For me, one of the perks of living on Long Island is the proximity to the Hamptons and Fire Island. As a child, I spent plenty of time on this 32-mile long barrier island facing the Atlantic Ocean. Summers usually involved an overnight on the boat and a day at one of the many communities that make up Fire Island.
The other day I took full advantage of my newfound freedom and headed to Ocean Beach, a quaint little Fire Island village. A short ferry ride (30 minutes) from Bay Shore across the Great South Bay is all I needed to feel like I had left Long Island and was on vacation. My friend Fran and her son Brody accompanied me for the day and the three of us set out to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and come back to Long Island refreshed — and that is exactly what we did. The ferry ride to Ocean Beach was calm, and the sky was serene and picturesque (which made it easy to get great shots on the way there).
Once we docked, Ocean Beach greeted us. Fran and I had little on the agenda aside from taking it easy and spending time at the beach. We picked a great day to head over, as humidity was low and the temperatures had dipped a bit from the heat wave we experienced earlier in the week. The beach is an easy walk from the dock, and there are bicycles for rent if you prefer to sightsee that way instead. Fran, Brody, and I leisurely followed the path to the water, stopping to see all the idyllic beach bungalows. Naturally, I took lots of photos of everything from houses and flowers to garden sculptures!
The beach was beautiful, but proved to be a surreal experience for me. I haven’t seen a beach with luscious sand and crashing waves in years. If this is what you are used to then the North Shore beaches on Long Island may disappoint you. The hot, soft sand was a pleasure compared to the rocks and required water shoes I typically deal with. I also haven’t had to combat currents in a while. The lifeguards were definitely on their game and reminded us to swim between the red flags. We even saw a lifeguard come to the rescue of a swimmer! As the day went on, the waves got larger and larger, and the current stronger. Even in shallow, ankle deep water you could feel the undertow. If you aren’t careful you will definitely end up farther away from your beach bag and towel…or worse.
After a couple of hours at the beach, running away from crashing waves, and enduring the morning sun, it was time for the three of us to have lunch. Ocean Beach has plenty of eateries, so finding one was easy. I was in the mood for a burger, and Castaway Bar and Grill delivered. Right on the main strip in the center of the village, Castaway had everything you would want for a fast and satisfying lunch. The heat certainly makes you work up an appetite and my burger was exactly what I needed.
Not that I really had room for dessert, but when on vacation you splurge, right? After my meal at Castaway, I found my way to Scoops ice cream shop, which was conveniently located on the way back to the ferry. I had some peanut butter concoction in a cone, which hit the spot. That alone would be worth another trip to Ocean Beach!
The day came and went quickly. By the time I returned home, I felt as though I had been on a vacation in a far away destination — in a good way, of course. My legs were tired from working so hard to stay in one spot in the water, and from the schlepping from the ferry to the beach. All in all, I am looking forward to a return trip to Fire Island before the summer officially comes to a close.
If you are headed that way, I highly recommend Ocean Beach. It’s a great spot to go for the day, or to stay overnight and enjoy a leisurely breakfast the next morning. The village is full of touristy shops, nice restaurants, and plenty of quiet streets to tour. Whether you are going with kids in tow, or by yourself, Ocean Beach will keep you busy.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your trip:
Check the ferry schedule and have cash on hand. The ferries do not take credit cards and a round trip ticket costs $19. Make sure you arrive at the ferry terminal early to ensure plenty of time for parking. Parking is $10 for the day.
Only pack essentials. If you are planning to spend a few hours or a day on Fire Island, you will likely be carrying your belongings. People who live there or visit frequently have carts locked up by the ferry, but if you have a lot to tote, you may want to bring a bag on wheels…and wear comfortable footwear.
Bring water and sunscreen. This is obvious if you are heading to the beach, but best to make sure you have these items packed. It is a bit of a walk from the beach back to town, so you don’t want to make it more than you need to.
Watch the weather and the currents. It was a beautiful day weather-wise when we were there, but the water and currents were very strong. Make sure you are swimming within visibility of the lifeguards if you choose to go in, and always listen if they tell you to move — it’s for your safety.