Beach permits, the best bang for your buck!

Which parking permit is right for me?

Miles and miles of pristine shoreline featuring rocky beaches, soft sand, boulder fields, fishing jetties and beautiful sunsets await the intrepid traveler to the Long Island beaches. Sitting on any Long island beach or better yet, diving any of the beaches on Long island can be a rewarding experience. Sounds fantastic, right? But, where do you park?

There in lies one of the major hurdles to what keeps SCUBA DIVING or any other beach activity on Long island from being world class, in my opinion. There are so many different rules and town halls that are all competing with each other to see which can most complicate such a simple activity as parking.

There are laws on each Hawaiian Island that provide public access to beaches. Some of the laws require that public access ways be no greater than 1500 feet apart. Imagine that on Long Island! Home owners would be lining up in their Cul-de-sac en masses with pitch forks and rolled up Newsday papers!

Until the private home owners and private associations come together and voluntary give up their private beach access the rest of the population that doesn’t own beach front property are left to navigate the often times complicated and expensive task of obtaining town/village/county/state parking and beach permits.

Living in certain towns gives it’s residents almost unlimited access to the shore line and with it access to fantastic diving all year round. If you are one of those residents that live within a town that has access to tons of great diving spots, you are all set. No need to read further. Drive down to any beach within the town, hand over $20 – $60 to a bored college student and enjoy your diving.

For the other divers that may not be lucky enough to live in a town with cheap and abundant dive sites, we are “forced” to pay Non-resident rates for beach access during the Summer season. Typically this season runs from May until the end of August. Outside of this period most with the exception of a very few beaches are free and open to the public. Or in the very least no one is there to check permits anyway.

Even though it may seem unfair to have to pay a different rate to park in the same half empty lot as someone else, it’s our reality. In the process of completing our upcoming guide to diving on Long island, we compiled a list off all the non-resident parking/beach permits and ranked them as far as value. We have identified around 90-100 dive sites on the island ranging from clean sand beaches to inshore wrecks and as many accessible boulder and jetties as possible.

No one is expected to dive all 100 sites within the year and obtaining all the permits one would need to do so would cost in excess of $1000. Lots of diving can be done from a boat for that price.

What surprised me the most was to identify close to 25 dive sites that are actually FREE.  Not “kinda” legal or sneaking in or even bending or “interpreting” the rules… Really free. Either the parking is provided by an outside source like a historical society or by Suffolk county passive lands. Street parking accounts for about 15 of the sites too.

If you stick to those 25 sites all summer, you would actually have a really good time. As some of those sites are really the “Best of the island”. If you want to expand your dive repertoire a bit, it’s going to cost you some money. Not a crazy amount of money.  The most expensive beach on the island will cost $50 to park there, but only Monday thru Thursday. Fortunately, I would avoid diving at this beach all summer just due to the poor visibility that is pretty consistent during the summer season.

Fortunately, the average cost for a beach day pass is $20. For a single tank dive, I personally would not consider that a terrible price to pay for legal beach access and if you bring your family and a 2nd tank, you can really maximize your money!

Most towns offer Non-resident Seasonal passes. Some are far more valuable than others and a couple are out right ridiculous extortion fees to park at terrible dive sites. All of this information will be provided in our guide. Here is a quick overview of the most valuable Non-resident seasonal passes.

Best Value for the money and quality of the sites:

Southold Town Beach pass: $150 Gives you access to over 8 Southold town beaches and  all the beaches at the end of roads on the North shore. Diving in Southold is typically good all year long due to good visibility, sites are shallow (less than 20ft) and are suitable for most divers if not all. Lots of rocks, boulders and jetties keep the sites pretty interesting.

NYS Regional Dive Permit: $65. This Permit kinda gets a bad rap. There are officially 5 sites that this permit can be used at including the 4×4 access for Democrat point. Granted diving on the bay side of Jones beach isn’t very attractive, all the sites offer depths over 15 feet, ample parking and a variety of conditions and dives available on either coast.

Brookhaven Night Fishing Permit: $50 for 2 vehicles. This one is kinda iffy. Technically, you should be fishing as per the permit… But hunting for lobster counts as fishing right? And this isn’t a fishing permit per se, it’s a parking permit so you CAN go fishing at night at 4 separate beaches. For $50 that includes two separate vehicles!

Suffolk County Permits: This one is a little complicated…. Non-residents can obtain a NR Green Key for $200. By paying the $200 a NR can now get all the other Suffolk county permits at resident rates. So, let’s say you have a 4×4 vehicle and want to access all the Suffolk county parks and plan to dive every single day. By getting the Green key with 4×4 permit you would have unlimited access to over 8 dive sites all over Suffolk county.

You would get the Green Key card: $200. The Outer beach permit. $100 (resident rate) and the seasonal beach permit so you don’t have to pay the fee daily $75.

If you just wanted access to the 4 outer beach dive sites then the permit would be $250 for just that plus the daily Non-resident fee for getting into the beach.

Not a terrible deal but no where as good as the ones listed above…
Ponquogue Marine park permit. $90. Unlimited access to Ponquogue bridge between July 1st and Labor day. Access for only one site, albeit one of the best and most popular dive sites on the island.

South Hampton Town permit : $375 which gets you the Ponqugoue bridge permit and the Shinnecock parking permit. (This is definitely not worth it since you can park for free at Shinnecock West)

Brookhaven Town Permit: $250: This parking permit gets you access to 3 sites. One of the sites we have listed in our guide as “Best of the Island” but personally, I would take my chances on paying the daily fee to dive there.

Sea cliff Beach Club Membership : $ Pricing information not available yet. Daily fee $15. Paying to join the Sea Cliff beach club gets you access to 3 sites (on the same beach) during the summer season. Depending on where you live this membership may be worth it for easy access to descent dives. Parking is free along the road though. Membership is for walking into the beach. Visibility tends to be worse during the summer season here.

Glen Cove Yacht Club: $80 for a basic membership which includes parking. You can access 4 sites from the parking lot a the yacht club without having to worry about getting a ticket or worse towed. For the hassle of diving in Glen Cove this membership may be worth it to those divers that live in the area but not in Glen Cove proper.

And the least valuable beach permit is…

Riverhead Town permit: $300.  Only 2 sites and one of them needs 4×4 access which non-residents can’t get the permit for.

Personally, I avoid diving in the Western Long island sound during the summer due to decreased visibility. Convenience may be a better motivator then visibility though and your mileage may vary. Don’t forget that Good Life Divers offers guided diving to most of the 100 sites on Long Island. Join our Meetup group to be kept abreast of our upcoming guided dives and meetings.