Long Island stretches eastward for 115 miles, from the New York boroughs of Brooklynand Queens to the windswept bluffs and rollers of Montauk Point.
In many ways, Long Island isthe story of America.
It’s a story of Native Americans, some of whom welcomed Europeans settlers ashorein 1637, and of those who resisted.
It’s a story of pirate treasureand hardy whalers, of Revolutionary War and the beginnings ofa nation.
It’s a story of some ofthe world’s greatest industrialists, artists and adventurers.
And binding these epic stories together ismile upon mile of some of the nation’s best beaches, and the warm summer rays of sunshine.
Take the short train ride from Manhattan, take off your shoes, and step onto the sandsof Long Beach.
For many, Long Beach’s iconic 2-mile boardwalk and endless rows of volleyball nets is whereLong Island all begins.
From here, Long Island’s protectivebarrier islands continue in an almost unbroken chain all the way toWesthampton Island.
Halfway along the chain, experience the wild, windswept beauty of Fire Island National Seashore.
Take the short hike from Robert Moses State Parkto the Fire Island Lighthouse, which for generations of immigrants sailingto New York, was their very first glimpse of America.
Many of those immigrants and their descendantswent on to create industrial and financial empireslike the world had never seen.
And it was on the island’s Northern Shoreswhere they poured their vast fortunes into mansions and summer retreats that rivalledthe great estates of Europe.
In 1902, Financier Howard Gould built a medievalcastle at Sands Point to impress his wife.
She wasn’t, so a more intimate, tudor-style mansion wasquickly built.
Unfortunately that didn’t do the trick eitherand the couple soon parted ways.
Not to be outdone, in 1921 the insurance magnate, William Robertson Coe built his own Tudor-style manor at PlantingFields in nearby Oyster Bay.
Coe spared no expense on the 65-room manor, even importing the windows fromthe ancestral home of Anne Boleyn.
During the Prohibition Era, Coe stocked his basement with almosthalf a million dollars worth of liquor, ensuring the good times would never end.
It was homes and lifestyles like these, that inspired the settings and characters for F.
Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby.
While some of these great mansions have beenpreserved as snapshots from a gilded age, others have been repurposed.
The Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium is centredaround the family’s stunning Spanish Revival mansion.
While the Nassau County Museum of Art has taken up residence in the Georgian mansion that was once home to membersof the Frick dynasty.
But it wasn’t just tycoons who were drawnto Long Island’s Gold Coast.
Sagamore Hill was the much-loved home of oneof America’s most popular presidents.
Theodore Roosevelt lived herefrom 1885 until his death in 1919, filling his home with trophies from his expeditionsto Africa and South America.
The house today is much as it was during Roosevelt’s lifetime, right down to his famous Roughriders hat whichhangs from an elk antler as if it was tossed there only yesterday.
At the Cradle of Aviation Museumin nearby Hempstead, discover how Long Island launched generationsof aviators into the wild blue yonder, and the stars.
From the first barnstormers to the record-breakingflights of Charles Lindbergh, from the aerial dog fights of World War Twoto those first steps upon the moon, for over a century, Long Island was at the centerof America’s aviation and space adventures.
Nearby, continue your flightinto aviation’s past, at the historic hangers of the formerRepublic Aviation Company.
Here at the American Airpower Museum, war birds from the island’s golden yearsof aviation are lovingly preserved by many of Republic’s former staff.
Once you’ve explored the treasures ofLong Island’s Gold Coast, head further west to discover the riches ofSuffolk County.
In the mid 1800s, well-to-do New Yorkers weredrawn to the natural beauty, unspoiled beaches and restorative air ofLong Island’s East End.
The pioneer settlement of Southampton Villagesoon became a summer retreat.
Today it’s a place where history and affluence have blended as smoothly as the spiritsin a Long Island Iced Tea.
Give your credit card a work outin the exclusive boutiques, galleries and restaurants of Main Street andJobs Lane.
And if shopping’s not your thing, you’ll find plenty of history to keep youoccupied here too.
Take a walk through Southampton’s early timesat the Historical Museum, whose centrepiece is the home of a 19th centurywhaling captain and his family.
All around the home are smaller structures, which give a window into Long Island lifelong before the paparazzi came to town.
Today Southampton Village is the heart ofThe Hamptons, the home of some of the USA’s most expensivereal estate.
It’s a place where today’s movers andshakers come to escape behind the 20ft-high hedgerowsof their summer homes.
The real estate here might be out of reachfor most folks, but thankfully the sun and sand ofCooper Beach is free for all to enjoy.
It’s not just vacationers who adore themild maritime climate of Suffolk County, the grapes like it here too.
Over the last fifty years the potato fieldsof old have been replaced by vineyards.
One of the largest is the Wölffer Estate, a little slice of Tuscany where 50 acres ofvines thrive in the South Fork loam.
Just up the road atthe Channing Daughters' Estate, the grapes are still picked by handand crushed by foot.
Here creativity is expressed not just inthe daring varietals and blends, but also in the many sculptures, which dotthe estate.
Artists, visionaries and dreamers have longbeen inspired by the “Hampton Light”.
Spend an inspirational hour or two at theParrish Art Museum, which celebrates the artists who lived andworked in the East End, such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein andChuck Close.
Just a short drive away atthe Long House Reserve, the sculptural works of Buckminster Fuller, Yoko Ono and William de Kooning sit in perfect harmony with nature.
But for modern art lovers, there is no more hallowed a destination thanthe former home of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner.
It was here, on the outskirts of East Hampton where one of the 20th Century’s most importantartistic couples lived and painted.
Step into the barn and walk upon the paintsplattered floor where Pollock threw himself body and soul, into his visionary masterpieces which shookthe art world forever.
Another East Hampton house worth visitingis the Home Sweet Home Museum, where the simple pleasures and practicalitiesof English settlers in the 1700s come vividly back to life.
The past has also been beautifully preservedin the nearby town of Sag Harbor, an historic whaling port immortalised in Moby Dick.
Behind the Old Whalers’ Church, pay yourrespects at the Old Burying Grounds, where American raiders defeated the Englishredcoats in the battle of Sag Harbour in 1777.
Just a 30 minute drive east from Sag Harbouris Montauk, a place that the laid-back locals refer toas “The End”.
Once the stomping ground of pirate Captain Kidd, today it’s the perfect place to catch a waveor fish, or to hike the coastal trails ofShadmoor State Park.
Fifteen years after the battle of Sag Harbour, America’s first president, George Washington, commissioned Montauk Lighthouseon Long Island’s easternmost point.
Climb the iron steps to the top to take inthe views.
But before you descend, close your eyes fora few moments and feel the wind turn the pages of this incredible island, a place that has played centre stage insome of America’s greatest stories.
A place that continues to attract dreamers, visionaries and those who appreciatethe finer things in life.
A place that continues to send its inspirationaland reassuring light out into the world.