Long Island in the summer lives up to the hype: It’s pure magic. 
But there’s another season that is oft overlooked, and it’s the perfect precursor to a legendary summer. In fact, it sets the stage with days that require little more than a light sweater, yet inspire zen-like tranquility.

Welcome to park bench season.

Park bench season in full swing
The season in full swing

These are the times when whiling away a few hours — or a day — on a park bench seems downright necessary. If not to pay homage to Mother Nature’s flowering earth, then to spend some time contemplating your own earthly existence. It’s a way to decompress and recharge at the same time.

Finding the perfect park bench in which to find yourself, well, that’s a highly personal matter. Some prefer solitude, sun in their faces and a gentle breeze off the Sound. For others, it’s all about the people watching and the unexpected delight of running into an old friend. Which, by the way, is also good for the soul.

Makawah Beach, the perfect place for contemplation
Makawah Beach, the perfect place for contemplation

Along the North Shore, there are plenty of park benches. Some things to consider, simply by way of comparison: Heckscher Park offers a lively mid-afternoon atmosphere, with gaggles of geese and small children noising it up at the adjacent playground. You’ll also find  — despite signs to the contrary — quite a few dog walkers performing their jobs with strolls around the lake. If you’re OK with this scene, there’s an added bonus of being within walking distance to good coffee. The park also has wifi, but don’t get lost online until you’ve found yourself.

Northport Park on a sunny day can be a mob scene, but a convivial one at that. On certain days, it seems there are more dogs than people. You’ve got plenty of choices here, too: sun or shade. Park or pier. There’s even plenty of places for you to grab takeout to bring with you, as many restaurants and delis dot the village right across from the park itself. If you’re in the mood for a cup of coffee, stop at Copenhagen Bakery — and score a Pecan Cloud cookie while you’re at it.

Makamah Beach offers seclusion, and plenty of sunshine. It’s perfect for deep thinking and pondering life’s imponderables. How did I get here? Where am I going? That sort of thing.

Just up the road, a long tree-lined street will take you to Callahan’s Beach, one of the prettiest spots on the North Shore. This spot is more scenic, as you’re up on a hill and have to descend quite a few stairs to get to the beach — but halfway down, is a bench that enjoys full shade in the later afternoon hours. There’s also a picnic area overlooking the water.

Park bench season begins immediately after the spring rains stop, and ends the day before beach season begins. That’s an important fact, because you can visit parks around the Island out of season, without a permit. In short: There’s no cover charge to find your soul.

Put your feet up at Callahan’s Beach for an afternoon, and be a new person by the time you leave.