Our family has been in love with the Holtsville Ecology Park for over twenty years. This hidden gem houses an astounding animal preserve along with many other amenities. Nestled in the Town of Brookhaven, this park is home to over 100 injured or non-releasable wild and farm animals. They have wild mustangs, American black bears, Nubian goats, American buffalo, peacocks, eagles, turkey vultures, and more! The most amazing part…it’s free!
Our absolute favorite part of this extensive park is the animal preserve. It’s best described as a small zoo. Through the years, we have seen a variety of beautiful animals that you would never have imagined to reside in a small town on Long Island. There have been some changes to the line up because no one can live forever, but the general theme in variety of animals has stayed throughout. Would you believe that you will see wild mustangs, a buffalo, bald eagles, and a binturong?! Of course, there are your traditional petting zoo favorites as well- goats, rabbits, llamas, and pigs. Each of our family members has a favorite, mine being the American Black Bears. Unfortunately, Pooh bear passed away last fall, but Honey is still there lounging in her pond and basking in the sun. Around the same time Pooh bear had to leave, a new resident came to stay, a wolf.
All of these animals were injured or rescued as people’s pets and therefore could not survive the wild. Victoria, one of the bald eagles, had been hit by a car on a highway in New Jersey which caused a head and wing injury. She can not fly properly and was brought to the sanctuary to live out her days in safe comfort. As you walk through the sanctuary, you will discover each animal’s story.
This animal sanctuary is not funded by the town. It is a non-profit organization that relies on donations for the support and care of the animals. There was an adorable news story of children selling lemonade to raise money for the bear’s veterinary care. Although they do not ask for an entry fee, there are donation boxes around the sanctuary for your contributions. I even saw an Eagle Scout project for one of the enclosures! It’s clear that the community cherishes these animals.
Don’t forget your quarters for the feed machine! For 25 cents you get a handful of feed that seems to never satisfy the voracious appetite of the goats. Plastic bags and cups are not permitted and neither is outside food. The animals are on a careful diet and the volunteers make better use of their time caring for the animals than cleaning up after the humans. They offer a wash station, but you might want to bring your own towel. You can also make use of some good hand sanitizer, especially if you want to treat yourselves to some ice cream at the dependable Mr. Softee truck
I’ve only mentioned a handful of the hundred animals at the park. It’s much better if you go and discover the rest on your own.
Directly next to the animal preserve is a playground and picnic area. This is a great spot for a picnic lunch and some outdoor energy release for the younger family members.
If your energy level needs a bigger release, there’s a 1.2 mile walk/jog trail on the other side of the preserve (real close). The trail is complete with exercise equipment to boost your workout. You’ll find pull up bars, incline bars, monkey bars, balance beams, and more.
This town park also features a terrific swimming area. The swimming is outdoors and open only during the summer, but they have three different pools- large 50 meter, shallow, regular- and diving. There is a fee to use the pools ranging form $3-$10 based on resident/non-resident and age. The pool is open seven days per week from 11:00am to 6:00pm from July 2nd to September 5th. (631-475-4507 call for up to date info)
This beautiful and educational park was built on a reclaimed landfill and it still promotes and teaches recycling. Residents can dispose of their recyclables (cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, aluminum) here and pick up free compost and wood chips from their recycled yard waste.
One of the features we have not explored as a family, but have always wanted to, is Safety Town. This replica of a miniature village is equipped with an indoor educational facility to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety. They take school groups, scout groups, individuals, and also offer additional programs. They use bicycles and miniature electric vehicles in their mini town. Check it out!
This wonderful park also has greenhouses and a small indoor educational facility. They offer educational tours and programs that everyone can enjoy.
Plan Your Visit
The park is family-friendly. The animal preserve is paved for easy stroller or wheel chair mobility. The exercise trail is natural, but accessible for today’s road style strollers.
The park itself is open 7 days a week during the summer free of charge. While admission is free, there is a $5 fee per car, per day to park at the center. This applies to both nonresidents and residents of the Town of Brookhaven. If you are a town resident, you can buy a yearly pass for $15 per car ($10 before May 26th). Seniors and handicapped $5, Disabled Veterans $5. And if you’re a senior, veteran or handicapped resident, the yearly pass is discounted to $7.
249 Buckley Road, Holtsville, N.Y. 11742 and our phone number is 631-758-9664.
Family Adventure Rating ♥♥
Cost- This is a super low cost adventure for any family. Donations are up to you, parking is low cost and per car load, and any additional amenities such as swimming or ice cream are nominal and entirely up to you.
Parking & Transportation- There is a charge for parking May through October when the park is fully accessible, but even then the cost is low. This park is easily accessible by car and is relatively close to the expressway if you’re traveling from further away. The LIRR can get you close at the Medford Station and then you can opt for a taxi or rider service. The town bus gets you close, but it doesn’t look like a direct stop from their website.
Location- This park is centrally located on Long Island so it’s not too far from anyone in Suffolk County. It’s a big enough park to enjoy a half or full day so it’s worth the journey.
Day Trip or Overnight- This is a definite day trip. However, if you’re out on the Island for a family weekend, you can combine this with some village tours, wine tasting, camping or more.
Experience- This is a terrific family adventure, especially if you are conservation minded. There are several petting zoo experiences in the area, however this one connects you on an educational level and not a touristy “feed a goat” kind of experience.
Combination- There are tons of things to do on Long Island! You can match this adventure with a nice dinner. There are lots of food options nearby.