Jutting out into the Atlantic, and situated at the ruggedly beautiful far end of New York's Long Island, is the playground of privileged New Yorkers and the likes. The Hamptons have always been percieved as a town full of pretentious socialites and celebrities. During my visit to the Hamptons three summers ago, I discovered a very different side to this beachy coastal getaway of the rich and famous. To me, it is a New York town with a small hometown feel, packed with quaint and quirky shops (you can find anything from consignment/antique to designer brand), low-key eateries, and secluded mansions hidden behind real life Alice in Wonderland-esque landscaping. It is also a place where you can be casually seated next to Gwyneth Palthrow or Ralph Lauren, without feeling like a star struck stalker. Don't assume everyone living in the Hamptons is a multi-millionaire or a snob. Normal everyday people live there too. And they are eager to help you find your way around, without hesitation. One couple even offered to lead the way and asked us to follow along behind them.
The tragedy of the Hamptons is that unless you have a hedge fund pal with a chopper, you'll join the rest of the world on the same road, Route 27 (or Montauk Hwy). A road sign claims it's the “coastal evacuation route,” but if disaster strikes, you're doomed! I recommend renting a car for the most exploratory flexibility, but the Long Island Railroad will transport you from Manhattan, as will the Jitney and Luxury Liner buses.
The Hamptons begin in Southampton and not, as you might think if you applied some logic when looking at a map, in Westhampton.
Southampton is the oldest town in New York and the haven of old money. An oceanside drive along Gin Lane up to Wickapogue Road won't reveal much more than a long barricade of overgrown hedges, groomed over decades to block the view from unwanted, wandering eyes. Main Street in the Village serves as the heart of Southampton. Known for its fabulous and chic boutiques, art galleries, and wonderful restaurants, this is one of the places every visitor to the Hamptons stops to spend the day. The main street is wide, tree lined, beautifully manicured and the place to be seen. Aside from Main Street, let's not forget about the little side street that offers something local and unique to the area. If that's your cup of tea, then Job Lane is the street for that.
- Sant Ambroeus - 30 Main Street. Milanese eatery known for their European-style gelatos and cappucino. we opted for lunch and had some yummy pasta dishes.
- Silver's - 15 Main Street. Order the lobster roll or lobster bisque. With large lobster chunks, each bite leaves you wanting more.
Shop (so many shops with so little time so here's a list of the ones I recommend not to miss):
- Homenature - 6 Main Street. I found incredible mother of pearl photo frames and reclaimed wood serving plates at this amazing beach-inspired home furnishing store.
- The Bargain Basement by COLLETTE - 10 Main Street. or Collete Designer Resale - 89 Job Lane. Here you can find amazing vintage and gently used designer goods; imagine shopping in famous closets all in one place at wonderfully low prices. Hermes is a big favourite, that is if you are lucky enough to spot any.
- Intermix - 64 Main Street. They have an amazing array of Balenciaga and Proenza Schouler.
- Hayama Antiques - 19 Main Street. Must visit if you are an avid collector of Japanese antiques and accessories.
- H. Groome - 9 Main Street. This is one of the best places to find Frette linens, French beach chairs, silk pillows, Ligne St. Barths sun products, and exotic throws.
- Jildor Shoes - 30 Jobs Lane. Shoes, shoes, shoes! This footwear boutique combines great designers like Chie Mihara, Chloe, Jimmy Choo, Giuseppe Zanotti and excellent customer service under one roof. You can find a great selection of summer sandals or boat shoes for both men and women here.
- Little Lucy's Canine Couture Boutique - 91 Jobs Lane. Ever wonder where the stars shop for their furry friends? This is the place where celebrities go to buy bejewelled collars or tiny shirts for their beloved pets.
- Rags - 50 Jobs Lane. This local clothing boutique carries both American and European brands. You can stock up on beautiful beaded tunics or Tocca dresses here.
- Simply French and PW Zak Antiques - 18 Jobs Lane. Bring the South of France to your home with home decor from this store.
- Stubbs and Wootton - 14 Jobs Lane. This is the place if you are looking for comfy and stylish slippers and mules that you can take anywhere.
