When urban dwellers want to immerse themselves in nature, they have various options. About a 1.5-hour drive from downtown Manhattan, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, New York offers a much-needed reprieve from daily stresses. Nature lovers, especially bird enthusiasts have over 9,000 acres of verdant green space to explore.
Upon arrival, guests drop by the Visitor Contact Station, a Gold LEED-certified building to pick up brochures and speak to the park rangers who lead tours along the trails. Don't forget to pick up the free walking permits if you want to embark on a nature hike.
Check out the exhibits and speak to park rangers at the Visitor Contact Station.
Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, the Wildlife Refuge includes Jamaica Bay, which is a 26-square-mile estuary. Its waters flow into New York Harbor, creating a nutrient-rich habitat wherein various fish species, horseshoe crabs and different types of turtles and other reptiles, plus amphibians live and frolic.
Considered a major bird sanctuary in the Northeast, birdwatchers will delight in the 300-plus species that fly over, nest and breed before migrating onward. Go on a self-guided or ranger-led walking tour along the hiking trails. Listen carefully, you may even hear field crickets, or spot flitting butterflies and small mammals as you explore the flora.
After spending a serene time exploring the great outdoors, you and your family will likely want to come back. Check the website for details on kayaking, sailing, cruises and other activities. When the urge to escape the city and bask in nature strikes again, you'll know that you can always go back to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.