Summer Almanac 2012: Hamptons High Times

The Hamptons is LI’s premier summer destination. It has no shortage of rich and famous, and places to see and be seen, but this 50-mile stretch from Westhampton Beach to Montauk is also home to real culture, natural beauty and a few secret spots worth visiting.

A sleepy village awakens
Quiet for a good part of the year, once spring gives way to warmer temperatures the Village of Westhampton Beach explodes. Sidewalks, once empty, fill with folks looking for a good time—and they find it. Full disclosure: I’m a resident of this village and I know this to be one of the best places to spend the summer.

For three generations Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center has offered entertainment second to none, and the lineup for the 2012 season is sure to continue that tradition. Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves is scheduled for June 8 and Southern-style blues master and holder of five Grammies, Robert Cray, will take the stage on June 23. Reggae superstar Ziggy Marley is slated for June 16. For tickets and info on other performances, contact the box office at (631) 288-1500.

Great Eats
Two of my favorite places to eat in Westhampton Village before taking in a show are Pizzetteria Brunetti—a true hidden gem tucked away in the food court at 103 Main Street and Agave’s Tequila Bar and Lounge just down the street on Mill Road.

Cooked in an authentic wood burning brick oven imported from Naples, Brunetti’s Neapolitan pizzas, in particular the margherita piu (extra) with a glass of dolcetto d’Alba, will take you back to the old country. At Agave’s, sit back and listen to some of the best live music in town, including regular guest and local favorite New Life Crisis, while sipping top shelf margaritas and mojitos and sampling the eclectic menu—the grilled mahi mahi burrito can’t be beat.

The Best things in life are free
Just a few miles east of Westhampton Beach Village, the Quogue Wildlife Refuge proves that the best things in life are indeed free. Located on Old Country Road in Quogue, this 305-acre swathe of protected land in the Pine Barrens offers seven miles of scenic trails. At the refuge, which is home to a diversity of wildlife, you can visit the bobcat, fox, owls, falcons and eagles. Inside the cozy Nature Center, you can sit back and view the plentiful waterfowl that swim in the Old Ice Pond and fill the skies.

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Sunset at Canal Café
Continuing east through Hampton Bays, Canal Café, if you can find it, is the perfect place to sit back and take in the sunset. Situated behind Hampton Watercraft and Marine on Shinnecock Canal at 44 Newtown Road, the café overlooks the marina. While relaxing with a local Blue Point draft you can watch the boats harbored in the marina rock gently from the wakes of crafts heading out to sea. The fish & chips and lobster rolls here are enough to make your summer stay in the Hamptons worthwhile.

People of the Stony Shore
Long before the Hamptons became a top destination spot, many moons before European settlers stepped onto the sand, the Shinnecock Indians, the People of the Stony Shore, were thriving in sophisticated fishing villages along the waters of what is now Eastern Long Island. Today, the Shinnecock Nation celebrates its rich heritage with the annual Labor Day weekend powwow on the tribe’s reservation in the heart of Southampton.

The grounds will open for the 66th Annual Powwow Friday, August 31 at 3pm and will close Monday, September 3 at 12:30pm. Featuring more than 100 vendors of Native arts, crafts and foods, and a spectacular sunset fire lighting, the powwow provides a unique way to not only soak up summer fun, but learn the history of one of America’s most storied indigenous people. If the bounty of eats at the powwow doesn’t satisfy your hunger, then Paul’s Italian Restaurant just a few miles east on Montauk Highway, which becomes Hill Street, surely will. Located next to the movie theater, this great find is more than the pizza joint it appears to be when you first walk in. Though the pizza is excellent, Paul’s selection of authentic Italian dishes—may I suggest the chicken Parmigiana—is among the best on the East End. While we’re dishing pie, check out La Parmigiana Italian Restaurant at 48 Hampton Road for slices piled high with toppings, and the brand new Pellegrino’s Pizza Bar and Restaurant at 1271 Noyac Road.

To take in more of the natural beauty of the Hamptons, continue east on Hill Street to First Neck Lane. Turn south and stay on First Neck until it becomes Meadow Lane, a beautiful road that runs between the Atlantic Ocean and Shinnecock Bay, and hugs some of the most pristine beaches you can find. Pull off along the boardwalk that takes you out to Heady Creek. There you can cast for bluefish and striped bass or simply bask in the surrounding nature. Parking permits are required for beach access from either Southampton Village, (631) 283-4269 or Southampton Town, (631) 728-8585.

Super Saturday
The summer’s premier fashion event, Super Saturday is a must for anyone seeking high-end bargains or looking to take in the star-studded scene. This daylong fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is a one-of-a-kind tag sale with more than 200 designers selling their wares at deep discounts. Hosted by Donna Karan, Kelly Ripa, InStyle magazine and others, the event also features a carnival to keep the kids busy while mommy shops. Super Saturday 15 is scheduled for July 28 at Nova’s Ark Project in Water Mill from 12-6pm.
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Hampton Classic
Of all the summer activities in the Hamptons, the Hampton Classic is perhaps the most widely known and popular. Every summer Bridgehampton is the epicenter for one of the largest and most respected outdoor horse shows in the United States. This year’s competition will be held from Sunday, August 26 through Sunday, September 2. The Grand Prix Ring in Bridgehampton is located just off Montauk Highway at 240 Snake Hollow Road.

