April may not seem like the perfect time for an island getaway, but you’ll find the timing just right for a trip to Fire Island. Any seasoned vacationer will tell you that off-season trips can provide unique and treasured experiences. And at Fire Island, that’s no different. You’ll find plenty of things to do and along the way, you will learn that Fire Island isn’t a vacation spot defined by the season. But what are some of the things you can do here during the off-season? Well, just take a moment and allow us to show you…
Get To Know Some Of Our Prized Residents
Animal lovers rejoice! The deer on Fire Island are exceptionally tame and getting a closer look at these graceful beauties may be a small moment but it’s one you’ll likely remember for years to come.
Fire Island is like a little slice of heaven and even more so during the off season due to the added tranquility. There are no cars allowed on the island which means you can enjoy leisurely strolls and bike rides throughout the picturesque landscape. But you’ll only have to take it easy here if you want to because you can always…
Beat The Crowds
The busiest time on Fire Island is during the summer months where events like the Fire Island Dance Festival and Pines Party takes place. These events attract thousands to the island each year and while we wholeheartedly recommend visiting during those times, we understand that crowds aren’t for everyone. Coming during the off season means less hustle, less bustle and more time to have your vacation your way.
Cherry Grove, which was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 2015, was one of the first places in the country where it was safe to be openly gay. Now it, along with The Pines, has helped turn Fire Island into one of the premier LGBT vacation spots in the world. Throughout Fire Island, you’ll find gay-owned and operated restaurants, bars and hotels. And more importantly, you’ll find a spirit of acceptance and freedom that pervades the entire island.
Take In The Scenery
No matter what time of year it is you can be sure of one thing–Fire Island is beautiful. With some of the best beaches in the northeast and gorgeous oceanside vistas, you’ll never lose sight of the fact you’re on an island paradise.
But with these amazing views, how could you? Ready to plan your trip? We can help.
Although Fire Island might be known for its rowdy and unique nightlife, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t a family-friendly island. With over 32 miles of gorgeous white sand beaches, very few cars, friendly locals, a national forest, and stunning sunsets, Fire Island has all the makings for a fantastic family getaway from the hustle of the city.
So, are you ready to spend the day, or the weekend, on Fire Island? Below, we have compiled a list of must-see landmarks, activities, and beaches on Fire Island.
Before You Go
Fire Island is not the lap of convenience that New York or other large cities are, so be sure to plan accordingly. For instance, there are several ferry companies that travel to and from the island with their own rules and schedules. Be sure to check the schedules ahead of time as well as what they will and will not allow on the ferries. You can find a list of their schedules here.
We also suggest bringing plenty of cash with you when heading to Fire Island, especially if you plan to visit the wilderness or lounging on the beach. There are many snack bars and other shack facilities meant to make your stay more pleasurable, but ATM’s are few and far between.
One of the greatest perks to Fire Island is the miles of serene, white sand beaches, which are a welcomed change from the concrete jungle. Some beaches on Fire Island are more geared towards young singles, such as Cherry Grove and The Pines, however, there are plenty of other beaches on the Island that are family friendly.
Visitor Center: 631-597-6455
Watch Hill is the largest developed site run by the National Seashore. It lies about a half of a mile to the east of Davis Park. It boasts a marina with 188 slips, most with electric and water, and a pump out station.
There is also a visitor’s center, lifeguarded beach with cold showers and bathrooms, a grocery store, a souvenir shop, a snack bar, and a full-service restaurant at Watch Hill. There are picnic areas and grills on site, as well as phones and first aid. If you are looking for a beach day without giving up amenities or convenience, then Watch Hill is the perfect place for your family.
Visitors Center: 631-597-6183, 631-597-6171
Located farther south on the Island you will find a similar beach area called Sailor’s Haven. Much like Watch Hill, Sailor’s Haven provides a visitor’s center, picnic areas, a shop, a snack bar, bathrooms and showers, and barbeque pits located conveniently near the dock.
From the visitor’s center, follow the boardwalk to the lifeguarded beach which is perfect for beachcombing and swimming.
Before you pack the cooler for your beach day, remember that no glass is allowed on the beach, and dogs are also prohibited.
Robert Moses State Park
The Robert Moses State Park offers nearly five miles of white sand beaches that are ideal for surfing and swimming as well as a pier where fishing is permitted. The Park offers four different lifeguarded beach areas as well as picnic areas, showers, and a small golf course.
If you’d rather not lug your beach chairs all the way to the island, Robert Moses offers chairs and umbrellas for a rental fee of $10. This is also one of the few places on the island to which you can drive your vehicle, and parking is $10 per car.
