The Hamptons may be on Long Island, but the stereotypical suburban sensibility that the island just off Manhattan is known for and the posh glamour of the Hamptons are oceans apart. On the northern end of Long Island, you'll discover this enclave of the rich and the famous, who flock to this little world apart every summer to party, dine and enjoy the pristine Atlantic coast. Of course, you don't have to hail from this exclusive set to enjoy the Hamptons.
Take, for instance, the natural beauty: the sunsets over the undulating reed-covered marshy fields, those misty fall mornings that are always accompanied by the seasonal honking of the Canadian geese and that strong, briny smell of the Atlantic. And then there's the gorgeous natural light — one of the many reasons why artists and writers flocked to the East End of Long Island during the second half of the 20th century. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Fairfield Porter and Frank O'Hara, among many others, made their home in the eastside villages, imported chic bohemia and opened themselves up to the unique golden sunlight, allowing it to shine into their work. While you may not find many artists today, the natural inspiration that drew them here still remains.
Local cuisine ranges from clam shacks by the shore to chic and stylish kitchens from celebrity chefs. Of course, the local seafood remains one of the stars, but also try the local produce, Long Island duck and wines from the North Fork wineries along the wine trail.
The good news about hanging out in the Hamptons is that you don't need to travel far to experience a whole slew of leisure activities. There are beaches to sit on, vineyards in which to sip wine, restaurants to tantalize the taste buds and, of course, seas to sail on. Access to sports from golf to tennis abounds, and accommodations run the gamut: from the historic and posh Huntting Inn in East Hampton to the woodsy and cozy Hampton Maid.
THE HAMPTONS DAY 1: Montauk Point Light House, Shopping, Springs Neighborhood
In the town of East Hampton, you should think about checking into the friendly Colonial-styled Bassett House, which has been around since 1830. But if you don't want a 19th-century hotel and are looking for something a bit more modern, try the lovely and family-friendly Ocean Vista Resort in the town of Amagansett.
Wherever you choose to rest your head, wake up early to start your day. Grab breakfast in town at Babette's. The omelets are huge and they come with a choice of tasty sides, like oatmeal or sweet potato fries. With your belly full, set out for some sightseeing.
Take the Montauk Highway all the way to the end of the island to gorgeous Montauk, and keep driving until you hit the Montauk Point Light House, which was built in 1796 (making it the oldest lighthouse in New York State). There, a small museum tells the rich past of the Montaukett Indians and the local fishermen's century-old struggle against the sea. Climb nearly 130 steps for an unforgettable panorama and a geography lesson: Block Island, Connecticut and even the distant coast of Rhode Island are actually visible on a clear day (children under 12 are not allowed to climb).
Lunch beckons, and after those views, nothing will do quite so nicely as some fresh, local seafood. Dave's Grill is a classic, run by husband-and-wife team David and Julie Marcley and serving up a good variety of dishes, most of which feature fish and seafood, fresh off the dock. Another option for lunch is to start the drive back west to East Hampton and dine at The Palm at the Huntting Inn. Classics of this upscale hotel chain include the Gigi salad, with shrimp and bacon, as well as copious steaks.
Spend the afternoon in town, strolling through Newtown Lane for an afternoon of serious shopping. Tory Burch, the classic New York designer, has opened a boutique where she sells her elegant flats and timeless tunics. Catherine Malandrino's sexy French dresses and petite blouses will make heads turn on both sides of the Atlantic, and at Mecox Gardens you'll find unique objects and furniture, all of which sport an eye-catching mix of high design and warm colors. At John Varvatos' elegant shop, men will find a mix of bohemian and stylish clothing. Grab an afternoon snack or a picnic at Citarella, or an old-fashioned Dreesen doughnut at Scoop du Jour, and get ready to browse BookHampton, an independent bookstore where the sales staff can steer you towards some unsung local writers.
Lose yourself in the small lanes behind the boutiques and visit the Vered Gallery's quirky selection of modern and contemporary art. History buffs will enjoy the Clinton Academy (built in 1784) and the modest Mulford Farm, which was built in 1680 and is widely considered to be America's most significant English Colonial farmstead. Check out the featured artists across the street at Guild Hall, which is an important cultural center with indoor and outdoor exhibit space.
Art fans will also want to head to the Springs neighborhood, about a 20-minute drive away from the town, where Jackson Pollock — the leader of the Abstract Expressionists movement — and his wife, artist Lee Krasner, lived and worked. A walk through the house, exhibits and their studio is a worthwhile journey through the life and art of Pollock and his wife. Pause around the corner at the Springs General Store, where Pollock used to exchange art for food.
For dinner, don't pass up a chance to dine at the 1770 House, which serves up elevated American fare in a comfortable, rustic environment. The seafood on the menu is (naturally) the way to go, especially the seared Montauk scallops paired with the luscious pork belly or the local striped bass sashimi. If you're there around summer, go for a nightcap at the Lily Pond Club (a few minute's drive from Downtown East Hampton), which packs them in until the wee hours of the night for superior drinks and a wicked mix of house and rock music.