Fire Island is a popular summer tourist destination attracting thousands of visitors each year.
Given that the island is 31 miles (51 km) in length and 0.5 miles (1 km) at its widest point, communities are spread out over a long stretch, so if accessible by car, it could make visiting different destinations on the island a straightforward task.
But is driving to the island possible?
You can drive to Fire Island during the peak season in June-September, crossing from the South Shore of Long Island via one of two connecting bridges.
There are two accessible parking lots at opposite ends of the island, but no paved roads in between for car access, so transport around the island is limited to water taxi rides, biking, or private boating.
How long does it take to drive to Fire Island?
New York City is the nearest large city to Fire Island. To drive from Manhattan, it takes between 1.5-2.5 hours to travel by car, depending on traffic and the time of day.
Additionally, if you plan to park your car and board a ferry to cross over from Long Island to Fire Island, then add roughly 30 minutes to this journey time.
Can you take a car ferry to Fire Island?
It’s not possible to take a car ferry to Fire Island. However, there are three ferry terminals connecting Long Island to Fire Island.
- Bay Shore
For each, there is parking nearby, and it’s available on a first-come basis, so you can pay to leave your car there before docking for the island.
Both one-way and round-trip ferry tickets are available.
Other travel methods
Below are travel methods for arriving close to Fire Island Ferries.
- There are train journeys from New York via Long Island Railroad (LIRR), ranging from 90 minutes to 2 hours, costing between $11-$20, and arriving at Bay Shore LIRR station, which is approximately 1 mile from Fire Island Ferries.
- There is a direct bus service from Midtown Manhattan to the Sayville Ferry Service.
- Taxi rides to the ferry terminals or onto the island are available, although this travel method is expensive compared to the other options.
Can you drive to Fire Island in the off-season?
It’s not possible to drive onto Fire Island during the off-season (October to April), and only a handful of federal permit holders are permitted to drive onto the island at this time.
Fire Island is a place that experiences hot, abundant summers and snowy winters, with landscapes often lightly covered in soft snow throughout this time.
In a sense, the island hibernates during the colder months, with local businesses shutting until late spring time.
Is there parking on Fire Island?
Paid parking access is limited to two parking lots positioned at opposite ends of the island.
You can either park at Robert Moses State Park by crossing the Robert Moses Causeway Bridge or park at Smith Point County Park via the William Floyd Parkway bridge.
Transport options on the Island
After parking your car, it’s possible to walk through various neighborhoods and on beaches to access some destinations (walking the entire beachfront takes over 6 hours)!
Other options to maneuver around the island include renting a bike to traverse the landscape, or for an easier option, there are frequent water taxis, with rides costing $8, that take you between communities.
Additionally, for a luxurious transport option, private boating is available, and you are able to dock at various bayfronts and marinas scattered throughout the island.
Can you drive off-road vehicles on Fire Island?
Driving off-road vehicles is possible on Fire Island’s South Shore Beach, which runs alongside the Atlantic Ocean.
However, driving is limited to specific times and areas of the beach, and only permitted as a means of transport to fish or hunt. Also, due to seasonal changes, driving closures on the beach may occur.
To be eligible to drive off-road vehicles, you’ll need a valid National Seashore Vehicle Permit.
Drivers can call The Wilderness Center at 631-281-3010 to discuss how to obtain the permit and for updates regarding off-road driving on the island.
Fire Island communities and travel options
There are seventeen thriving communities on the island, exuding unique personalities with different activities to enjoy.
Also, each of the 3 Long Island ferry terminals connects to different communities on Fire Island, with roughly a 30-minute travel journey.
Drivable with parking nearby
- Fire Island Lighthouse: an iconic landmark with amazing views of the island and ocean, museum, and gift shop.
Accessible by Bay Shore Ferry Terminal
- Kismet: welcoming, family-friendly, and many parties making it great for singles, happy hours, bar and grill
- Ocean Beach: an elementary school, public library, shopping, restaurants, bars
- Seaview: family fun featuring a playground, shallow pool, tennis + basketball court, and baseball field
- Saltaire: family-friendly, a Summer camp for kids, softball field, market, and library
- Point O’ Woods: the oldest and most private community, exclusive to members and their guests
- Fair Harbor: a town and stores, a restaurant and pizza shop, a kid-friendly beach, a garden shop
- Dunewood: a small-scale community, beach swimming, a yacht club, and children can practice sailing
- Ocean Bay Park: hotel, bars, restaurants, beaches
- Atlantique: serene setting, marina, playground, snack kiosk
Accessible by Sayville Ferry Terminal
- Fire Island Pines: welcoming, beautiful architecture, markets, boutiques, harbor, shops, restaurants
- Water Island: the narrowest section of the island, a quiet & private community
- Cherry Grove: accommodating, parties & happy hour, Miss Fire Island pageant contest, fun fun fun!
- Sailor’s Haven: home to the Sunken Forest, marina, and picnic area,
- Sunken Forest: located inside Sailor’s Haven, an ecological community with much wildlife
Accessible by Patchogue Ferry Terminal
- Watch Hill: a visitor center, campground, snack bar, nature trail
- Davis Park: canoe tours, marina, harbor store, market
Driving to Fire Island is an option during the high season of June-September. You can cross over from Long Island to Fire Island by two connecting bridges, and there are two paid parking areas available.
In contrast, during the off-season of October-April, driving your car onto the island isn’t permitted, although parts of the island are still accessible for those looking for serene, solitary getaways.
U.S. National Park Service (link)