Smith Point County Park
Visitors Center: 631-852-1313
Also accessible by car, Smith Point County Park offers lifeguarded beaches that include restrooms, showers, a playground for younger children, a camp ground, and a Beach Hut restaurant that serves delicious seafood and often some live music. While you’re at Smith Point, take time to visit the TWA Flight 800 International Memorial and Gardens.
If you are looking for a little more adventure while visiting these beaches, why not do some beachcombing? Searching for hidden treasures on the beach never stops being fun. On Fire Island, you can explore all of its incredible beaches year-round for shells, marine plants, and more exotic finds. Be careful not to disturb any shells that might still have living inhabitants. Fire Island was once used as a secret hideaway for pirate’s treasure, so who knows what you’ll find!
Any shells or interesting finds you make are for personal use only. Some beaches limit how many shells you are allowed to collect, so be sure to check with the visitor’s center of each location before visiting.
In Ocean Beach west of the jetties, on any given summer day, surfers can now be spotted “Hangin’ 10” or at least trying. Surfing is welcome at many locations on Fire Island, but not all. So, be sure to check ahead of time in the location you are visiting.
Local kids offer lessons for visitors, so check postings in the towns you are visiting if you are interested in getting a crash course in surfing from a Fire Island native.
Is the sand not your thing? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of other opportunities for adventure and fun on Fire Island!
During any time of the year, visitors to the island can partake in ranger-led programs to help you learn more about the island and the National Seashore. Tours focus primarily on the natural and cultural features available at each of the visitor centers scattered over the island. Most of the programs are free to enjoy; however, some of the special events can have a minimal fee attached. Be sure to visit the National Seashore website to receive the most recent news about upcoming tours and events.
Here are just a few of our favorite ranger-led programs:
Exploring the Salt Marsh: A Guided Canoe Tour
Thursday-Sunday 11:15 am
Enjoy the enchanting beauty of the salt marshes on a two-hour guided canoe tour! Reservations are on a first come, first serve basis. Although paddles and life jackets are provided, no one under the age of six or unable to swim is permitted on the tour.
Want to go? Reservations start at 10 am at the nearby visitor’s center.
Otis Pike Fire Island High Dunes Wilderness
NPS – Wilderness Visitors Center: 631-281-3010
The wilderness extends from the Smith Point Wilderness Visitor Center to Watch Hill. At about 1,380 acres and seven miles long, it is the smallest wilderness area managed by the National Park Service. Here, you will find a summer aquarium, a touch table, a seashore orientation film, and several ranger-led tours with fun activities for children, such as their Crafts Program, Seaside Stories and much more fun for the entire family.
The Fire Island Lighthouse
Main office: 631-321-7028
Adults $7; Seniors, Military, and Children under 12 $4
One of the tallest lighthouses in the country, The Fire Island lighthouse is a staple site for Fire Island. It provides a stunning view of the island in all directions. Tours are available until 5:30 daily; however, children must be 42 inches tall to climb the stairs.
The easiest access point to the lighthouse is Parking Lot 5 at Robert Moses State Park, which is just a short walk away!
The Sunken Forest at Sailors’ Haven
Tours: 11 am daily; 2:30 pm Saturdays and Sundays
The Sunken Forest is a beautiful, rare 40-acre maritime forest, one of only a few left in the world. It gets its name from the tall dunes surrounding nearly all sides, giving the center a sunken appearance.
The trees here are really a sight to see, each one twisting in intricate, fascinating designs, and none growing taller than the dunes which protect the trees. It takes approximately an hour to stroll along the boardwalks and paths that are maintained through the forest.
Boating and Fishing
Prefer more water driven activities? Fire Island includes fantastic boating and fishing opportunities around the island. For the avid boater or fisherman, here are the must-try spots on Fire Island.
Fire Island Is a Boater’s Paradise
Fire Island satisfies all your boating needs—it has everything from motorboats to jet skis. There are marinas in Watch Hill and Sailor’s Haven where you can dock your boat overnight. It should be noted, however, that there is a 14-day limit for docking your boat overnight. For smaller boats and personal watercrafts, most boaters use Barret Beach to dock and unload. Jet skis are restricted to the island boundaries and are prohibited near the shoreline.
With the sea so accessible, other marine activities are equally as popular. Sailing has a rich heritage on the bay. In fact, several of the most famous racing skippers of the America’s Cup hail from these parts. Today, the racing is less formal with small local clubs fielding teams of dingy racers on Sunfish and Lasers. Saltaire, Dunewood, and Point O’ Woods have organized sailing programs that participate along with mainland clubs in races all summer long.
For sailing and motorboat enthusiasts, use the south shore waterways to get to Fire Island. Use the NOAA Survey Chart No. 1215 and directions found on the navigation page as your guide.
