Fire Island New York is a barrier island located off the southern coast of larger Long Island. An especially popular destination in the summer, it is known primarily for its beaches and all-around laid-back appeal. There is more to do on this car-free island than indulge in some sun and surf, however. For many visitors, the chance to escape the busier side of things in nearby New York City is a bonus of visiting here.
Fire Island measures approximately 32 miles in length and is only about a half-mile wide at its widest point. Primarily a summer destination, it starts to liven up around Memorial Day, and the peak visitor flow continues through September. After September, most of the Fire Island New York businesses shut down, and the some 500 permanent residents get the island back to themselves until Memorial Day rolls around again. Generally, the island maintains a rather informal attitude. Topless sunbathing is common on the beaches, for example, and hamlets such as Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines have long been popular vacation spots for the gay community. Regardless of taste and preference, this is a destination that entices on various levels.
Fire Island Beach
Hanging out at the beach is the most popular thing to do on Fire Island. Ocean Beach, on the western side, boasts the liveliest strip of sand on the island. It also features most of Fire Island's restaurants and hotels. Weekends are especially busy on Ocean Beach. For those Fire Island visitors who wish to relax on a more tranquil stretch of sand, the hamlets of Ocean Bay Park and Kismet can be great places to go. Both are largely residential, though they do feature some hotels and restaurants. For an even quieter beach experience, the beaches generally get more deserted the farther east you go. Watch Hill is an example of a very tranquil beach destination, though it should be mentioned that facilities are largely lacking on the more quiet strips of sand. As for things to do, a climb to the top of the historic Fire Island Lighthouse rewards the visitor with some wonderful views, and it doesn't cost anything to tour the delightful Sunken Forest nature preserve.
Fire Island Rentals
Fire Island is home to some good hotels. That being said, many visitors opt to go with a vacation rental instead. Most of the Fire Island rentals are well-equipped homes that feature such amenities as a full kitchen, a washer, a dryer, Internet access, cable TV, and any other number of things that many people have at their own homes. Rentals are often chic and upscale, and regardless of their qualities, they are all close to a beach. Ocean Bay Park, Fair Harbor, Davis Park, and Kismet are good places to start when searching for Fire Island rentals, as they feature healthy portions of the overall supply. Visitors are encouraged to weigh all of the available options, however. For those who prefer camping to staying in a hotel or a vacation rental, there are options on the island.
Fire Island Ferry
Since it isn't possible to drive over to Fire Island, visitors must rely on other transportation methods for getting there. Taking a ferry from Long Island is the most popular option, with the May to October peak season seeing numerous ferries running multiple routes on a daily basis. Service might not be as plentiful during the off-season, though there are some ferries that link Long Island to Fire Island throughout the year. The Long Island destinations of Patchogue, Sayville, and Bay Shore are the embarkation points for Fire Island-bound ferries, and it is possible to get to each via the Long Island Rail Road or by car. Walking is pretty much the only remaining option for getting to the island. The eastern side of Robert Moses State Park is the place to cross over by way of foot.
Image: nydiscovery (flickr)