that may be the last thing you’ll remember for the night.

Although the origin of the drink is up for debate, New York bartender Robert “Rosebud” Butt claims he invented it in 1972 while working at the Oak Beach Inn on Jones Beach Island. 

Long Island is famous for such a wide variety of different things, which is what makes it so special. Did we leave off any key pieces of Long Island culture or history? Let us know in the comments.

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