The Yacht Club
The Yacht Club takes its sailing seriously and competes in regattas all over Long Island; an ancient rivalry exists between Point O’ Woods and Saltaire with the so-called “rudder race.” The winning trophy—a rudder engraved with the winner’s name—has been handed back and forth for years (and occasionally, albeit temporarily, surreptitiously removed by the loser from the winner’s club after hours).
Another popular activity on Fire Island is surf-fishing. Year-round, locals and visitors to the island take advantage of the many fishing opportunities on the island. As of late, a no-fee New York recreational fishing registry is now required in order to fish on the island. However, size and possession limitations are enforced and commercial fishing remains prohibited. Additionally, horseshoe crabs are not allowed to be harvested within the Fire Island boundaries.
A certain amount of local knowledge obviously helps anglers succeed. You often see locals fishing the same areas again and again. It is a good idea to try and glean some of this wisdom from the locals although it is often difficult as good fishermen usually keep their secrets dear. Your best bet is to buy the local newspaper, the Fire Island News, or visit websites that cater to fishing the local waters.
The Great South Bay
The Great South Bay offers much of the same exciting fishing as the Atlantic. There are several artificial reefs in the areas around the lighthouse as well as a deep-hole list west of the pier. Flounder in the spring, weakfish and fluke in summer, and blackfish and sea bass in the fall are frequently caught here.
Deep Sea Fishing
Deep sea fishing far out in the Atlantic is prevalent as well. One can often hear the deep sea vessels roaring towards the inlet before dawn, racing as much as 100 miles offshore to the Hudson Canyon. These expensive sportfishing machines sally forth all season in search of tuna, shark, marlin, and swordfish.
Anyone interested in trying their hand at hunting these giants of the deep should seek out the many charter vessels that homeport on Captree Island and the mainland. Once the long trip to the hunting grounds is made, many of the larger vessels stay out two or three days searching for their prey.
The Bay is known nationally for the quality and number of its many types of shellfish. Many Fire Islanders have made claiming for quahogs (the most popular edible bivalve) a weekend habit, both for the therapeutic effect after a hectic work week and for the tasty appetizers.
The only tools one needs are an onion sack and your feet which are used to find and dislodge the clams on the bay bottom by using a twisting motion with your feet. Some clammers use long-handled rakes to dig them up as well. There are also mussels, scallops, conch, and blue claw crabs at hand. A shellfish permit is required from the Town of Islip and is available at Islip Town Hall.
Striped bass is perhaps the most sought-after fish in the area. It is the combination of a terrific fight and delectable meat that keeps this migratory ocean denizen in such high demand. They move east along our shores in the spring and to fertile waters off of Rhode Island in the summer.
Each year the anglers eagerly await their return. The stripers reverse migrate in the fall, after feeding all summer, to winter waters off the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina. The fall migration brings the greater number of large fish, and you can often see the lights of anglers, on both the bay and ocean, all through the night during the months of September.
Be Prepared and Courteous
Each species of fish has its prime season with quantity and size limits set by local wildlife agencies. While nature’s bounty may seem limitless when you come across a large bed of clams or the bluefish that are feeding inshore—these laws are in effect to battle pressure put on marine life by man and to ensure that future generations benefit from the same bounty that we have enjoyed.
Be sure to check beforehand what aquatic life is permitted to be collected in the area you are visiting and what the quantity limit is.
Tent camping is a popular family activity available year-round on the island. The National Seashore has a designated campground at Watch Hill although it will remain closed until 2018. Backcountry camping is also available within the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness.
With so much to do on Fire Island, you’ll be hard-pressed to run out of activities to entertain your family. From sunbathing and surfing to exploring the wilderness, Fire Island is packed with amazing landmarks, adventures, and perfectly peaceful spots for relaxation.
Fellas–here’s how to have the best night ever on Fire Island
“For just a split second, you forget who you are and you’re just the same as everybody else. And you’re as proud as you ever were.”
Although Fire Island provides some amazing scenery, wildlife, and nature exploring opportunities during the day, it also has a world-renowned night life! From casual bars to high-end restaurants, to one of the most popular gay-friendly meccas on the east coast, Fire Island is perfect for those craving a taste of crazy.
Fire Island is often associated internationally as being America’s gay Disneyland. For more than a century, gay men and women and their hordes of fabulous admirers have flocked to the Fire Island Pines and its equally as-gay neighbor, Cherry Grove, in a seasonal pilgrimage from the mainland that would surely leave Micky and his friends green with envy. The miles of pristine beaches, over-the-top circuit parties, campy cottages, and a plethora of community fundraisers and events are just a smattering of things that keep these two communities on the world map. But more importantly, “The Pines” and “The Grove” have come to define American Gay culture while laying the foundation for the modern gay-rights movement.