The beaches are stupendous with long vistas of golden sands and a hint of breeze. There are also large houses hidden among the grass covered dunes. Coopers Beach offers a long stretch of white sand primed for fun and relaxation with amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean. Parking permits are required; a daily parking permit can be purchased onsite. $15 for a day pass for non-residents. Residents of Southampton can also enjoy the private residents-only Dune Beach, located not far from Coopers Beach.
Dune Beach and its enclave of mansions
Old Hook Mill Windmill
Like Southampton, East Hampton too, has a Main Street. Locals and visitors alike can enjoy everything from the most luxurious one of a kind boutiques to names such as Michael Kors, J.Crew, Hermes, Tory Burch and Tiffany and Co. Whether you're on a shopping spree, or just looking at the beautiful window displays, East Hampton is the Mecca for shopping on the East End.
- Nick and Toni's - 136 N. Main Street. Although I have not been to this restaurant, I hear it is the best restaurant for both ambiance and Italian food in the area.
- The Palm - 94 Main Street. Good place for seafood and salads; best for lunch.
Shop (there are many designer brands so I will just focus on the local shops):
- Christopher Fisher - 67 Main Street. The go-to place for cashmere and luxurious fabrics.
- Turpan - 55 Main Street. This well stocked store contains a modernist venue of homeware, arts supplies, Diptique candles, and men's and women's apparel. A truly original store not to be missed.
- White's Pharmacy - 81 Main Street. If you are a beauty junkie like I am then you must stop in to this 133 year old pharmacy. In addition to brands like Bliss and Shiseido, they also carry Philip Kingsley Haircare - a must try!
Main Beach, the largest beach in East Hampton, features a variety of visitor amenities, including a snack bar, pavilion, lockers, showers, and public restrooms. There's plenty of room for everyone to stretch out, swim, and people watch. Main Beach East Hampton is noted as one of the best places in all of the Hamptons to spot celebrities who often come to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf. Other beaches to consider are Georgia Beach and Two Mile Hollow Beach, which are watched over by lifeguards in the summer or Egypt Beach and Wilborg Beach which do not have lifeguard supervision.
WESTHAMPTON - other than a movie theatre and a rotary club, there isn't much in Westhampton. You can pretty much skip this part of town.
BRIDGEHAMPTON - the midpoint of the Hamptons, straddling the conservative wealth to the west and the show-offs to the east. Its shops are still primarily mom-and-pop operations. It's also home to KMart and King Kullen supermarket, the cheap mega shops as well as the Channing Daugthers Winery (1927 Scuttle Hole Road). While there, pick up a couple bottles of their Orange Wine.
Beyond the Hamptons...
From Bridgehampton traveling east through Amagansett, taking the left fork (where Route 27 splits into Montauk Highway and Old Montauk Highway), you will find Hither Hills West Overlook. Amagansett is for those who enoy the subdued and more modest Hampton scene, and it has a lot of affordable summer rental homes. Hither Hills West Overlook is a great place to stop for breathtakingly beautiful panoramic view of the ocean and the greenery of Long Island. There are also many trails for those who like to hike.
Montauk is as far east as you can go without falling into the Atlantic. It's a narrow strip filled with ponds and surrounded by ocean and lots of glorious waves. This is where New Yorkers come to pretend they're Hawaiians and live the materialistic version of the hippie lifestyle. Stop at the easternmost point, at Montauk Point Lighthouse for a photo of the historic lighthouse and a hit of the breeze.
Turning around, heading back west...
Sag Harbor, at the north end of Sagg Main Road, an old Native American path, is the anti-Hampton. It's a proper village on the bay, with no real beach. Sag Harbor is the only town with the feel of full-time residency.
Sagaponack is known for exclusivity, wealth, and, most unexpectedly, farming. It is also home to Ira Rennert's monstrous estate, the largest single family home in the United States. The Wolffer Estate (139 Sagg Road) is one of many nearby vineyards that makes you forget you are on Long Island. This beautiful Tuscan-style villa has a back patio that overlooks lush vineyards, a beautiful setting to do wine tasting.
- Southampton Inn - 161Hills Station Street, Southampton
- C/O The Maidstone Hotel - 207 Main street, East Hampton
- Ocean View Terrace - 285 East Montauk Hwy, Hampton Bays
vacationing this summer?