Living on Long Island has many perks, but my personal favorite is knowing I’m always a hop, skip and a jump from the water. Beach days can be as simple as a quick trip down Port or a well-planned excursion to Robert Moses, the Hamptons or Fire Island. Of course, it’s easy to forget that we live in beach towns where others drive hours to vacation in each year, when the sandy and rocky shores are covered in snow. During a recent snow day, instead of bemoaning having to clean off my car, I decided to daydream of summer. Turns out, you were all doing the same. As the snow doesn’t show signs of stopping, let’s grab some corn for popping and dream of warmer days ahead at these 10 Long Island beach towns.
Ocean Beach, Fire Island
When the summer sets in, the days get longer and Ocean Beach seemingly never sleeps. The popular community has the greatest concentration of bars, restaurants and stores on Fire Island and manages to perfectly blend the small town charm of local mom and pop shops with a vibrant nightlife. A tomato heirloom salad and pan seared sea bass from the Hideaway, located within the legendary Houser’s Hotel, sound so good right now, followed up with some karaoke at Maguire’s. What’s your go-to tune?
West of LI-ers have long loved Long Beach for being far enough away from reality to feel like they’ve escaped but close enough to home so they can spend more time soaking in the sun than sitting in traffic. Just thinking about the view of the pristine beach from the boardwalk is enough to feel like the current temperature has risen and tempt you to run to Marvel Frozen Dairy Inc. for some soft-serve ice cream.
A trip to the World’s Greatest Playground for a ride on the Wonder Wheel, fireworks and a hot dog never disappoints, even if it’s only in your mind right now. A day at Coney Island is more than a beach trip, it’s an experience with a crowd full of eccentrics, wobbly tykes who are doing a better job wearing their ice cream than eating it and of course the beautiful Atlantic on the horizon.
The Rockaways embody everything I love about New York’s resiliency after Sandy: down but never out, determined to rebuild. Today, let’s dream about walking along the boardwalk, which washed away in Sandy. That smile that’s inevitably sweeping across your face isn’t just there because you’re feeling nostalgic, it’s because that boardwalk will be open for the first time since the storm this summer. Resiliency isn’t rhetoric around here.
The locally owned shops and restaurants offer a respite from the chain invasions that seem unavoidable. The Sunday farmer’s market offers produce from farms that’s so fresh and flavorful Connecticut natives board the ferry to go grocery shopping every weekend. Dogs and kids from one to 92 walk along the rocky shore, Frigate ice cream cone in hand, as the sun sets on the beautiful harbor. I’m a bit biased, Port Jeff is a stone’s throw from me, but there’s no place I’d rather be on the first 70-degree day of the spring.
Ocean Bay Park, Fire Island
A bit more laid-back than its neighbor Ocean Beach, Ocean Bay Park is home to beach barbecues, weekend warriors and of course Flynn’s. Imagine docking your boat or getting off the Ferry and making a beeline for 1 Cayuga Street, a place where age ain’t nothing but a number, and 20-somethings and 80-somethings groove to reggae every Sunday. If you’re having a tough time picturing it, put on some King Wellington & Earth People and your mind will drift to Sunday Fundays of the past and future.
The locals know it as Dune Road, and life isn’t as great without at least tri-weekly trips to Cupsogue Beach for some Beach Hut grub and a view of the Atlantic, Moriches Inlet and Moriches Bay. Summer will be here before you know it but you might want to head there soon to spot the seals everyone’s raving about.
The GPS home of Robert Moses and the day trip destination of so many Long Islanders, Babylon boasts three beaches for residents only (Gilgo, Cedar and Overlook). All are welcome at the original Bunger Surf Shop, where you can find essentials like the sunscreen you always seem to forget to pack or a wetsuit that will allow you to stop dreaming and actually surf this winter. Don’t forget to stop by Barrique Wine Bar and Kitchen where the crab cakes and lobster are not to be missed.
Though known internationally for their glitzy frequenters, the Hamptons aren’t simply the social sand castle they often get made out to be. Exhibit A: Sag Harbor, a hub of local businesses and the arts. There’s nothing like, after a relaxing day on the beach, grabbing a dockside bite at Harlow East and taking in a flick at Sag Harbor Cinemas, one of the only remaining single-screen theaters on Long Island, or a show at Bay Street Theater. Art lovers look forward to indulging in long days of gallery hopping that, like summer, seem to fly by in a New York minute.
It’s funny how, in the dead of winter, we forget the single-lane traffic we must endure on our way to Montauk and simply long for its laid-back vibe, ultra-cool nightlife and fresh local fish that needs to be tasted to be believed. Let’s try to remember that when we’re in gridlock next year and simply enjoy the scenic journey through the Hamptons on our way to The End, because it truly is worth the wait.
Jones Beach, Wantagh
Even young stars like Justin Bieber, whose antics frequently induce palm-to-face reactions when we hear about them during our morning commutes, have trouble staying away from Jones Beach. Home to Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, a two-mile boardwalk and so many memories for Pulse readers, Jones Beach just might be the ultimate happy place even in February.