Ready for a world of drag queens, drinks, hot hook ups, and acceptance? We’ve put together a guide on how to have the best night of your life on Fire Island! And don’t worry, this guide is gay exclusive. All of the communities listed here are accepting all varying backgrounds and lifestyles, as long as you’re willing to have a good time!
To get straight to the action, we suggest taking the Sayville Ferry right to the Fire Island Pines. Depending on what time you arrive at The Pines, you’ll be able to enjoy some of their fantastic day-drinking spots before dinner. You can find the full Ferry Schedule here.
We start our adventure at The Pines, the most gay-centric area of the island. The Harbor walk stretches around the area considered The Pines, however, it is probably more appropriate to call this area The Catwalk. Here, you will see many gay males strutting their stuff up and down the shore line, showing off their physics or looking for a friendly encounter. Close by are stands offering a limited selection of treats and libations that will help keep you hydrated and tipsy while soaking up some sun and enjoying the Speedo-wearing scenery.
The Pines affectionately (or mockingly) has acclaimed that Chelsea on the Bay has certainly come a long way since the Home Guardian Company (HGC) came to be in 1925 and began to develop the community as the next hot resort on the East Coast. It was the 1950s, era of Eisenhower and McCarthy, and homophobia was an ever-present problem that forced gays to suffer silently in the closet.
But a handful of people, such as John Whyte, a former model turned businessman who bought business around the Pines harbor, sought to create an exclusive paradise where gay men and women could come and love themselves–and each other. Soon Whyte, Rock Hudson, Cliff Montgomery, and other Hollywood and Manhattan A-Listers of the day found refuge in the isolation and unique natural beauty of the Pines. The community developed a reputation as one of the few places in the country where gay men could escape over-zealous law enforcement officials and the prying eyes of the general public.
Although The Pines has become famous for their various events, the one most worth mentioning is the yearly July 4th Invasion of the Pines. Started in 1976 when a drag queen was denied entrance into a bar, resulting in “her” friends overwhelming the area in drag, The Invasion of The Pines has become a yearly mega event in which goers celebrate freedom of expression and individuality.
The Blue Whale
If beach lounging is a little too sandy for your tastes, we suggest you do your day drinking at The Blue Whale. The Blue Whale holds a Low Tea each afternoon from 4-8 where you can enjoy the sun and patio, expert cocktails, and an indoor dance floor. Low Tea at The Blue Whale, which happens daily between 4-8 pm, is the perfect location to catch some sun and have some fun before gearing up for your night out. What’s even better? The Blue Whale also offers weekday Yacht Club dining, weekend brunches featuring blues music, and a late-night piano bar on the weekends from 10 pm to 2 am. You can find a list of all their events here.
After spending some time in the sun, you’ll need to fuel up for your night out. After all, what’s a wild night out without a good dinner first? Our recommendation is The Pines Bistro and Martini Bar which is only a few blocks away!
The Pines Bistro and Martini Bar
You certainly don’t want to pass up the Pines Bistro if you are looking for a great way to start your night. Known for its intimate style of dining, the Pines Bistro is the premier Italian restaurant on Fire Island. It may not be the easiest to locate at first, but the reviews speak for themselves. The food and service are fantastic—their call to fame is their martinis. This is the ideal spot to start your night. You can have an excellent dinner while enjoying some of their famous cocktails before heading to your next spot!
After finishing off your dinner and pre-game drinks, your next stop is only a few doors down!
Sip N’ Twirl
All the way through Fire Island’s summer season, Sip·N’·Twirl is the Pines’ most popular nightly lounge and club. Sip·N’·Twirl includes a full-service bar for chatting and socializing, the TWIRLdeck, which is perfect for dancing and casual conversations, and has a giant dance floor with state-of-the-art video and sound system. The music features Fire Island favorites as well as new, up-and-coming DJs, allowing for a variety of tastes and sounds including the latest club sounds from around the world!
After the terrible incident that happened at the Pines, this location was able to be reconstructed within 7 months which ensured that the spirit and vitality of the community stayed alive. Check out all of their events here.
If you’re looking for a little more excitement or a change of scenery, we suggest venturing down the trail between The Pines and Cherry Grove.
Often referred to as “The Grove,” Cherry Grove is one of the most famous LGBT communities in the United States. Since 2015, Cherry Grove has been designated as a National Historic Landmark on Fire Island. The Grove is currently a popular summer home location for entertainers and celebrities from all over the world including Wanda Sykes, Victoria James, Hedda Lettuce, Michael Musto, and more.
