All over the world people are blowing their nest eggs and rearranging their lives for just one perfect day in the sun, toes buried in the sand and waves crashing nearby. For this one glorious moment they plan for months, pack suitcases, pile into cars, book hotels and travel God knows how many miles. Just for one day of perfection. For you, it’s a trip up the road. Maybe even a step out the back door. Try not to gloat too much.
Town: Long Beach
Cruising slow up Lido Boulevard, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d taken a wrong turn and wound up in California. After all, shirtless surfers ducking through traffic on their way to the beach is hardly something you’d expect to see this close to Brooklyn. Therein lies the magic of Long Beach. An unhurried, unhassled, laid-back, geographically improbable, funky beach vibe all its own.
The first stop is the boardwalk. To stroll along its rebuilt planks is to bask in the town’s victory over sandy. The beach beyond it offers an everchanging buffet of oceanside activities for a mere $12 entry. Depending on the day, take in surfing lessons, harness the waves by windsurfing or watch gravity get taken out behind the woodshed during a half-pipe skateboarding exhibition right there on the sand. The natural side to an order of beach life is of course, a cold drink. And there are plenty of opportunities in long Beach to sip something cold, possibly blended. unrepentantly unrefined, The Beach House infuses a typical sports bar with a funky seaside vibe and creates something that locals flock to for a bit of respite from the sun.
Beware: Time will accelerate the second you drive away, suddenly lurching to meet the hectic New York pace that surrounds the town.
Town: Fire island
Jaw-dropping white-sand beaches extend out to two horizons, but Fire island is also comprised of many towns. since some of these towns consist of a dock and a building, you’ll forgive us for condensing somewhat—though the microtowns make up no small measure of Fire island’s charm. Travel is limited to water taxis and flip-flops for anyone other than locals; prepare for a day on Fire Island with a wad of bills, ample water and a GPS. Note: some roads are, technically speaking, no more than gaps between sand dunes.
Start at Kismet, where the Bay Shore ferry unloads passengers directly to “downtown” (a restaurant and convenience store). The rest of the town—like neighboring saltaire—is devoted to boardwalks that criss-cross low-slung beach houses. Getting lost in these paths is a sweet adventure with pleasant surprises at every turn: Retreats with whimsical names like “Boozer’s playhouse,” a large deer casually crossing your path and a baseball field that seems to spring out of nowhere.
But not all of Fire Island is tucked- away discovery. ocean Beach wears its fun on its sleeve. During daylight hours, the shops defy you to describe them as anything but “adorable.” It’s a mix of ice creams parlors, small craft galleries and gift shops you’d expect, but scaled down to munchkin proportions by the tiny streets that connect them. At night, the adorable gets turned down and the outrageous gets cranked to 11 when Fire Island’s famed clubs open.
This village “at the end” lost its innocence (and remoteness) to weekend revelers a few seasons ago and there’s no turning back. Yes, there is quiet at the grand lighthouse. Yes, there are marinas dotting the north shore, with their fishing tournaments, charter boats and maritime adventure. Fishermen have been plying these waters since the powdered wig days, a few fashion- driven party-crazed young professionals aren’t going to change that.
Montauk Village is, make no mistake, a fishing and beach town. But it is now one with a buzzing scene. The areas around The plaza hum with activity, like surf shops offering an array of neon-drenched floatables, restaurants tempting passersby with cool beverages and hotels harboring a steady flock of beachgoers. Beach houses mingle side-by-side with motels, towels hang over every railing and massive gold-painted moai statues hold court on Elmwood Street (fashioned after the famed easter island ones). Fact.
The beaches here are as beautiful and serene as any you’ll find on the planet, but their popularity with surfers does mean you have to keep your wits about you when you swim. It’s hard to take in the scenery when you’ve been beaned by a longboard.
The old saying goes that Montauk is a small fishing village with a big drinking problem. Sounds like the perfect place to grab a bite.
Harvest On Fort Pond
11 South Emery Street
Mediterranean cuisine in the quaint, smallish garden or the understated white-and-wood dining room.
500 West Lake Drive
Casual seafood dining at the entrance to Montauk Harbor. Ideal for partaking of the raw bar and lobster bake for two.
Fishbar On The Lake
467 East Lake Drive
Montauk fish sliders and sangria? Hell yes. especially when enjoyed on an enclosed deck on the lake. Oh, and there’s an indoor and outdoor bar.
Duryea’s Lobster Deck
65 Tuthill Road
Very fresh, very well-done, tried-and-true seafood. can’t get a table? Take some lobsters on a field trip (they do takeout from the restaurant or buy it at the market).
Cyril’s Fish House
2167 Montauk Highway
Caribbean specials on Napeague stretch. The Harleys out front testify to the roadhouse atmosphere—expect bottled beer to be pulled out of a bathtub.
474 West Lake Dr
Decidedly cool: the kitchen is exposed to bar-seating (sushi style, though the cuisine isn’t). Food is hip, easy to eat and mainly small plates. The bar area is very laid-back.
16 Navy Road
Ceviche lovers will be happy here. so will any foodies who like to be surprised. Dieters can feast on the views: this is waterfront dining, directly on the beach. Special menus welcome large parties.
Shelter Island by Eric Striffler; Surfing by Matthew Clark; Fire Island by John Williams; Montauk by Jason Molinet