Shore Diving Sites on Long Island

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Ponquogue Bridge easily takes the title of best shore dive on Long Island.  Located in the town of Hampton Bays the bridge crosses Shinnecock Bay just a few miles west of Shinnecock inlet.  The visibility tends to be good, beach access is easy, and the biodiversity is unmatched locally.  It is also known for its intense tidal currents.  Only dive this one at high slack tide.  There are actually two Ponquogue Bridges, a new road bridge, and an old draw bridge which has been cut in half to form two fishing piers. Most diving is done under the Old Bridge. A typical dive involves entering the water from the south side of the bridge and following the east side of the jetty bulkhead. Depth along the bulkhead starts ankle deep and gradually drops to about 8 ft right before the start of the Old Bridge.  Make sure you stay on the east side, the west side crosses a boat launch and channel and should be avoided.  There is no current in this section of the dive, and it’s a good spot to put on your fins and do a buoyancy check.   The next step involves timing.  The bridge is very close to Shinnecock inlet and very strong tidal currents pass through.  Diving under the bridge should only be attempted within a half hour before and after High Slack tide.  Any later or earlier and your dive will involve hugging a bridge piling or a ride out the inlet. Assuming you timed the dive correctly once you get to the end of the bulkhead you should be able to ride the tail end of the incoming tide under the bridge. 
 Once under the bridge you will see sets of four wooden pilings stretching north. Each set is spaced about 15 ft apart and there are rock piles protecting the outermost pilings on the east and west sides.  The rocks and the pilings provide a bit of structure and protection from the current.  It also provides habitat for a huge variety of marine life.  There are mussels beds, red beard sponges, northern star coral, and small anemones covering every hard surface.  You will see crabs scurrying everywhere. Fish life includes sea bass, cunner, black fish, sea robins, and fluke.  If you go slow and have a good eye it is also possible to spot sea horses, pipefish and eels. 
Once the tide begins to turn you should start to make your way back south until you get to the end of the old bridge, and that point you can follow the outgoing tide back to the shelter of the bulkhead. Boating is not allowed underneath the Old Ponquogue bridge or near the bulkhead and a dive flag is not required under the bridge, but there are boats in the surrounding area and care should be taken to stay in the dive area.  
As long as the dive is timed right Ponquogue is an incredibly rewarding dive.  Visibility tends to be better than average, typically 8-10 ft, but visibility of 20ft or more is not unheard of, even in the summer months.  Another interesting aspect to diving the bridge is that by July, once the water has warmed up to the high 60’s, the bridge becomes one of the best places in the north east to spot juvenile tropical fish.  These tropical strays are swept north by the gulf stream, and settle along the rocks and pilings of the bridge.  The number of tropicals and species to be found are highly variable year to year, but they can include butterfly fish, surgeonfish, angelfish,  damselfish, groupers, snappers, triggerfish,  puffers, and even the occasional lionfish.   These tropical fish can be found swimming under the bridge through the summer and fall up until water temperatures drop after which these summer visitors  will die off.  
The one downside to this site is the parking. Hamptons pricing applies. There is a very convenient parking lot at the south side of the bridge, but unfortunately this lot requires a Ponquogue Bridge Marine Park Parking Permit from the town of Southampton.  The Permit is $100 per year. Alternatively there is beach parking across the street for $25 a day,  

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. Note: Slack tide at the dive site is about 30 minutes after the published high tide for Ponquogue Point.

Beach 8th street in Far Rockaway has been one of the most popular dive spots in  the NYC area for decades. Typical depths range from 5-25 ft but can go down to 40+ in the channel.  Bottom composition is mostly sandy, with rocks from the jetties and the occasional park bench, tire or cinder blocks providing additional structure and habitat.  Visibility averages in the 4-10 ft range, but in the late fall and early spring it is possible to have more than 20 feet. These clear days are particularly rewarding as there are some very impressive encrusting sponges and northern corals growing on the rocks in the channel that make this spot look almost tropical (almost).  
Enter the water along the bulkhead on 8th street. The depth will quickly drop from about 5 ft to about 14 ft.  Following the rock piles south will gradually bring you into deeper water and eventually the boat channel. This is where you will find some very impressive sponge and coral covered boulders. It is also where you will have the strongest currents. The area to the west is mostly sand bottom, although there are several old cages and a park bench that can be used for navigation. Diving the site should be done at high slack tide to maximize your chances for good visibility and to avoid heavy currents, especially near the channel.  However the underwater jetties at 8th and 9th street provide a bit of protection from the worst of the current, and this is one of the more forgiving dive sites if you miss slack tide.  Once you feel the current start to pick up, simply swim north to get back to the beach.  
Unfortunately the biggest drawback to this site is the parking situation. While there is some street parking available near 8th and 9th Streets, these spots fill up quickly, especially in the summer when divers and fishermen flock to the site. 
If you are willing to put up with the traffic and the parking you will find that this site is a fantastic spot for marine life.  This site is a great place to find Blackfish, black sea bass, fluke, oyster toadfish, blennies, and even Lobsters.  Due to the proximity of the inlet you really never know what the currents are going to sweep in including tropical fish, skates and dogfish, on rare occasions Octopus have been spotted here as well.   
Lastly it's crucial to be aware that there are many fishermen and boaters in the area. Make sure to bring a dive flag and a dive knife with you. Unfortunately, there is a lot of monofilament here, and it's easy to get snagged if you're not careful.   

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This website is meant to help divers who are new to diving in the New York City area to become familiar with the specific practices, culture, gear and conditions commonly encountered here. It is NOT meant to be a substitute for formal training and certification with an appropriate instructor and agency. Every diver is responsible for their own equipment, dive planning and safety.