While Cherry Grove is an exciting destination, the journey there is just as much fun. The stretch of trail between the two meccas is officially called The Judy Garland Memorial Path; however, it is commonly referred to as The Meat Rack. Here, all sorts of casual and interesting encounters accrue, and they are sure to add some tantalizing spice to your night. Take Fire Island Blvd. southbound to reach this path.
The Ice Palace
Previously the site of Duffy’s Hotel which burned down in 1956, The Ice Palace proudly stands in its place. It offers drag shows and other variety acts throughout each day; every visit to the Ice Palace is a new experience. It features a large outdoor deck, swimming pool, pool tables, and a large dance floor. Regulars to The Ice Palace claim that they by far have the hottest bartenders and dancers. Check out all their events here.
Your next location is Cherry’s, visible from the top deck of The Ice Palace. Cherry’s Bar and Cherry Lane Cafe & Restaurant offer reasonably priced cocktails as well as weekly drag shows, theme parties, contests, special guest DJs, and drink specials. They famously serve a Bloody Mary that is spicy enough to get you sweating. What’s even better? There is no cover on Friday’s before 11 pm. Check out more of their events here.
The Morning After
As many wild nights go, it’s hard to know where you’ll end up falling asleep. The Grove has many great summer houses and little houses. Many of these are available to rent and are often done so by those looking to have a good time in the area, so if you do end up going home with someone, you will probably end up in one of these bohemian style summer houses down some wooden walkway, flanked by bamboo trees.
After sobering yourself up, there are plenty of activities and events you can take part in before leaving the island. Boating, fishing, shopping, hiking, and biking are just a few of the daytime activities that Fire Island has to offer. To learn more about them, click here.
During the summer months, you will find good times are in excess on Fire Island. From boogie boarding and surfing to shopping in ocean beach, and great seafood at Ocean Beach and the surrounding town’s restaurants, you’ll be hard pressed to run out of things to do.
However, if you’re looking for more of an adventure than a stroll through one of the towns provides, Fire Island offers some excellent opportunities for bike riding throughout the Island.
Even if you’re just looking for a leisurely adventure, the weekend is a great time to take out the beach cruiser and hop on some of the famed concrete and wood paved walks that bring you close to blueberry bushes and local greenery between the great South Bay and the ocean worth of many small alcoves. Some paths provide twists and turns, will others are smooth and straight, so you can pick which one is best for the kind of ride you’re looking for.
Here are our tips for getting the best out of your Fire Island biking experience.
Many of the passenger ferries prohibit bringing bikes on board. If you’re bringing your own, check the freight ferry schedules for passage. Please note, most of the freight ferries charge a fee for bringing your bike along with you. We also suggest you equip your bike with fat tires or tires meant for the sandy terrain. Otherwise, your bike ride will consist of a lot of walking.
It is also important to keep in mind that not all towns allow bikes riding within the town limits, as Fire Island is mostly pedestrian foot traffic. Be sure to check in with each town you enter or enter the island nearest to the bike trail you are headed for.
If you aren’t bringing your own bike, there are several locations near the trails where bikes are available for rent.
Our first recommended trail passes the 1858 Fire Island Lighthouse, which looks out over the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Start at the Robert Moses Park Field 5 lot. If you don’t have tires equip for sand, ride north towards the main road and then east towards the Fire Island Light House.
If you have a bike that can handle loose sand, head south towards the beach. From here, you can ride along the beach the whole way. Be sure to avoid riding over the wooden boardwalks around the lighthouse, as they are for pedestrians only.
If you are looking for an easier ride, start near the town of Kismet. After this point on the island, the main road, which allows for bikes, is a much easier ride. This path will take you all the way to Fair Harbor, and you won’t have to worry about trekking through loose sand.
After you reach Fair Harbor, you’ll encounter another half mile of loose sand that leads to Ocean Beach.
The sunken forest is also a wonderfully scenic ride, located between Point o’ Woods and Sailors Haven. Much like the beach riding, though, be prepared with tires that can handle loose sand and off-road environments.
The best part of riding your bike on Fire Island is you can’t possibly get lost! The island is a slim strip of land with only 2 real directions to go. If the paths become impassable using a bike, you’re going the wrong way. Happy riding!
Whether it’s escaping your hectic work or home life, or just seeking a new destination to check out, Fire Island is the perfect place to visit, relax, enjoy activities, and see the natural and man-made sights. The laid-back beach environment will send a soothing wave of calmness over your body as soon as you step off the ferry.
But maybe you don’t have time to spend more than a day here. No problem! Day trips to Fire Island from NYC or northern New Jersey are less than 2 hours away. You can easily pack a full day’s worth of fun in the sun within a short distance of your home.
