Is Fire Island the Hamptons?

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Fire Island is not the Hamptons.

Far from it! 

Vacationing in the Hamptons can be pretentious, crowded, and frenetic.

The simple and peaceful beach culture of a Fire Island visit stands in sharp contrast to the Hamptons.

If you are looking for a quieter more inclusive vacation this summer then, Fire Island is the place for you.

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What is Fire Island?

Fire Island is a laid-back summertime getaway for family and friends. It is a half-mile deep, barrier island with 32 miles of sandy beaches stretching east to west. 

During the summer season a daily influx of day visitors, seasonal residents, and renters occupy a handful of small communities.   

View of Ocean Beach from the Great South Bay
View of Ocean Beach, Fire Island from the Great South Bay

Where is Fire Island?

Fire Island is located an hour east of Manhattan and along the south shore of Long Island.

Just about an hour train ride or drive east from Manhattan will get you to the Fire Island ferries. The shorter commute makes Fire Island more conveniently located to New York City than the Hamptons.  

How Do I Get to Fire Island?

Don’t expect your private airplane or helicopter to get you to Fire Island.

Unlike the Hamptons, there are no airports here.

Towns in Fire Island are only accessible by water.

To reach any of the 17 small communities you must go by ferry or boat across the Great South Bay. 

There are three Fire Island Ferry terminals, located in the towns of Sayville, Bayshore, and Patchogue.

You could drive directly to the ferries and pay to park. 

Alternatively, instead of driving a car, you could take the Long Island Railroad and then walk, taxi, or shuttle to the ferry. 

White shuttle buses regularly got back and forth from the ferries to return you the LIRR station in Sayville. 

A common sight for a Monday morning commuter into Penn Station is to see the shuttles unloading their weekend passengers for the summer Monday trip back to NYC.

Visiting soon? Here is information about the Fire Island Ferries schedule and tickets.

Can I Drive My Car to Fire Island?

The Fire Island National Seashore is the only point you can get to the island by car.

At its most western point, Robert Moses State Park is open from dawn to dusk and grants public beach access.

While there, you can also climb the famous Fire Island Lighthouse or get a glimpse of the country’s oldest U.S. Coast Guard Station

Technically, you could get to the beach communities from here but, you would take a rustic path or have to walk along the beach for miles.

Getting to any of the populated towns and back is not practical, especially on a hot summer day.

What is Special About Fire Island?

Fire Island offers up a unique coastal experience that can not be found in the Hamptons.

No Traffic

Head to the Hamptons and you could sit for hours in your car on Montauk Highway trying to get around.

There are no cars allowed on Fire Island which is part of the charm.

It is a place where you must walk, bike, or scoot your way around.

If you are there for a day visit, it is a half-mile walk to the ocean. 

Everything is accessed by foot, bicycle, or wagon, so be prepared to walk when you arrive!

Red wagons are an iconic symbol of Fire Island. 

Water Taxis are the way to travel from one community to the next. 

For example, If you are staying the week in Ocean Beach but want to enjoy a festive  night dancing in Cherry Grove, then the water taxi is the way to go.

Wagons lined up by the ferry at Ocean Beach
Red wagons lined up at the ferry dock in Ocean Beach, Fire Island

No Big Chains

Most of the Fire Island communities consist of private residential homes.

They range from small quaint cottages and bungalows to large modern beach houses.

There are some small hotels to be found but no brand names here. 

The few markets, shops, and restaurants that exist are locally owned and run.

Ocean Beach is one of the most popular towns on Fire Island, known for its lively atmosphere, restaurants, and bars. These are on the bay side where the ferries bring you over from Bayshore. 

Ocean Beach is an excellent choice if you want to socialize, enjoy nightlife, and be close to the beach.

The walk from the bay to the ocean is roughly one mile.

If you are looking for a place to stay on Fire Island this summer, check for availability here.


Compared to the Hamptons, Fire Island is an unpretentious and welcoming place.

For decades, both Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines have been gay vacation communities where people come to relax and enjoy peaceful tranquility.

Cherry Grove is known for being LGBTQ+ friendly and has a lively nightlife scene, with a variety of bars and clubs.

The Pines is known for its luxurious homes and upscale restaurants. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for a more upscale and relaxed atmosphere.

You can reach Cherry Grove or The Pines from the Sayville departing ferries.

Beachgoers at Cherry Grove, Fire Island
Beachgoers at Cherry Grove, Fire Island

What is There to Do on Fire Island?

People come to Fire Island to relax and get away from the bustle of everyday life. 

There is some shopping and night-life, but not too much.

While each town or village has its own particular vibe, all of them have one great thing in common, the beach.

Fun activities include boating, fishing, surfing, sand-castle building, and just chilling on a blanket near the waves.

Davis Park is located on the eastern end of Fire Island and is known for its beautiful beaches and laid-back vibe.

It’s a great choice if you want to escape the crowds and enjoy nature.

You can reach Davis Park from the Patchogue departing ferries.

A young man jumping for a frisbee on Fire Island
Jumping for a frisbee on Fire Island

Do People Live on Fire Island All Year-Round?

The answer is yes.

While more and more residents in the Hamptons live there full-time, only a few hundred brave residents tough out the winter weather in Fire Island.

For most, the natural beauty and serenity outweigh the rugged and isolating lifestyle. 

Fire Island vs. The Hamptons?

No annoying traffic. 

No paparazzi.

No judgment.

Spending the summer in Fire Island can seem like a by-gone time. 

And that’s exactly the reason why you should go there.

Need a place to stay on Fire Island? Check here for Fire Island accommodations.

Stretch your visit. Before heading home have lunch in Oakdale or discover the charm of Forest Hills.

Don’t miss out on a fun food adventure by tasting these some of these must-try Long Island foods.


“At Home on Fire Island All Year Round: The Joys and Challenges.” Newsday, Accessed 22 Nov. 2022.

FI MTickets | Ferry & Water Taxi Mobile Ticketing. Accessed 22 Nov. 2022.

Fire Island – An Island Without Roads | Discover Long Island. Accessed 22 Nov. 2022.

Fire Island Ferries | Communities. Accessed 22 Nov. 2022.

Fire Island Sales & Rentals. Accessed 22 Nov. 2022.

Patchogue, Mailing Address: 120 Laurel Street, NY 11772 Phone: 631-687-4750 Contact Us. Fire Island National Seashore (U.S. National Park Service). Accessed 22 Nov. 2022.

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