The thing most Long Islanders point to as our greatest asset is the easy beach access from pretty much everywhere. For those who need to go from the front door to the sand in the time it takes to unfold a beach chair, there’s the option of investing in second homes (or renting for a few months). And the Hamptons are far from the only option. Accordingly, we present our summer spoiler: three seaside communities on the rise as hot destinations.
This strip of sand is the Island’s island. It’s easy to miss when looking at a map because of its thinness but what it lacks in width, it makes up for in everything else.
“Business is booming,” said CJ Mingolelli, an associate broker for Douglas Elliman Real Estate and the regional director for Fire Island. “It seems like everybody wants to be here now.” One of the biggest draws is the size: in many areas, it’s less than a half mile walk from the ocean to the Great South Bay. Mingolelli described the beach, where he spends his summers, as paradise. “It’s south-facing. You lay on the beach and look at the water, and the sun is always beating down on you.”
Fire Island also has a unique charm to it. Because cars are prohibited, people walk or ride bikes to most places—there is a feeling of time slowing down and the air is extremely clean. Towns like Ocean Beach, Saltaire and Fair Harbor are lined with charming restaurants and small shops, creating a classic vibe. “The best thing about it is convenience,” said Mingolelli. “A lot of people are realizing that they can actually commute and stay here in the summer season.”
Across the Great South Bay from the eastern tip of Fire Island is Bellport, with a booming market and a growing summer populace.
“It’s a laid-back beach town with exquisite amenities and some great restaurants,” said David Rice, the broker/owner of Rice Realty Group in Bellport. “It’s a place where you can kick back,” the lifelong resident said.
Rice said that business is good, with many more people buying and renting over the last two years. The makeup during the summer months is usually a 50/50 split between year-round residents and seasonal, second home owners; good for the real estate market, the community and local businesses.
Some of Rice’s clients rent for a year or two then purchase. Others come from the city to visit and get hooked. “They spend a few weekends and say, ‘this place is very unique.’ It’s a quarter or half the price of the Hamptons and it’s closer to Manhattan and the other boroughs.”
One of the biggest draws is distinctive services like a private ferry that takes village residents and their guests to the village’s private beach. “We also have a semi-private country club as well, with tennis and a beautiful 18-hole golf course with views of the Great South Bay. It’s a special place and people come and say, ‘wow,’ and they’re amazed with how quaint and small-town it’s like.”
When most people hear about Long Beach, it’s probably in relation to the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused. And while the hurricane did destroy many homes, it has also fueled a resurgence on the barrier island.
“You can’t keep the buyers away,” said Joyce Coletti, an agent with Douglas Elliman’s Long Beach office and rated one of the best agents in the area. “You price your home correctly, it sells. I sold one home in the West End in 24 hours.” When people started moving away and selling their homes after the storm, developers came in and bought the property, building new homes that are flood-resistant. Now, Coletti said she’s getting bidding wars on properties. More people are buying than renting and spending their summers there. “We are on the Atlantic Ocean and the open bay,” she said. “We’re only 25 miles to Manhattan. People can come here for the weekend, then go to work Monday morning and they’re at work in an hour.”
Long Beach is bigger than Fire Island and Bellport, but it maintains a small-town charm. There are tons of restaurants and things to do and though it’s sizeable, it’s still very walkable. Most days, a traffic jam is pedestrian based—cars waiting for surfers to cross the street with their boards.
“It’s like living in Manhattan, except you’re on the Atlantic Ocean,” said Coletti. “Because in Manhattan, you can walk everywhere.”