Preparation & Getting Here
When visiting a beach community, you want to be sure you dress accordingly and bring appropriate items along with you. Be sure to check the weather before arriving and bring a change of clothes, sunscreen, money, swimsuit, towel, camera, and any other items you can fit in a backpack that will help you throughout your day.
Don’t forget to check the ferry schedule so you can plan accordingly and make sure you don’t miss the boat from Bay Shore, Sayville, or Patchogue. And be sure to note that the ferries only accept cash payments!
Taking the Ferry from Bay Shore?
Once docked on Fire Island, you’ll be in the community of Kismet. If you’re hungry, you can choose from The Inn, Pizza Shack, or Surf’s Out for food which are all a short walk from the ferry. Head down to the beach after for some fun in the sun. Just to the west is the Fire Island Lighthouse. You can explore the natural trails on the bay and beach side by the lighthouse, or take a tour inside and all the way to the top.
Taking the Ferry from Sayville?
Upon your arrival to the Island, you’ll be in the community of Fire Island Pines, one of the more LGBT-friendly areas available. Food options include The Blue Whale, Canteen, and High Tea Deck. There’s also a few shopping options right here too.
Taking the Ferry from Patchogue?
The Davis Park Ferry brings you to the areas of Davis Park and Watch Hill on Fire Island. Relax by the beach at the Casino Cafe, a seasonal beachside bar and eatery. You’ll almost be at the eastern edge of Fire Island, so look west for more tourist options.
Bigger is Better Ocean Beach is a 600-home community with the greatest concentration of bars, restaurants, stores, and shopping on the entire island. It’s also the island’s unofficial capital.
Overflowing with small-town charm reminiscent of a simpler time, main street walks are lined with ice cream shops, mom and pop markets, and “beach chic” boutiques. Local children sell painted shell souvenirs out of red Radio-Flyer wagons.
One of the top ten things to do on Fire Island is to go parasailing in Ocean Beach. Get a bird’s eye view of Fire Island on this fun-but also safe-excursion. You will have amazing view of the sky over the water. Ocean Beach is a fun place to experience parasailing, boat tours, and sunset cruises.
Dining and Lodging
Some of the popular spots for hotels and lodging are:
The Palm’s Hotel in Ocean Beach – This luxury hotel also has the popular CJ’s Restaurant and Bar attached to it. Enjoy a view of the ocean with amenities including: wifi, refrigerator, flat-screen TV, free use of bicycles, a coffee shop, and an outdoor area where you can lounge on a beach chair in the sand.
The Grove Hotel in Cherry Grove – If you want to be located in an LGBT friendly party atmosphere, this is the hotel for you! Within a short distance to the Ice Palace and downtown area, the dormitory-style hotel is the perfect location to enjoy a fun-filled vacation. You are just steps away from the hotel pool, the beach, shopping, restaurants, bars, and dance clubs, and you will be surrounded by entertainment and nightlife during your stay—and while you are there, enjoy the world-famous Miss Fire Island contest!
Fire Island Hotel – This casual hotel in Ocean Beach is 5 miles from the Fire Island Lighthouse and 9 miles from Captree State Park. With amenities like a flat-screen TV, iPod docs, private outdoor terraces, outdoor showers, and full kitchens-this is the ideal hotel for families.
With an outdoor pool, surfboard rentals, grill and tiki bar, coffee shop and free wifi-there is something for everyone to enjoy at the Fire Island Hotel!
For fine dining, we have The Hideaway restaurant in Great South Bay which has French cuisine and delicious seafood. The Pine Bistro and Martini Bar in Ocean Beach is an intimate premiere Italian restaurant. Finally, the Top of the Bay in Cherry Grove is great for a sunset dinner with a drink in hand.
There are many things for everyone to do and enjoy on Fire Island—from family activities to competitive sports and nightlife.
Boating – Fire Island is one of the top destinations for boating enthusiasts. With 101 miles of coastline to sail (that’s a long stretch), you can take off and sail all day. Point O’ Woods, Summer Club, Saltaire, and Dunewood all have clubs that enjoy sailing as a hobby.
Sports – In nearly every Fire Island community, there is a tennis court. If you are looking for a break from the beach, make an early reservation by 9 am to use the courts as they book up quickly. Fire Island is also great for biking. Since it is such an eco-friendly community, people bike everywhere, and there are many trails to use. For swimming and cooling off after the hot sun, many of the beaches have lifeguards-but some are swim at your own risk. Please take caution when bringing your children near water. Waterskiing, tubing, and surfing are all fun water activities favored by Fire Island locals.
