Sailors Haven is home to one of the best known areas of Fire Island National Seashore–the Sunken Forest. In addition to a one and a half mile-long boardwalk trail through the Sunken Forest, Sailors Haven also offers a visitor center, snack bar, gift shop, picnic tables, a life guarded beach (summer only), a 42-slip marina with electricity, restrooms and a bathhouse.
Any trip to Fire Island should include a visit to the Sunken Forest. This unique resource is one of the last remaining maritime forests on the eastern seaboard. The forest is approximately forty acres and consists primarily of American holly, sassafras, and shadblow. Some of the older trees are estimated to be well over two hundred years old.
Contrary to what many visitors may believe, the forest is not actually below sea level. Because it has developed behind the line of secondary dunes, it appears to be “sunken” beneath the tops of the dunes.
The Sunken Forest Nature Trail is a 1.5 mile boardwalk which leads through several ecosystems besides the forest itself including salt marsh, the Great South Bay and the swale zone between the dunes. Ranger-led walks through the forest are held 5 days a week during the summer.
The Sunken Forest surprises many visitors, who don’t expect to find such a well-developed forest just a few hundred yards from Fire Island’s sandy beaches and pounding surf. On a hot summer day, the shady, cool forest is a welcome relief from the glaring sun and burning sand of the beach. Sitting on a bench on the forest’s nature trail and listening to bird song, the light rustle of wind through leaves and the distant sound of ocean waves is one of Fire Island’s premiere experiences.