Barrier Beaches Community Profile


The barrier island communities include part of Captree Island, Oak Island, Oak Beach, Gilgo Beach and West Gilgo Beach. The barrier beaches have been essential to the growth of the Town of Babylon, both as a vacation destination and as watch stations for the United States Life Saving Service (the forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard). Additionally, the islands were essential for U-Boat surveillance during World War II. 

The Oak Beach Life Saving Station #26 was one of the first structures built on the barrier beaches. It is the only surviving station of its kind on Long Island and is currently being used as a community center.

Henry Livingston, editor of the South Side Signal newspaper, became the pioneer summer resident of Oak Beach when he built the first permanent dwelling there in 1879, a cottage he named the "Little Rest." Today, more than 450 families live in the barrier island communities.

Historical Summary:

The first permanent structures built on the barrier beaches were the U.S. Life-Saving Service stations at Oak Beach and Gilgo Beach, in 1872. The Coast Guard took over the Life-Saving Service in 1915, and the Oak Beach station was active through World War II.

U.S. Life-Saving Station at Oak Beach, circa 1910.

Henry Livingston, editor of the South Side Signal newspaper, built the first beach cottage on Oak Island in 1879, named “Little Rest.” 

Prior to the construction of bridges across the Great South Bay, ferry boats transported visitors to the oceanfront beaches and hotels. Sidney Van Nostrand’s Pavilion at Oak Beach and the Wa Wa Yanda clubhouse on Captree Island were premier destinations for summer travelers from New York City in the early 1900s. The Oak Beach Inn, built in 1935, replaced the Oak Beach Pavilion as a popular social spot.

Oak Beach Inn, circa 1935

The West Gilgo Beach community was formed when residents of High Hill, a Nassau County beach community, were forced to relocate for the 1940s expansion of Ocean Parkway. More than 60 of 80 High Hill cottages were moved to West Gilgo Beach, within the Town of Babylon.

High Hill, circa 1915

Expansion of Ocean Parkway also led to the 1930 elimination of Muncie Island, named for the family who owned the island for more than 100 years.