Fishing and Hiking – Another great activity on Fire Island is fishing. Fishermen are attracted from all over to catch the bass and bluefish from Fire Island shores. Fishing does not require a permit, and you can even use a charter boat for deep-sea offshore fishing to catch shark, marlin, and tuna. Finally, hiking is one of the favored activity of tourists to see the wildlife and feel the ocean breeze along the boardwalk. There are shorter 2-mile trails at Watch Hill and Sailors Haven, and there are longer 5-mile trails that go from the beach, salt marsh, and forest terrain of Otis Pike.
What Else Ya Got?
Now that you have a basic idea of where you’ll be landing on the island, let’s see what types of activities are best suited for day trippers.
Beach – There are beaches all around NY and NJ, but very few are as quaint, quiet, and unquestionably beautiful as those on Fire Island. Simply get off the ferry and walk south.
Biking – Using a rental, or your own wheels, you can bike all around the island. And don’t worry about cars in the communities—there are none!
Fishing – You don’t need a fishing license, and there are charter boats available to take you offshore.
Hiking – Miles and miles of nature trails await you. Take your pick as there are several parks on the island. Check out The Sunken Forest in Sailor’s Haven, covering over 40 acres.
Shopping – While a lot of the communities have at least some shops to peruse through, Ocean Beach is the area with the most shopping options.
Born in Brooklyn, raised on Fire Island has long been Mark Miller’s catchphrase when talking about his baby. Trangleball is the game he invented and trademarked in 1992. His following was modest but it grew steadily, so much so that annual tournaments were soon organized to satisfy the demands of its most ardent players who recognized the potential of this team sport.
“I was throwing a handball around in my music studio,” explained Miller when discussing how the idea came about 20 years ago. “Then the ball bounced off the inside corner of the room in an unusual way and I saw the possibility for a good reflex game.”
Mark Miller is from Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, a breed of beach town that while very different still shares some affinity with Fire Island. Anyone who has spent time in the southern Brooklyn enclaves of Brighton Beach, Coney Island or Sheepshead Bay knows that handball is king, and the courts are always busy.
But Miller was also a surfing enthusiast coming out to Fire Island to catch the waves. With a three-sided pyramid prototype he found a way to bring a variation of handball to the beach. Its “court” would not require walls but take advantage of the sandy terrain itself.
Over the years the rules of Trangleball as a game would evolve and become refined. As it gained momentum the game was not just being played on Fire Island anymore, but the far-flung shores of Japan and far off lands like the Czech Republic. It was also not strictly a beach game, for it was being played on the well-manicured lawns of athletic fields, and the floored interiors of gymnasium courts. Trangleball made the adaptation every time and is testament to its success.
When all is said and done however it is still necessary for Trangleball to return to its Fire Island roots in the summer, thus underscoring the importance of these tournaments. On a sunny and sweltering August 4th folks congregated on the beach of Corneille Estates to reaffirm their connection to the game. The Trangleball Champions of 2012: Alex Sandler, Zuri and Caden Pavlin are young men all born after the creation of the game itself, yet another benchmark of its longevity. May the game be enjoyed on Fire Island for generations yet to come.
Mark Miller offers Trangleball start-up kits to day camps in any Fire Island community free of charge. Visit www.Trangleball.com to learn more.
Ocean Bay Park is a small town with big personality. Largely populated by share houses, OBP knows how to throw a beach barbeque blowout. The riotous weekend warrior reputation is reinforced by the serious drinking and all night dancing at Flynn’s, Schooners, and The Inn Between. This town’s laid-back, non-restrictive lifestyle is especially appreciated by the waves of young renters seeking a beach party environment. However Ocean Bay Park also has it’s share of longtime seasoned residents.
Ocean Bay Park was originally conceived as a community for retired New York City Police and Firemen. While that concept never really got off the ground, it started to boom as a vacation resort with World War II when gas rationing and international travel restrictions made Ocean Bay Park an appealing and accessible getaway. In this era domestic servants from Point O’ Woods directly east were known to frequent Ocean Bay Park during their night off, so in the end Ocean Bay Park really did become a working class resort after all.
The architecture in Ocean Bay Park tends to be modest, but with character. All the residential streets are named after lakes. Buildings like Flynn’s and the Fire Island Hotel are actually renovated Coast Guard stations from Forge River and neighboring Point O’ Woods. The Ocean Bay Park Firehouse is among the prettiest volunteer firehouses on Fire Island, with a large back deck that overlooks the bay and serves as a community-meeting center.
For a Fire Island town and community that really is not all that large (about 350 houses) Ocean Bay Park has an abundance of bar/ restaurants, pizza places, two decent hotels, a tennis court, bike shop and well-stocked grocery store. Ocean Bay Park also offers a direct ferry line though Fire Island Ferries, from Bay Shore, NY. Flynn’s offers marina space for about 50 boats.
