While Long Island’s South Shore offers plenty of beaches and parks for human enjoyment year-round, very few are actually fun for Fido.

Luckily for those in the Greater Bay Shore area, one of Suffolk County’s most popular destinations for four-legged families is right in our back door.

Gardiner County Park off Montauk Highway in West BayShore boasts over 200 acres of nature trails for leisure and exploration.

The most popular trail is a sandy, half-mile path that heads due south, passes through a marsh and finishes at the Great South Bay

For locals in the know, this is one of the South Shore’s best kept secrets, as the tiny beachfront offers some of the most beautiful views of the Robert Moses Causeway bridges available from the mainland.

Those views are just part of the reward for making the surprisingly long trek. You also won’t see too many folks with coolers, towels or  sand chairs. Instead, most of the beach’s occupants are singles, couples or small groups of friends with dogs gleefully running in and out of the water.

“I’ve seen people post photos of the bridges on Facebook; I had no idea how people got down here,” said one park-goer, Jackie Hart of Islip, who took the walk last week.

She had visited for the first time with her miniature dachshunds, Pippin and Scooby.

Most people we found at the secret beach didn’t appear worried about drawing ire from code enforcement.

But take heed: dogs still need to be leashed.

Leashed dogs are also more than welcome at Gilbert Park in the Village of Brightwaters. The park is located at the southernmost end of South Windsor Avenue and Concourse East.

One of the great features of Gilbert Park, however, is that residents may bring their pooches to play off-leash every day from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.  The daily “yappy hour” runs year-round, but is most popular between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Reginald Ligonde of Brightwaters often brings his black lab, Abbey, who will occasionally wade into the bay to chase after a duck, but won’t go too far.

Ligonde is a member of the Village of Brightwaters Parks Committee and is one of a large group of volunteers that helps plan special events at Gilbert Park, such as the village’s annual snapper tournament held every August.

Even in the afternoons, he and his wife, Colleen, also enjoy coming to Gilbert Park with their children and Abbey to relax after a long day of work and school.


Featured photo: Jackie Hart walks to the bay at Gardiner County Park. (Mary Donnelly photos)

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Reginald Ligonde’s black lab, Abbey, bounds through the bay one early morning last week at Gilbert Park in Brightwaters. (Mary Donnelly photos)