Fire Island New York is a summertime jewel, where LGBT-friendly partygoers celebrate life in the middle of paradise.
“The only ‘must-do’ on Fire Island is precisely what you feel like doing.” So says Jeff Monachino, Director of Licensing at Sony Music, who has made this mythic barrier island on the south side of New York’s Long Island his summer getaway for nearly twenty years. “It can be beautiful and serene or absolutely social – whatever you’d like it to be.” Be it a day of sun worshiping on stretches of Atlantic beach; lively poolside barbecues; al fresco dance parties that begin at midday; or book-in-hand “me-time,” Fire Island is a treasured escape for New York City residents and international travellers alike.
Though you can find a number of small hamlets and villages inhabited by wealthy nuclear families, such as Kismet and Ocean Bay Park, Fire Island is best known as the summer Mecca for the LGBT community, rivalled only by Provincetown as the top gay getaway in the Northeast United States. The hamlets of Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove spring to life each May as ferries from the mainland deliver enthusiastic boatloads of gay and gay-friendly share-housers, weekly renters, and day-trippers. They come for a variety of reasons: harmony of land, sea, and sky; the change to socialise outside of the city; and perhaps some flirtation at the harbour or on the boardwalks.
Most importantly, there’s an incredible sense of community – the opportunity to connect and have fun in a come-as-you-are spirit. Monachino and his crew of friends consider their summer share house an indispensible yearly stomping ground. “It’s our retreat,” he says.
“It’s a very chic, barefoot community,” says Kris Grae of Pines Harbor Realty, located in the dockside pavilion of the Pines. Grae and his colleagues facilitate home sales as well as seasonal, monthly, and weekly rentals. For Cherry Grove rentals, A Summer Place Realty is a clued-in resource. Visitors to the Island will also find lodgings through realtors like Fire Island Pines, or rent-yourself websites such as Airbnb.
For Lisa Canistracci, co-owner of New York’s longest-running lesbian bar in operation, Henrietta Hudson, Fire Island is a chance to flee from Manhattan’s cars and skyscrapers and recharge her batteries. “When I get off the Ferry, I can breathe so much better,” she says. “This is my second home – familiar, but never boring. I come for the nature and to walk in the Sunken Forest (a magical stretch of beach, dune, and ancient holly forest that looks right out of a Grimm tale). I love the deer that hop around, and reconnecting with the flower and trees. And of course, my dog and I love being on the beach. It never fails to amaze me how incredibly lush it is here.”
Should the urge to day-trip from Manhattan strike you, getting to the party isle is exceedingly easy, just two hours by car via the Long Island Expressway to Bay Shore, Sayville, or Patchogue, or via the Long Island Railroad (from Penn Station). A shuttle bus service awaits at the station to take visitors to the ferry. Once on the boat, it’s an enlivening 15-minute ride to Fire Island. And once you’re there, it’s a sun-soaked choose-your- own-adventure.
Written by Andrew Stone