Lonelyville is one of the first communities to be established on Fire Island, and is true to its namesake. The secluded scene attracts those who wish to get away from it all. Lonelyville’s real estate includes a mix of modest beach cottages, largely concentrated at the east end; and more modern homes that were built on the west end.
The community began as Fire Island Fishing Company founded by Captain Selah Clock in the late 1880’s. Unlike Seaview, which was a fish oil processing plant, Fire Island Fishing Company’s focus was the transportation of fish for food to serve greater Long Island. A 400-foot pier extended out into the Atlantic Ocean, so fishing vessels could unload their catch. A rail system would cross over Fire Island through Lonelyville and bring the fish to other boats waiting on the other side. From there the perishable cargo would be delivered to Greater Long Island. This practice saved time, money and meant that fisherman need not circumnavigate the Fire Island Inlet, which could prove treacherous.
Captain Clock in time closed his company went into the real estate development business. He subdivided his land tract for residential sale in 1905. The dilapidated pier still extended out into the ocean for the first few decades of the 20th Century, but the Hurricane of 1938 washed away the last remnants of it.
In 2011 Lonelyville made history by becoming the first Fire District to consolidate with the non- contiguous Fair Harbor Fire District. (The community of Dunewood being between the two.) There is no direct ferry to Lonelyville. Fair Harbor or the Dunewood/ Atlantique lines are the best alternative options. The same goes for other amenities like restaurants, shops and markets which are a short walk away to Fair Harbor in the west, or a slightly longer trip to Ocean Beach due east.
Kismet is Fire Island’s westernmost party hub. Kismet’s young New Yorker singles scene hosts never-ending happy hours, disco dancing, and boisterous house parties. A popular Fire Island summer share house destination, Kismet is home to many seasoned Fire Islanders. Kismet nightlife is upheld by two popular bayside bar and grills, The Inn and Surf’s Out. Kismet has a beautiful 100-slip commercial marina that is always packed with boaters. This quaint country-like atmosphere is a refuge from the seemingly congested beaches and towns to its east.
The location that would become Kismet was home to the Dominy House Hotel, the first hotel on Fire Island. Dominy had been one of the Keepers at the old Fire Island Lighthouse, but was ultimately discharged from his duties for entertaining guests to the extent that his Keeper duties became secondary. The rustic hotel was built by Felix Dominy in 1844, and was attractive to hunters and fishermen. When the colossal Surf Hotel was constructed to the east of Dominy House in 1857, obstructing its view of the Lighthouse, business began to falter. Dominy House would be destroyed by fire under questionable circumstances in 1903. An excavated chimney-base attributed to Dominy House stands a few hundred feet from the Surf’s Out as a monument to Fire Island’s early heritage.
After 1925 Kismet began not as one, but three separate communities: Seabay Beach, Lighthouse Shores and Kismet proper. They ultimately merged together to form a single hamlet, but a walk through the neighborhood of roughly 300 homes still bears evidence that the separate communities were stitched together after the fact by the layout of the walkways.
Kismet is accessible via the Kismet ferry line out of Bay Shore, NY. However one advantage of being the most western of the Fire Island communities is that one does not need a ferry to get there. Many visitors park in Field 5 where Kismet is just a short walk east.
Home of the “tea dance,” Fire Island Pines is a zigzag of boardwalks that lead to the island’s most ritzy real estate. The Pines turnout is known to be a bit more subdued than its neighboring Cherry Grove. Indeed the Pines is an affluent gay-friendly community where same-sex as well as heterosexual lifestyles co-exist comfortably.
It is fabled that Fire Island Pines was named due to a shipwreck in which a cargo of evergreen trees that were being transported for the Christmas season came to shore and took root, giving the area its lush green appearance. While this may or may not be true, the Lone Hill Lifesaving station was located in this proximity of Fire Island during the 19th Century. The Lone Hill building was used as the Fire Island Pines Community House right through the 20th Century until it was ultimately razed and Whyte Hall took its place.
In 1924 the Home Guardian Company purchased the tract of land that would become Fire Island Pines for the purposes of Real Estate development. But with the Great Depression followed by the Second World War, the tract languished until 1952 when the Smadbeck Brothers (also known as the “Henry Fords of Real Estate”) subdivided the into 122 lots for sale and constructed a private harbor with large landing dock with the vision of marketing the community to the boating enthusiast. And while this vision did in fact become true, dynamics of the era made the conditions right to make the area attractive to a wealthy gay clientele.
Today charitable fundraisers and cocktail parties dot the Fire Island Pines’ social calendar also summer long, with the annual “Invasion of the Pines,” the Fire Island Dance Festival and the Ascension Party being among the most notable. The Pines caters to its Manhattan weekenders and features delightful markets, boutiques and restaurants. Ferry service is out of Sayville, NY.