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Westchester County is one of the centrally located counties within the New York metropolitan area.The county is positioned with New York City, plus Nassau and Suffolk counties (on Long Island, across Long Island Sound), to its south; Putnam County to its north; Fairfield County, Connecticut to its east; and Rockland County and Bergen County, New Jersey across the Hudson River to the west.
The first European explorers to visit the Westchester area were Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 and Henry Hudson in 1609.Dutch settlers began arriving in the 1620s, followed by settlers from England in the 1640s.Westchester County was one of the original twelve counties of the Province of New York, created by an act of the New York General Assembly in 1683.Municipal and County owned parks provide access to beaches, nature preserves and passive and active waterfront recreational facilities.Several large harbors lie along the shore including Milton Harbor in Rye, Mamaroneck Harbor, Larchmont Harbor, and Echo Bay, and the upper and lower harbors in southern New Rochelle. Army's Fort Slocum, is currently unoccupied but is slated for use as passive parkland; Glen Island, currently a Westchester Parks Department run beach and park, was one of the first amusement parks in the country serving as a summer resort at the turn of the twentieth century; Huckleberry Island is largely undeveloped, and has one of the largest rookeries in western Long Island Sound; Echo Island is owned and used by a private yacht club; Execution Rocks is the site of a 19th-century lighthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places; Columbia, Pea, and Goose Islands are undeveloped; Clifford, Harrison and Tank Islands are part of the "Five Islands Park" and nature preserve; while Oak and Pine Islands are used as private residences.
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At the time it included present-day Bronx County, and abutted then-Dutchess County to the north.