Photo of sand and ocean at Mecox Beach

What the Hamptons Isn’t

I was neglectful posting last week, but a holiday weekend is my excuse. Visiting family across state lines is always eventful. Remember Cynthia Rylant’s The Relatives Came? Our destination was one of those fairy tale spots: the Hamptons.

The travel day was full of adventure, mostly because I chose to fly to Boston and drive with my son to the New London ferry in Connecticut. Why? Because it gave me time to visit with him, both to and from our destination. Some might think it crazy, but we had great conversations that often don’t happen in a mix of people.

photo from ferry of New London, CT
New London, CT
The ferry (Cross Sound Ferry) is top-notch, by the way. It runs like clockwork. That means that you must, too. Expect to arrive 20-30 minutes before departure, and you will have no worries. The thought of avoiding a drive through NYC had me sold, even though a one way ticket for one passenger plus vehicle runs $55+. It is $15 for additional passengers.

photo of Cross Sound Ferry on Long Island Sound
Cross Sound Ferry
The hour and a half crossing provided views of the Sound and Long Island. It happened to be a beautiful weekend, so we sat out on the top deck to enjoy the scenery. Then, from our arrival in Orient Point, NY, we drove around the inlet (forming the North and South Forks) to the Hamptons. There are two ferries that run from Greenport to Shelter Island, and on to South Fork. These ferries are quick and avoid the 50 mile drive around, but Google Maps told us that the traffic was light and the timing almost exactly the same.

photo of beach and Sound from shore
Looking out at the Sound from shore.
Driving has advantages, one of which is that you get to see a lot of your surroundings. What we noticed right away was that the east end of Long Island has been farmland for a very long time. Now, those farms have evolved into wineries. Acres and acres of grape vines extend in all directions.

This end of the island is heavily regulated to preserve that rural heritage. This is a part of what makes the real estate here so valuable. Don’t expect any big box stores or supermarkets. You will not be making a quick run to Target for flip-flops; better to bring what you need.

The Hamptons includes several villages on the “South Fork” of the east end of Long Island.The media shows the Hamptons as glitzy and glamorous. Behind the privet and hydrangea, in the late evening, you will no doubt find the jet set.  Yes, there are Ferraris and Porsches parked alongside Audis and Mercedes in town; but during the day it is quiet here, with lots of green space, blue skies, and pristine beaches.

Photo of sand and ocean at Mecox Beach
Mecox Beach
After the beach, head to Sag Harbor for a casual walk around this charming town. You’ll find excellent coffee, ice cream, donuts, frozen yogurt, a bookstore, clothing boutiques, and an awesome toy shop.

Photo of Sag Harbor's colorful shops
Sag Harbor’s colorful shops

Photo of Sag Harbor showing dock and boats

Sag Harbor

A favorite late afternoon event near Bridgeport is Sunset Fridays & Saturdays at the Wölffer Estate Wine Stand. Starting at 5 pm, the Wine Stand offers wine by the glass and bottle, cheese plates, and wrap sandwiches. There are a few tables, but most people bring lawn chairs or blankets. Kids play soccer and tag. There is often live music. Be prepared for a big, laid back crowd. Attire includes jeans, sundresses, straw hats, shorts, sarongs, you name it. As the sun sets, you sip your rosè and nibble savories on a grassy knoll surrounded by the vineyards. Does life get better than this?
Photo of vineyard showing families relaxing A casual and family-friendly welcome at the Wine Stand

Heading into Bridgehampton for dinner, be sure to visit Almond Restaurant. Continuing our laid-back, casual theme, Almond offers locally sourced foods including seafood, beef, vegetarian options. On this visit, I ordered the scallops served with smoked duck pastrami. It was sublime, and I finished every bite. My brother had the spaghetti with lobster. This is real lobster, pulled out of the claw in huge, sweet chunks. No matter what you order here, you won’t be disappointed. It’s that good. Plus, the wait staff is excellent and exceedingly friendly. Not what you’d expect out here, and purposely so.

photo of tempura veggie salad
Tempura veggie salad was a special on the menu
Photo of veggies prepared specially for kids
The veggies are so good, even your kids will eat ’em!
Sometimes, things aren’t what they seem. Long Island’s East End offers family friendly, casual options that feel like summertime. You won’t need to pack formal wear or the family jewels, unless you really want to; but, do remember to bring your flip-flops.

Photo of father and daughter enjoying a walk in Bridgehampton.
Enjoying a walk in Bridgehampton.

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