Along with some of the best equestrians and most prized horses, the Classic is a great venue to spot celebrities and shop at some of the Hamptons’ high-end boutiques. General admission for the show is $10 per person or $20 per car. Children 6 and younger are free. Call (508) 698-6810 for more information.

Eating out of your hand
Not only is there an endless supply of summer fun in the Hamptons, there is an endless supply of nature and wildlife. And at the Elizabeth A. Morton Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor, the songbirds will literally fly onto your open palm and eat from your hand.

The refuge contains 187 acres of diverse flora and fauna, and along the trails you can pick up birdseed, or bring your own to hand feed the beautiful black-capped chickadees. The refuge is located at 784 Noyack Road. Entrance fees to the park are $4 per car and $2 for pedestrians and cyclists. Call (631) 286-0485 for more info.

A whale of a village
Of all the quaint villages in the Hamptons, Sag Harbor is my favorite. It seems every other building has some sort of historic significance and every time I walk through the village I bump into a friend. The John Jermain Memorial Library and the American Hotel are two of its most historic buildings and are worth a visit. But a jaunt through Sag Harbor is incomplete without a stop at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum at 200 Main Street. There you can experience the Sag Harbor that at one time was a thriving whaling port. The museum is open Friday through Monday and offers daily tours. Admission is $5 for adults. For more info call (631) 725-0770.

There’s no shortage of good food in Sag Harbor, but LT Burger at 62 Main Street really packs a wallop. Though there’s something on the menu for everyone, the burgers are out of this world and I’ve never had better sweet potato fries. Choose from the variety of milkshakes or have one of the friendly bartenders draw you a cold draft.

LT Burger is also an ideal spot to eat before or after taking in a show at Bay Street Theater. The 299-seat professional regional venue just down Main Street on the Long Wharf offers some of the best live theater on the East End. Contact the box office at (631) 725-9500 for this summer’s mainstage productions.

Vintage Hamptons
The East End of Long Island is among the finest boutique wine regions in the country, and the Village of Sagaponack is home to one of the most well respected vineyards. Wölffer Estate wines have even been served at White House state dinners. The main estate, located at 139 Sagg Road, offers daily tastings starting May 24 from 11am to 6pm Sunday through Wednesday, 11am – 8pm on Thursdays and until 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays. “Twilight Thursday,” which began on May 24 at the main estate, offers live music from 5 to 8pm. For dazzling views of the 55-acre vineyard, the Wölffer Winestand, located just around the corner on Montauk Highway, offers tastings and live music starting at 5pm on “Sunset Fridays,” and 8-11pm on Saturdays (21 and older).

For tours of the vineyard and more information on music and other events, contact the main estate at (631) 537-5106.

For more live music, Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, 161 Main Street, is a must. Rock, jazz and blues blast from the stage just about every summer night. This year’s lineup includes Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Pure Prairie League, Dave Mason and English Beat. Cover charges start around $25. Contact the box office for tickets at (631) 267-3117.

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Montauk: The End!
Staying due east, you will finally arrive in Montauk, known affectionately as “The End” (a quick Google search will explain why). But on the way, a stop at the Clam Bar at 1899 Montauk Highway is a good bet. To enjoy American road stop dining at its finest, order a fresh tuna sandwich or clam chowder with a cold Stella Artois.

For more upscale dining, the Harvest on Fort Pond offers outdoor seating along the docks and exquisite Mediterranean fare with influences from Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Turkey. 11 S. Emery Street, (631) 668-5574.

Pioneers on land and sea
Ranches often evoke images of the American West, but the nation’s oldest, Deep Hollow Ranch, is in Montauk. Before American wagons traveled westward, the Montauk landscape more resembled open prairie than the world class fishing destination it is today. Deep Hollow offers trail rides through some of its 3,000 preserved acres of rolling hills and pristine beaches. There’s no better way to appreciate the splendor of Montauk than an evening trip in the saddle along Block Island Sound. For reservations, call (631) 688-2744.

Along with the country’s oldest ranch, Montauk is home to the oldest lighthouse in New York State. Commissioned under President George Washington, the Montauk Lighthouse has stood as a beacon for travelers of all kinds for generations. The museum and gift shop is open daily during the summer and admission is $9 for adults. You don’t need a map or GPS to find it. Just drive east, or call (631) 668-2544 for more information.

Giants of the deep
You could spend the summer in Montauk alone and still not run out of things to do, but of the many activities I have enjoyed in this nautical paradise, my favorite is viewing the humpback and sperm whales, as well as dolphins and sharks that swim off Montauk’s shores. Witnessing one of these magnificent creatures break the surface of the Atlantic is truly breathtaking. Contact the Viking Fleet for information on whale watching and chartered fishing tours at (631) 668-5700.